Gaza’s global jihadis (JERUSALEM POST) By YAAKOV KATZ 06/22/12)
JERUSALEM POST Articles-Index-Top
In 2006, Abu Abd Al-Rahman, a top al-Qaida operative based in
Afghanistan, received a letter.
One of Osama bin Laden’s closest associates and known by a slew of
aliases, Rahman – who was killed in a drone strike in Pakistan in
2011 – was at the time a renowned Islamic religious authority in
global jihad circles.
He often received letters from global jihad followers stationed
across the globe, but this letter was different; It came from the
Sent by the Army of Islam, at the time a fairly obscure terrorist
group, the letter included a number of questions pertaining to
Islamic religious law.
Over the years, the Army of Islam has turned into a formidable force
in Gaza. It assisted Hamas in kidnapping Gilad Schalit and later was
behind the abduction of BBC reporter Alan Johnston. Designated as a
terrorist organization by the US State Department, its members have
been targets of Israeli targeted killings over the years.
The first question in the letter was whether the group could receive
money from Palestinian organizations to fund its terror activities.
One example it gave was the Islamic Jihad, which wanted to give the
Army of Islam money to carry out attacks against Israel. The problem,
the letter noted, was that Islamic Jihad was heavily funded by Iran,
perceived as an “infidel” Shi’ite state by the global jihad Salafis.
The second question was whether the Army of Islam could invest in the
stock market to finance its terrorist activities. Finally, the letter
asked whether the organization could kill drug smugglers, steal their
drugs and money and use it to finance terrorist activities.
The letter was discovered last year in the home in Abbottabad,
Pakistan where United States Navy SEALs found and killed bin Laden.
It was one of nearly 20 documents that were declassified and
published recently by the US military’s Combating Terrorism Center.
For the Mossad and Military Intelligence, the discovery of the letter
in the intelligence treasure trove reinforced what it had already
known: al- Qaida and global jihad do not pose a virtual and imaginary
threat but are real and have cells operating along Israel’s borders.
The attack on Monday along the Egyptian border, which killed
construction worker Said Phashpashe, is believed to have been the
work of another global jihad organization called Tawhid wal- Jihad, a
shadowy group in Gaza that was behind the kidnapping of an Italian
activist in Gaza last year. Hamas clashed with the group, stormed the
home where the worker was being held and secured his release.
The group’s involvement in the attack on Monday might be one of the
reasons why Hamas decided this week to break its longstanding
abstention from rocket attacks. Before this week, the last time Hamas
fired was in April 2011 in the round of violence that erupted
following a Hamas anti-tank missile attack against a school bus,
which killed an Israeli teenager.
But now, global jihad groups are operating freely and without
consideration for Hamas’s interests.
The attack on Monday, for example, could have been carried out
without Hamas’s knowledge or approval. As a result, it is possible
that Hamas felt its status was being undermined and therefore decided
to renew its rocket fire and show who the real terror leader is in
the Gaza Strip.
Another possibility is that Hamas feels bolstered by the potential
Muslim Brotherhood takeover in Egypt with a possible win in the
As a result, it feels like it can be less restrained when it comes to
attacking Israel than it has been in recent years.
Ultimately though, the IDF does not believe that Hamas is really
interested in a major escalation, the scale and scope of which could
lead to another Operation Cast Lead. With the school year ending this
week and summer vacation about to begin, Israel is also looking to
avoid a larger conflict.
For that reason, the IDF’s response has been relatively moderate with
nearly 10 air strikes but none that really targeted manned Hamas
In the past, Hamas has not hesitated to use force against the Salafi
groups in Gaza. One memorable incident was in August 2009 when Hamas
forces raided the Ibn Taymmiyah mosque in Rafah.
During the clashes, 24 Palestinians were killed and more than 130
were wounded. Several hundred more were detained by Hamas.
“The presence of these organizations in the Gaza Strip is not new,” a
senior IDF intelligence officer said this week. “We have been
tracking them for years.”
The lawlessness in the Sinai Peninsula, though, the officer noted,
has created new opportunities for these organizations, some of them
ranked as more radical than Hamas.
The ability to move between Sinai and Gaza – two places where the
rule of law is not prominent – has provided these groups not only
with the means (weapons, explosives and money) but also with new
operatives who can travel to Sinai to take up arms against Israel.
But while Sinai creates opportunities for these groups, for Israel it
currently appears to be an almost unsolvable problem. The IDF, which
admits to having limited intelligence on what happens there, is also
voicing concern over the growing involvement of the local Beduin
population in attacks against Israel, something expected to increase
as the border fence is completed and the smuggling industry, which
Sinai relies on, is hit hard.
The main problem for Israel is that unlike Gaza – where it feels it
can operate freely against terror infrastructure – the same cannot be
said about Sinai where a single Israeli incursion or air strike would
be viewed as a violation of Egyptian sovereignty and likely lead to
the immediate annulment of the peace treaty.
For that reason, the message coming out of Jerusalem this week was
that the Egyptian government and whoever leads it as president needs
to take immediate action to restore control over Sinai and remove the
threat from Israel’s borders. The message has yet to include an “or
else” threat but if the attacks continue, the pressure will be on
Israel to begin taking action to stop them. (© 1995-2011, The
Jerusalem Post 06/22/12)
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY