Islamic Jihad terrorists in Gaza 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mohammed Salem)
Once Hamas was the second- largest armed group in the Gaza Strip, after the
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With the help of Iran and Syria, Hamas became so
strong that one day, in June 2007, its men managed to seize control over the
In recent years, however, Hamas has found itself in the
same position as the PA was back then.
Now it’s the Islamic Jihad
organization that has replaced Hamas as the second- largest armed group in the
Gaza Strip. Today, it poses a serious challenge to the Hamas
With the help of Iran and Syria, Islamic Jihad has become a
major player in the Palestinian arena. The organization’s leaders now visit
Cairo and other Arab capitals, where they are received as VIPs.
this year, Egypt’s ruling military council invited its leaders to participate in
discussions in Cairo over achieving Palestinian national unity.
past 48 hours, top Egyptian security officials have been talking to Islamic
Jihad leaders and representatives, over the heads of Hamas officials, about a
cease-fire with Israel.
Alarmed by the growing political and military
power of Islamic Jihad, the Hamas government has in the past few years detained
some of the organization’s members in the Gaza Strip.
At one point, Hamas
even stopped Islamic Jihad squads from firing rockets and missiles at Israel,
especially after the IDF’s Operation Cast Lead offensive in late
The Hamas measures against Islamic Jihad were not the result of a
shift in Hamas’s ideology or strategy toward Israel. Hamas was acting only out
of concern for its own interests.
When Hamas had an interest in
preserving the unofficial cease-fire with Israel, it was prepared to clash with
any other group that dared to violate the calm.
Hamas has long boasted
that, unlike the PA, its men have succeeded in the past four years in creating a
strong regime in the Gaza Strip. Indeed, Hamas has since shown zero tolerance
toward any group that posed a challenge to its rule.
However, in the past
two days Hamas chose to sit on the fence while Islamic Jihad militiamen fired
rockets and missiles at Israel.
Instead of trying to stop the attacks as
it did in the past, Hamas let the Egyptians mediate a cease-fire between Islamic
Jihad and Israel.
Some Palestinians in the Gaza Strip said on Sunday that
Hamas is probably afraid of a violent confrontation with Islamic Jihad, whose
members have managed to smuggle into the Gaza Strip new weapons stolen from
Besides, Hamas can’t afford to be seen as playing the role of
“border guard” for Israel. Until today, Hamas maintains it’s the PA that is
playing this role in the West Bank, the Palestinians said.
is no longer a small organization with a few hundred fighters and a small amount
The organization is beginning to emerge as a major challenge
to the Hamas regime, especially given the fact that dozens of disgruntled Hamas
members are reported to have defected to Islamic Jihad. Former Fatah security
officers, some of whom were trained by the US and EU, are also believed to have
joined Islamic Jihad in the past few years.
Other Palestinians believe
Islamic Jihad initiated the recent cycle of violence as a response to the
prisoner exchange agreement between Hamas and Israel.
They said Islamic
Jihad leaders are obviously unhappy with the fact that Hamas’s popularity has
been boosted following the prisoner swap.
In the words of a Palestinian
journalist in Gaza City, “Islamic Jihad is trying to spoil the party for Hamas,
and the best way to do so is by initiating a new confrontation with
Islamic Jihad is acting on instructions from Tehran and
Damascus, whose leaders are also reported to be at loggerheads with
According to informed Palestinian sources, relations between Hamas
and the Iranians and Syrians have deteriorated because of the movement’s refusal
to publicly support the embattled regime of President Bashar Assad.
who are hoping that the downfall of the Hamas regime would bring a more moderate
group to power are living in an illusion.
It’s almost certain by now that
Islamic Jihad – which is viewed by some as being more radical than Hamas – will
one day rise to power in the Gaza Strip.