Thousands of global Jihad supporters, mostly concentrated in southern Gaza, are currently active in the Strip according to a Ynet inquiry with various Palestinian sources.
According to Ynet's inquiry, the overwhelming majority of Qaeda supporters are in fact Hamas or Popular Resistance Commiittees (PRC) members who were unimipressed with Hamas' decision to join the political establishment and run in the Palestinian elections. These members claimed that this prompted Hamas to abandon the path of Jihad, which they felt is the only way to liberate Palestinian lands from Israel's control.
PRC's Abu Abir - associated with al-Qaeda (Photo: AFP)
A source in an Islamic group in Gaza told Ynet that "these thousands of activists were educated that the war with the Jews must continue with no comprises or shortcuts, until judgment day arrives."
"Once Hamas chose the political path alongside the path of resistance, thousands of people sought an alternative framework," the source said, adding that the jihadists received the blessing of Sheikhs and religious clerics.
Another source in a Gaza group told Ynet that the Qaeda activists are not necessarily Palestinians who left Hamas or the PRC, "but rather, people who chose not to blindly abide by the decision to take part in the elections and the lull, and continued the path of war."
According to the source, joining global Jihad gave Hamas members an opportunity to carry out attacks under a different umbrella, while Hamas seemingly remained committed to the lull.
Fundamentalist Islam features a sometimes deep theological and ideological disagreement between the Islamic Brotherhood's perception, represented in Gaza by Hamas, and the Global Jihad perception, represented by al-Qaeda. While the Islamic Brotherhood espouses resistance alongside tactical moves such as lulls, Global Jihad groups believe there is no room for tactics, but rather, only for a ceaseless holy war. PRC spokesman and senior figure Abu Abir is considered to be one of the most prominent representatives of the latter camp.
Yet despite the disagreements, the two camps usually operate in Gaza in complete coordination, with the exception of a few clashes. One such prominent dispute pitted the Army of Islam against Hamas. The two groups collaborated on the abduction of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, yet later on Army of Islam members said Hamas was oppressing them because of their commitment to armed struggle and rejection of the lull. Meanwhile, Hamas said most Army of Islam members were in fact Fatah members who chose the cover of Global Jihad in order to destabilize Hamas' Gaza rule.
However, the Gaza War improved the relationship between al-Qaeda and Hamas. During the war, senior Qaeda figures, including Osama Bin Laden himself, expressed solidarity with and support for Hamas in the wake of the group's struggle against the Gaza siege and its decision not to renew the lull in the Strip.