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25
Apr
2013

Al-Qaeda’s Branch in Gaza Set to Escalate Anti-Israeli Terror


The “Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem” has taken responsibility for a series of missile firings at Israeli targets from Gaza and Sinai, which is under Egyptian sovereignty, including:

  • 17 April 2013 – Firing of two Grad missiles at Eilat from Sinai.
  • 3 April 2013 – Firing six missiles at Sderot from Gaza.
  • 2 April 2013 – Firing three missiles at the Kissufim military base and two missiles at the Nir Oz community from Gaza.
  • 21 March 2013 (during President Obama’s visit to Israel) – Firing a number of missiles at Sderot from Gaza.

The Shura Council is ideologically identified with al-Qaeda, including its goals and forms of activity, and the organization views “political Islam,” as represented by the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, as a deviation from the path of proper Islam.

Relations between the Hamas regime in Gaza and this extreme Salafi organization have had their ups and downs over the past six years since Hamas seized control in Gaza. The Shura Council, like other Palestinian terror organizations ideologically identified with al-Qaeda,  has not been outlawed. But when the organization’s activities have harmed the interests of the Hamas regime or challenged its rule, Hamas has cracked down with violent suppression, arrests, and torture.

Hamas’ current strategy focuses on strengthening the status of the government in Gaza as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, on opening channels of dialogue with European states, on fortifying Hamas’ rule including from an economic standpoint, and on building up its military capabilities for the day of reckoning in the near future.

Hamas’ policy on terror from Gaza is subordinate, then, to certain considerations, including: keeping terror from Gaza on a low flame for the time being (so long as there is no direct, frontal clash with Israel), using other organizations as surrogates for terror, using Hamas forces for belligerent acts only within the territory of Gaza, and imposing – violently when necessary – the rules of the game on all organizations operating in Gaza.

The Shura Council totally dismisses the Hamas regime’s “political” considerations in implementing its jihad policy. Aware, though, of the regime’s power with its base in the Al-Qassem Brigades, the council strives to play by the rules while sometimes testing the limits with acts that create tension with Hamas.

The Arab Spring – or more accurately, Islamic winter – that has swept the Middle East has bolstered the status of the Hamas government, which is getting support and aid from the new regimes brought to power by the popular revolutions that were led by the Muslim Brotherhood, the parent movement of Hamas.

Along with the rise of the Brotherhood, however, the power of the Salafi Islamist organizations has also grown, giving them a sense of a historic moment of opportunity in which the Islamic Revolution in its al-Qaeda version can be advanced on the way to reestablishing the Islamic Caliphate.

This sense of power, which is also drawn from the successes of Jahbat al-Nusra, the Syrian rebel organization identified with al-Qaeda, and other Islamic rebel organizations in Syria, has led the Shura Council in Gaza to consider ways of extending its activities in the realm of jihad and further winning sympathy among the Palestinian population.

Sheikh Abu Bilal al-Shami, a member of the Sharia Committee of the Shura Council, recently published a document that presents the organization’s current strategy, which is attuned to the new circumstances and opportunities facing Salafi Islam in the wake of the Islamic revolts.

An analysis of the document reveals the following main features of the Shura Council’s policy:

  • To regard the Hamas regime as a rival and enemy that seeks to undermine the jihad out of foreign and invalid considerations.
  • To seek an uncompromising struggle against democracy (including the Hamas version), nationalism, communism, and Shiism.
  • To exploit the atmosphere in the new Middle East to provoke the masses in Gaza and the neighboring countries to support the path of “jihadi Salafism,” and to demand that Hamas stop persecuting its activists on the pretext of maintaining the truce with Israel.
  • To opening additional jihad fronts against Israel from the territory of Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt based on the new circumstances, geographic features, and populations.
  • To escalate jihad activities in every way, whether through missile firings, suicide attacks, electronic warfare, and the like, with no connection to the policy of Hamas.
  • To damage Israel’s economy both through military attacks and cyber attacks.
  • To strengthen the links between the mujahideen in Gaza and those active in other parts of the world so as to create worldwide jihad organizations
  • To try to persuade the Islamic actors to support and financially assist the Salafi jihadi elements instead of Hamas
  • To unify all the mujahideen forces in Gaza under the aegis of the Shura Council.
  • To develop a dawa (proselytizing) capability and adopting a pro-jihad dawa program in Gaza aimed at inculcating the Salafi ideological platform among the society as a source of strength for the organization.
  • To try to get Hamas activists to desert to “jihadi Salafism,” with an emphasis on the duty of the Muslim to be loyal to Allah alone, and portraying loyalty to a party as a form of jahiliyya (pre-Islamic ignorance).

About Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi

Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi is a senior researcher of the Middle East and radical Islam at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He is a co-founder of the Orient Research Group Ltd.

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