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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

The Ties Between the Nusra Front – the Syrian al Qaeda Affiliate – and Hamas

Filed under: Al-Qaeda and Global Jihad, Hamas, Israeli Security, Palestinians, Syria, The Middle East

With the news that the terrorist organization Jabhat al-Nusra (al Nusra Front)1 is one of the organizations that took control of the Kuneitra Crossing on the Golan Heights on August 27, 2014, attention should be paid to the close ties between al-Nusra and Hamas, specifically the role played by Khaled Mashaal in establishing and directing the terror groups.

Jabhat al-Nusra is a Syrian organization considered to be a militant outgrowth of the Muslim Brotherhood Movement.  In effect, it serves as the Syrian version of Hamas which is a military arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Palestinian political world.

In the Yarmouk Palestinian camp located in Damascus, Jabhat al-Nusra is allied with another terrorist organization, Aknaf Bayt al-Maqdis (Environs of Jerusalem). The difference between them: Jabhat al-Nusra is a Syrian movement, and Aknaf Bayt al-Maqdis is spread across the entire Middle East, especially in Lebanon and Sinai. But both – like Hamas – belong to the military wing of the Muslim Brotherhood2, and all of them are supported financially by Qatar.3

Hamas Leader Khaled Mashaal Expands His Terror Domain

The Lebanese news website Ertikaz published important information4 on the circumstances behind the establishment of the two movements in the Yarmouk camp, and it is clear that no less a figure than Hamas’ Khaled Mashaal stands behind both of them — almost certainly from the time he was given protection by the Syrian regime prior to the Syrian rebellion.

According to Ertikaz, Khaled Mashaal’s bodyguard was Muhammad Zaghmout, whose family lives in Gaza.  Zaghmout and additional Palestinians who hold key positions in both movements are “graduates” of Afghanistan fighting and filled various posts in Khaled Mashaal’s military organization. According to this report, Aknaf Bayt al-Maqdis is the leading organization and al Nusra coordinates with it.

Zaghmout — Mashaal’s former bodyguard — serves as the commander of both the Aknaf Bayt al-Maqdis and al Nusra, Ertikaz reports.

As long as the terror groups were combatting Syrian President Assad, Al Nusra and the Islamic State (previously ISIS) cooperated on several fronts. After they defeated Assad’s forces, however, they began to fight among themselves for exclusive control in those same areas, such as Raqqa and Deir ez-Zour and the Lebanese front.  Right now in the area of Arsal in Lebanon, the Islamic State and al Nusra are fighting together against the Lebanese Army and Hizbullah.5

In this battle for control of Sunni jihadist forces, Ayman al Zawahiri, leader of Al Qaeda, supported Al Nusra against ISIS.6 Why?  Because Zawahiri is the leader of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, and the Salafi movement in the Arabian Peninsula is not prepared to accept his leadership.

The implication for Hamas: While the Ikhwani (Muslim Brotherhood) Qatar supports Hamas and al Nusra, Saudi Arabia opposes Hamas and declared that the Islamic State and al Nusra are terrorist organizations just like Hamas.

The possible takeover of Kuneitra by al Nusra and/or Aknaf Bayt al-Maqdis means that Hamas’ Khaled Mashaal will have another front against Israel – this one in the north.

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1 See also Amos Harel, “New Enemies across Syrian Border” Ha’aretz, August 26, 2014
2 One of the Muslim Brotherhood sites states that Hamas established the Abdallah Azzam Brigades, another terror organization tied to Al Nusra and Aknaf Bayt al-Maqdis, and spread across the entire Middle East.