On Sunday, Hamas reportedly freed Abu Hafs al Maqdisi, the leader of a Salafi jihadist group known as Jaish al Ummah (Army of the Nation).
While press reports suggest that al Maqdisi had been detained by Hamas since late July, the Gaza NGO Safety Office reported in early September that he had been released. Nonetheless, in early October, Jaish al Ummah accused Hamas of arresting and torturing al Maqdisi along with five other members of the group.
“The charges against him are jihad for the sake of God, and his links to the firing of rockets at Jewish settlements, as well as a campaign in Gaza warning about Shiites and their beliefs,” the group said.
Jaish al Ummah
The Jaish al Ummah group is one of a number of Salafi jihadist groups operating in the Gaza Strip. The group has warned about the creeping influence of Iran and its proxy, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, in the coastal enclave. In addition, the group has claimed responsibility for numerous rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel and was recently praised by a leading Salafi jihadist official for its activities during Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense.
In 2009, the group said that “[o]ur struggle is aimed against Israeli occupation only, and we will not be dragged towards inter-Palestinian rivalry which only serves our Israeli enemies.” In addition, the aforementioned al Maqdisi has said that “Palestine is not our sole goal; our goal is to spread Islam around the globe.”
Following the deaths of Abu al Walid al Maqdisi and Ashraf al Sabah, two leaders of the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC), on Oct. 13, Jaish al Ummah released a statement in support of the MSC.