A leading Salafi jihadist in the Gaza Strip has said that 47 Salafi jihadists are currently on hunger strike in Hamas’ prisons in Gaza. On April 5, Threat Matrix had reported that a number of Salafi jihadists imprisoned by Hamas had begun hunger strikes. According to the jihadist Abu Abdullah al Maqdisi, 21 of those engaging in the protest were arrested within the past three weeks.
Al Maqdisi’s remarks came during an interview with the Asharq Al Awsat. According to al Maqdisi, Hamas has increased its campaign against Salafi jihadists in the Gaza Strip in response to recent rocket attacks conducted by the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem, an al Qaeda-linked group.
Al Maqdisi also slammed recent remarks by a spokesman in Hamas’ Interior Ministry, who had suggested that there are no Salafi jihadist groups in Gaza, but rather that their existence is confined to the Internet alone. “This is nonsense, people know of our existence,” al Maqdisi said.
With regard to ceasefires with Israel, such as the one that brought an end to Operation Pillar of Defense in November, al Maqdisi said that Salafi jihadists would not abide by them. Salafi jihadist officials and groups have stated on a number of occasions that they are not truly a party to the November ceasefire.
Over the past couple weeks, Hamas has carried out a number of arrests of Salafi jihadists, according to jihadist communiqués. In late March, Hamas forces reportedly arrested two Salafi jihadists in Zawaida, raided the home of a member of the Popular Resistance Committees, and kidnapped a Salafi jihadist in Rafah. Press reports suggest that the two jihadists in Zawaida were connected to the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC), which took credit for a rocket attack on Israel on March 21.
On March 30, the Ibn Taymiyyah Media Center warned on its Facebook page that preparations were being made by Hamas to launch a mass campaign of arrests against Salafi jihadists in the Gaza Strip.
In the past week, the campaign appears to have intensified in response to rocket attacks by the MSC against Israel. According to the MSC, the rocket fire was in response to the recent death of Maisara Abu Hamdiyeh, a Hamas operative. Hamdiyeh, whom Hamas praised for supplying “the Mujahideen with weapons and explosives,” died of esophageal cancer at an Israeli hospital on April 2.
The following day, the MSC said it had fired six additional rockets toward Israeli territory. Following the rocket attacks, a Salafi jihadist was reportedly detained by Hamas forces near Khan Yunis. The statement from the Ibn Taymiyyah Media Center, which announced the arrest, accused Hamas of carrying out an “extensive campaign” against Salafi jihadists in Gaza.
In response to the arrests, supporters of Salafi jihadists in the Gaza Strip are increasing their protests against Hamas both online and in public.
On April 5, a new Facebook page, which has been promoted by the Ibn Taymiyyah Media Center, opened for relatives of Salafi jihadists currently imprisoned by Hamas. The group accused Hamas of imprisoning Salafi jihadists for “many months without any charge or trial.” In addition, it called on Hamas to immediately “release our sons who suffer injustice and harassment,” because they are Salafists.
The following day, relatives and supporters of imprisoned Salafi jihadists in Gaza organized a demonstration “to protest the practices of [Hamas] against our righteous sons who are subjected to torture, humiliation and abuse.”
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.