Analysis: Global jihadi groups challenge Hamas

Despite violent clampdowns, Hamas has failed to stamp out al-Qaida-affiliated Salafi global jihadi groups.

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April 17, 2011 01:28
3 minute read.
Hamas terrorists at a press conference.

Hamas terrorists 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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The Hamas regime is struggling to maintain control of Gaza and keep Salafi global jihadi elements under control.

Over the past several years, the global jihadi camp has repeatedly tried to gain a foothold in the Strip, and challenge Hamas’s rule.

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Palestinians affiliated with these groups have fired rockets at southern Israel in defiance of temporary cease-fires declared by Hamas, including, according to some reports, the two Grad rockets that exploded in Ashdod over the weekend.

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Such acts mean Hamas is unable to count on cease-fires as a means of recuperating from damage inflicted on it by Israel during rounds of fighting.

Unlike Hamas, the Salafi jihadi groups are not bound by the constraints that come with sovereignty over a territory, and believe in waging constant, unrelenting attacks on Israel. In fact, a global jihad group was linked to one of the first attacks on IDF border patrols following the end of Operation Cast Lead in January 2009.

Last week, pro-Palestinian Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni was abducted and murdered in Gaza, in an al-Qaida-style attack.

The attackers released a video showing their blindfolded and beaten captive, which was reminiscent of jihadi hostage videos released in Iraq and Afghanistan, hours before he was killed.

Hamas launched an immediate clampdown, arresting a number of suspects in recent days.



According to a 2010 study co-authored by current Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) director Yoram Cohen, Gaza-based jihadis have tried to solicit the support and recognition of the “official” al-Qaida network of Osama bin Laden, but the terror organization’s central leadership has been reluctant to provide its seal of approval, for the time being.

Although al-Qaida has long chastised Hamas for failing to look beyond Israel and link up with bin Laden’s global war, it is also skeptical of the survivability and ideological commitment of global jihadis in Gaza, the study said.

The ideological rift between Hamas and al-Qaida revolves around the latter’s condemnation of Hamas’s focus on Palestinian nationalism, which is viewed by Salafi jihadis as a hindrance to their cause of establishing a worldwide network of terrorists dedicated to the goal of a single caliphate.

In August 2009, Hamas sent a strong signal to global jihad members, which was meant to settle the dispute between them once and for all.

Sheikh Abdel-Latif Moussa, who was a leading pro-al-Qaida ideologue of the Jund Ansar Allah group, used a Friday afternoon sermon at his Rafah mosque to declare southern Gaza to be an Islamic emirate – a first step in the process of establishing al-Qaida’s goal of an Islamic caliphate. Hundreds of Hamas gunmen stormed the mosque, firing rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns at the building, killing or wounding nearly everyone inside.

The raid was meant to show that challenges to Hamas’s rule would be met with overwhelming violence.

But the move has failed to achieve its aim, and the groups have resurfaced and increased their activities in the Strip.

The IDF has periodically stepped in and struck global jihadi figures in Gaza, for example the November 2010 air strike on an Army of Islam cell, when the security establishment had felt that attacks on Israel were imminent.

The Popular Resistance Committee in Gaza has also been linked by some to global jihadi forces.

In southern Lebanon, al-Qaida-affiliated groups such as Fatah al-Islam and Asbat al- Ansar recruit their members from Palestinian refugee camps.

For now, Israel appears to have chosen to see whether Hamas is able to enforce the cease-fire. At the same time, it is preparing for the possibility that direct intervention may be again required in Gaza.

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