The Ibn Taymiyyah Media Center, a jihadist media unit tied to the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC), stated today that Hamas forces had arrested a Salafi preacher in Gaza on June 11. The alleged arrest is said to have taken place in the Tel al Hawa neighborhood of Gaza City.
Today’s arrest is the first of its kind to be reported by the ITMC since early May. The statement also warned that Hamas forces may try to target Salafi jihadists in Gaza again in the coming days.
A second statement released by the ITMC on its Facebook page warned Salafi jihadists to be especially vigilant in the days ahead. The ITMC also called on the media to shed further light on Hamas’ actions against Salafi jihadists in Gaza.
In May, Salafi jihadists were openly complaining about the Hamas-run Field Control Force, which has reportedly increased deployment in the Gaza Strip to prevent the firing of rockets into Israel from Gaza.
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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