On June 11, Hamas forces in the Gaza Strip arrested a Salafist preacher near Gaza City. The Ibn Taymiyyah Media Center (ITMC), a jihadist media unit tied to the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC), subsequently denounced the arrest and warned that Hamas may soon try to wage another arrest campaign against Salafi jihadists in the coastal enclave.
Two days after the arrest of Sheikh Hussein al Jo’ayteni, Hamas’ Interior Ministry confirmed the arrest. The ministry’s statement did not fully explain why Jo’ayteni had been arrested, however.
In response to the statement from the Interior Ministry, the ITMC released a statement, to jihadist forums as well as its Facebook and Tumblr pages, which said that the Interior Ministry was publishing “fabrications.” On June 15, a Facebook page that was recently opened for relatives and friends of Salafi jihadists currently imprisoned by Hamas issued a statement claiming that al Jo’ayteni was facing “physical and mental torture” in Hamas’ prisons.
The same statement denounced the “bullying practices” of Hamas forces against Salafists in the Gaza Strip, which it said were “a flagrant violation of all norms of human rights and democracy.” Hamas, the statement further charged, was responsible for the fate of al Jo’ayteni.
Today a statement from the aforementioned Facebook group called for the “immediately release” of al Jo’ayteni. According to the ITMC, a Kuwaiti delegation has been working recently to mend ties between Hamas and Salafists in the Gaza Strip.
Similarly, the ITMC released a statement yesterday that accused Hamas of torturing al Jo’ayteni. According to the ITMC, Hamas is torturing al Jo’ayteni “day and night” in order to obtain information from him regarding Salafist groups in the Gaza Strip.
Tensions between Hamas and the Salafi jihadists in the Gaza Strip increased significantly after the targeted killing by Israel of Hithem Ziad Ibrahim Masshal, a well known jihadist, on April 30. On May 1, the ITMC released a statement to jihadist forums which seemed to suggest that the Salafi jihadists believe Masshal was set up by elements within Hamas. This matches the claim of an April 30 statement from a Facebook page for supporters of Salafi jihadists in Gaza suggesting that it appeared Masshal had been offered “on a golden platter” to Israel by Hamas.
On the same day as Masshal’s death, Asharq al Awsat reported that Hamas was increasing its efforts to stop rocket fire from the Gaza Strip toward Israel. Members of Hamas’ al Qassam Brigades have been “deployed in the border areas of the Gaza Strip replacing policemen with the aim of preventing the firing of rockets from Gaza,” the report stated.
Another report from Al Ayyam similarly stated that Hamas had warned Salafi jihadist groups in the Gaza Strip that those who fire rockets at the current time will be arrested and that the firing rockets should not occur “without a general national consensus” on the issue.
On May 2, Hamas’ Interior Ministry announced the arrest of six Salafists, four of whom were accused of stealing rockets from other terror groups in the Gaza Strip. The ITMC condemned the announcement and said those detained had been arrested only because of their beliefs. Five days later, the ITMC accused members of the Field Control Force of firing on and injuring at least one Salafi jihadist in the northern Gaza Strip.
On May 20, a video featuring Abu Talha al Libi, the sharia official of the Muhajireen Brigade in the Levant, was released by the ITMC. In the video, titled “Fear Allah, O Hamas,” al Libi slammed Hamas’ campaign against Salafi jihadists in the Gaza Strip. According to al Libi, Hamas’ current actions are “not the way” of Hamas founders Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Abdul Aziz al Rantisi, both of whom were killed by Israel in 2004.
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