Hamas appears to be continuing its arrest campaign against Salafi jihadists in the Gaza Strip. According to a statement released yesterday by the Ibn Taymiyyah Media Center on jihadist forums and the Center’s Facebook and Tumblr pages, a Salafi jihadist was detained by Hamas forces near Khan Yunis on the evening of April 3.
The jihadist had reportedly been arrested a number of times in the past by Hamas for his Salafi affiliation. Yesterday’s arrest is part of an “extensive campaign” by Hamas to arrest Salafi jihadists, the statement charged. According to the statement, Hamas has intensified the campaign in the wake of recent rocket attacks by the al Qaeda-linked Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC).
On April 2, the MSC claimed to have fired five rockets from Gaza toward Israel. The following day, the group said it had fired six additional rockets toward Israeli territory. 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.
Meanwhile, some Salafi jihadists who have been arrested by Hamas and are currently in prison have reportedly begun hunger strikes to protest their imprisonment, according to a separate statement issued by the Ibn Taymiyyah Media Center on April 4. The statement further alleged that the Salafi jihadists have not been charged, and that some have spent over two months in prison “in extremely poor conditions” without being allowed visits from family members.
Over the past two 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 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. On April 2, Hamas forces reportedly arrested a Salafi jihadist near Rafah.
Despite these allegations, yesterday Hamas’ Interior Ministry denied that it has made arrests in recent days for “resistance against the occupation [Israel].” A spokesman for the Interior Ministry said, “[o]ur security apparatus is part of the resistance and does not arrest anyone who resists the occupation. On the contrary, we encourage resistance.”
Israeli media outlets have recently reported, however, that Hamas is under heavy pressure from Egypt to quell the rocket fire into Israel and arrest those responsible.
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