Al-Qaeda affiliate burns coffee shop in Gaza Strip
Al-Qaeda affiliated group takes responsibility for setting internet coffee shop ablaze in Gaza Strip as punishment for what they deem unethical behavior. Group threatens others who don't comply with ethical standards. Growing strength and presence of al-Qaeda in Gaza, West Bank, looms over Palestinian Authority, whole region
Sunday afternoon an announcement was made claiming that the organization Islamic Swords of Justice, identified as an affiliate of al-Qaeda are responsible for the incident.
In the organization's announcement, it was stated that burning the coffee shop is "part of a series of actions aimed at fighting corruption and the corrupt. During the holy month of Ramadan, our fighters have started operating on the holy land and in the early morning placed a bomb weighing ten kilograms (22 pounds) next to the coffee shop, ridden with corruption and characteristic of the unethical activities that have increased in recent days. Jihad fighters detonated the bomb as a message to all the corrupt people."
According to the gunmen, the owner of the establishment was pre-warned that his business serves as a center for unethical activity and that he should straighten out the situation before it is too late. The organization warned that they would not spare anyone they deemed unethical and that their "swords will have no mercy on them."
Last week, a video was published by Palestinian al-Qaeda in which the organization took responsibility for the murder of Colonel Jed Tayya, a senior Palestinian intelligence officer. Tayya, assassinated along with four officers escorting him, was accused in the al-Qaeda video of being an agent of the Mossad and the CIA, who gathered intelligence and tracked down jihad fighters on the land of Palestine.
The organization promised to continue to target collaborators in the Palestinian Authority elite.
In addition to the two announcements, leaflets have been published recently by al-Qaeda and organizations affiliated with al-Qaeda, such was the Islamic Mujjahadin Army that has taken responsibility for firing at Israeli and Palestinian targets and the Army of Islam Organization that purported participated in the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit.
Al-Qaeda threat to local arena
Among the Palestinian elite, there is increasing concern that al-Qaeda is becoming a major actor in the Gaza Strip within the conflict between Hamas and Fatah. Even Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned a few months ago that he has information indicating that the organization is active within PA territory.
Another sign of al-Qaeda's rise in strength and popularity is that pictures of the organization's former leader in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi are plastered on walls throughout the Gaza Strip. After his assassination by the Americans a few months ago, symbolic vigils in his honor have even been erected, and the kind of hat he used to wear has become a real hit among Gazan and West Bank youth.
A Palestinian security figure said to Ynet that the PA is concerned that if the conflict between Fatah and Hamas isn't solved, the Palestinian leadership and the international community will have to deal with an increased presence of al-Qaeda and its affiliated organizations in the region.
"If there isn't a diplomatic breakthrough, it is not for sure that Fatah will be the first alternative to the Hamas regime. We see a lot of young people, even those who were in Hamas, getting closer to more extremist organizations and becoming potential candidates for al-Qaeda and its various branches," the security figure said.