The Israeli Defense Forces killed three al Qaeda-linked terrorists during two airstrikes in the Gaza strip over the past 24 hours.
During an airstrike today in the northern Gaza Strip, the IDF killed Rami Daoud Jabar Khafarna and Hazam Mahmad Sa’adi Al Shakr, both described as “Global Jihad-affiliated” terrorists, the IDF said in a press release on its website. The IDF uses the term “Global Jihad-affiliated terrorist” to describe members of Salafist groups linked to al Qaeda’s network in the region.
Both Khafarna and Shakr were previously members of Hamas prior to joining the unnamed Salafist group. Khararna “is known to have taken part in firing rockets at Israel,” while Shakr “has planted and detonated explosive devices against IDF soldiers, along the border with the Gaza Strip.”
The terrorists were members of a “squad” that “was previously known to the IDF due to its attempt in carrying out a terror attack on the Israel-Egypt border.”
Today’s airstrike followed another yesterday that killed Abdallah Telbani in Gaza city. Telbani was also described as a “Global Jihad-affiliated terrorist,” and was involved in a plot to attack Israel from the Egyptian Sinai as well as with rocket and IED attacks along the Israeli-Gaza border, according to Reuters.
There are four main Salafist groups that operate in the Gaza Strip. All four groups have expressed their support for al Qaeda. Those groups are the Jaish al Islam, Jund Ansar Allah, Jaish al Ummah, and Jaish al Mu’minun. These groups have clashed with Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated terror group that rules Gaza and is supported by Iran and Syria.
Additionally, al Qaeda in the Sinai and its military arm, Ansar al Jihad, which announced its formation last week, are now operating in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula [see list below]. Al Qaeda in the Sinai has been establishing ties with the Gaza-based Salafist groups and is seeking to coordinate operations, a US intelligence official told The Long War Journal.
Security in the Sinai Peninsula has deteriorated since the popular uprising last winter that resulted in former President Mubarak’s ouster. Hundreds of Islamists, many from Ayman al Zawahiri’s Egyptian Islamic Group, have been freed from prisons, and some are thought to have returned to support terror groups.
Al Qaeda in the Sinai is also thought to have been involved in a series of attacks in August near the Israeli resort town of Eliat that killed eight Israelis, as well as bombings against a natural gas pipeline between Israel and Egypt.
Al Qaeda-linked Salafist groups in Gaza:
Army of Islam, or Jaish al Islam, is an al Qaeda-linked terror group based in Gaza. The Army of Islam is also known as the Tawhid and Jihad Brigades. It was founded in late 2005 and is currently led by Mumtaz Dughmush. It is reported to have been been financed by Mohammad Dahlan, the Fatah security chief of Gaza before Hamas took power in 2007. The Army of Islam is linked to Abu Qatada, a Palestinian who serves as al Qaeda’s spiritual leader in Europe and who is currently in British custody.
The group has released propaganda expressing its affiliation with and support for al Qaeda. On May 7, 2011, just five days after the death of Osama bin Laden, the Army of Islam released a statement eulogizing the al Qaeda leader. Also, in August 2008, Sheikh Abu Harith al Ansari, an Army of Islam leader, released a statement on jihadist forums that claimed bin Laden would seek to focus his attacks on “the Jews.” The US State Department designated the Army of Islam as a terrorist entity in May 2011.
Jund Ansar Allah, or the Warriors of God. Jund Ansar Allah members are thought to have fought in Afghanistan and Iraq. In August 2009, the group battled Hamas after its leader, Latif Moussa (Abu al Nour al Maqdissi), said Hamas was not sufficiently Islamic. Moussa declared an Islamic emirate, or state, in Rafah and the Palestinian territories.
Moussa’s actions prompted an immediate crackdown from Hamas, which was threatened by the Salafist group’s challenges to Hamas rule in Gaza. Hamas attacked Jund Ansar Allah members at their mosque and other locations. Moussa and Abu Abdullah al Suri, the group’s military emir, were among those killed during the fighting [for more information, see LWJ report, Hamas and al Qaeda-linked group clash in Gaza].
Jaish al Ummah, or the Army of the Nation. The Jaish al Ummah group released the first videotape claiming to be an al Qaeda-linked group in Gaza. The video showed its masked fighters training in the desert and riding on horseback. Jaish al Ummah warned about the creeping influence of Iran and its proxy, Islamic Jihad.
Jaish al Mu’minun, or the Army of Believers; also known as Al Qaeda in Palestine. This little-known group looted the American International School, opened fire at a YMCA center, and is believed to have murdered a Christian book seller. The group claimed to have “no organic links with al Qaeda,” but said “we share its ideology.” In a propaganda tape, the group said its “goal is not only to liberate Palestine, but to spread Islam everywhere.”
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.