A few days ago, Al Arabiya aired a news story in which it described one significant strategy employed by the extremist organizations – posting pictures of smiling recruits after they were killed in battle. The message is clear: the volunteers were happy to die in the battlefield.
The images of the smiling dead are posted to popular social networks like Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and Instagram for maximum distribution; web users are asked to celebrate the death of the "heroic fighters."
Web users who are interested in joining the fighting in Syria on the side of jihadi organizations are invited for a job interview through Skype. During the course of the interview they receive expert advice on military tactics and combat. Global Jihad uses the network not only to recruit rebels for the Syrian civil war, but also to collect donations with people who support its agenda – according to the Middle East center for scientific studies, which tracks social media and internet usage.
The jihadi organizations' new recruiting tactic is a marked change from their previous strategy of using training videos and high-profile acts to draw new volunteers.
One jihadi organization that stands out from the pack is the Al-Nusra Front, an Al-Qaeda associated group started in January 2012, which has been designated as a terrorist organization by the UN, US, UK, and Australia.
In April 2013, Al-Nusra began closely cooperating with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The latter is led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi who took the mantle of leadership after the previous head of the organization was killed in an American airstrike. Most of his fighters are foreigners who came to Syria to fulfill the practice of Jihad and take part in transforming the secular state into an Islamic stronghold.
Hamoud al-Ziadi, an expert on jihadi organizations, said that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant negatively affects the Syrian civil war and is considered the most extreme of the organizations involved in the fighting against Assad. "We are talking about a delegation of al-Qaeda, but it is the most vicious face al-Qaeda has," explained al-Ziadi, and noted that, "This organization is causing a rift in the Syrian opposition when it forces Islamic law on the people and places its controls. The organization recruits many young men from the Gulf countries and Arab states that it can later export… a significant danger for the region as a whole."
From Gaza to Syria: Allah's Jihad
Even Gaza has become fertile land for international jihadi organizations to recruit future rebels for Syria. Muhammad al-Zahanin, a 23-year-old from Gaza, arrived in Saudi Arabia to fulfill the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca which is one of the five pillars of Islam. Three months later his family was informed that he was killed in a suicide bombing in Syria, apparently in the service of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Muhammad's mother told Ynet, "My son left on June 13 without informing us, but called the next day to say he was in Saudi Arabia performing the hajj, and that he would return in 20 days."
According to her, "After that we lost contact with him for a long time. Then Muhammad called on September 2 and said he was in Syria, performing the commandment of jihad for Allah. On the September 16 he spoke to all of us on the phone, and the next day his friend called to let us know he was killed."
The Salafi organizations in Gaza published a video clip of Muhammad and another agent that was also killed in Syria. Al-Zahanin appears in the video with a beard, dressed in traditional garb, reading his purported will. "I ask of my god the highest level of martyrdom."
Al-Zahanin was not the only Gazan recruited into the ranks of global jihadi organizations to fight in Syria. Abdullah al-Maqdisi, a senior member in Gaza's Salafi organizations, estimated that the number of fighters that left the Strip to fight in Syria stands at 27,000. "A portion of the fighters returned, a portion were killed, and another portion was injured and is still receiving treatment in the country, or they may have moved to another country," said al-Maqdisi.
Leaving the Strip for Syria
What causes young Gazans to leave the Strip for Syria? According to a senior Salafist, "There is a situation of confusion in the Gaza Strip between the ceasefire, the freeze in acts of resistance, and the pursuit of anyone who tried to commit jihadi acts, followed by accusations of treason and attempting to sabotage the lull in hostilities. This matter has caused much frustration among out brothers, and has inspired them to seek other alternatives, like the fighting in Syria."
Al-Maqdisi added that, "Among those people you have ones like Muhammad al-Zahanin, who was wanted by Hamas' security services because he repeatedly launched rockets towards the Zionist entity." Al-Zahanin's mother confirmed that, "Her son was arrested more than three times and was called up for investigation on a monthly basis."
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