Salafists laying roots in Gaza: Hezbollah is enemy
Last summer Jund Ansar Allah organization went head-to-head with Hamas, and now, World Jihad-affiliated Jaish al-Umma challenges regime in Gaza Strip. Abu Abdullah al-Ghazi, one of movement's heads, says has 200 fighters, thousands of supporters
the Popular Front, and Hezbollah
are enemies that must be fought. The first two are secular, and the third is operating to spread Shia among Muslims. But we will not fight them now – we will only fight the Jews." This, in short, is the doctrine of Abu Abdullah al-Ghazi, spokesman of the radical Islamic movement "Jaish al-Umma" (Army of the nation).
According to reports in Arab media, the new organization, which is affiliated with the Salafist stream of fundamentalist Islam, is currently operating in the Gaza Strip, where it is laying its rots. Al-Ghazi claims that the organization already has over 200 fighters and thousands of supporters.
Al-Ghazi's remarks indicate a sign of growing trouble for Hamas in the kingdom it has built for itself in the Gaza Strip. The creation of individual cells of various extremist groups affiliated with the "World Jihad", an organization belonging to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda,
is becoming more and more widespread, and constitutes difficulty for the Hamas leadership, as such cells are comprised of armed operatives who are not obligated to obey Hamas, which is currently trying to maintain calm.
Even if the numbers mentioned by al-Ghazi are exaggerated, one can safely assume that there are currently at least dozens of activists affiliated with the World Jihad in the Gaza Strip. Some of them are Egyptian, while others are European converts to Islam, who have managed to infiltrate the Strip thanks to the smuggling tunnels. All of this has caused quite a headache for Hamas.
An example of this can be seen in the series of "vengeance attacks" and mysterious explosions near the homes and headquarters of Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip – attacks which al-Ghazi denies his organization is involved in.
If these organizations continue to gain steam, Hamas will have trouble concealing its distress, as was the case last August,
when the conflict between Hamas and the Salafist organization Jund Ansar Allah escalated and the fighting claimed the lives of 24 people. The conflict ended in a crushing victory for Hamas, but it was most likely just the first round.
A writer for the London-based al-Hayat newspaper, recently embarked, with two of his colleagues on a mission to learn more about the organization, and said he made his way to al-Ghazi's hiding place in the Gaza Strip to interview him. The ideas voiced during the interview, based on widespread al-Qaeda world views, would not sit well with the Palestinians organizations, Hamas, or its Lebanese ally, Hezbollah.
Jaish al-Umma, al-Ghazi explained, is "an Islamic movement working to awaken the Islamic nation from the backwardness and the ignorance the tyrant regimes in Islamic countries have cause, and to free the Muslims from the deposits." He said the movement was founded over 20 years ago, but it "began operating publicly in an organized manner six years ago."
How many people does this include? According to al-Ghazi, "the number of armed operatives stands at over 200, and the number of the movement's supporters in the Strip is estimated at thousands. The operatives and the supporters are spread all over the Strip and without, and they can be found anywhere where there are Muslims."
And where does the money come from? The movement, according to al-Ghazi, has rejected an offer for Iranian funding, in exchange for certain conditions he refused to detail. He said the movement is supported by "popular donations from women and men," and added that this applies to weapons supplies as well.
"Iran has offered us aid in the past, but we rejected it," he said. "We refuse aid in return for anything. Whoever wants to help us for the sake of God – we will accept." He admitted that "there is external aid, but not from countries, but from people and organizations, especially fundamentalists."
Al-Ghazi did not hesitate to criticize popular movements in the Arab world, including Hezbollah. "It is a Shiite
party, operating to spread Shia among Muslims by any means – and we oppose this line," he said, "But, at this point, we are only fighting the Jews, and will continue to fight them."
His organization, like Hamas, is affiliated with the Sunni stream, which includes many Muslims and almost all of the Palestinian Muslims.
He also slammed the Fatah movement and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, calling them "secular". He said, "They are our enemies, and we are fighting them." Of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
he said, "If it is proven that he is helping the Jews – we will slit his throat."
And what about Hamas and the Islamic Jihad?
"Contact with them is limited to coordination in the field when necessary, so that our men can reach the posts and take part in the fighting against the Israeli occupation forces."
He did not hide the differences his movement has with Hamas, over its participation in the Palestinian elections, which he said "perpetuated the Palestinian Authority based on the Oslo Accords, as well as the persecution and arrests it carries out against our operatives. Fatah and Hamas torture us in their prisons. There is not a man that is arrested by them that is not tortured."
He denied his movement's involvement in the recent explosions in the Gaza Strip, and adamantly claimed that his organization has no links to al-Qaeda. The vision, however, is no different: Establishing an "Islamic emirate" where Islamic law would rule – a law according to which, "He who drinks wine must be flogged, an adulterer must be stoned and a murderer must be executed."