The Salafist Jihadists Who Call Gaza Home

Article Summary
The Gaza Strip has become a hotbed of various types of armed movements, writes Ola Abdallah. A number of movements known as “salafist jihadist groups” that  adopt al-Qaeda's ideas but without any organizational links with it exist in the Strip and are at odds with Hamas.

The Gaza Strip is a hotbed of various types of armed movements. Some of them are considered part of anti-Israel armed movements like Hamas or Islamic Jihad — the two that are most famous and with the most presence in the Gaza Strip. But in the Strip, there are also a number of movements known as “Salafist jihadist Groups” that have ideological and political disagreements with Hamas, especially after the latter started administering the Strip in 2006.

These groups are a serious security concern for Hamas, especially in the era of "military decisiveness," since these groups are the most extreme in the Strip and adopt al-Qaeda's ideas but without any organizational links with it. In addition, they want to govern Gaza, just like the Taliban governed Afghanistan, by following al- Qaeda's practices and policies, but these are incompatible with the realities and traditions of the Palestinians.

These groups number about 1000. They are a heterogeneous mixture of former Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah members. They do not include non-Palestinian members, with a few minor exceptions. A large proportion of their members used to belong to Hamas and have been involuntarily dismissed for organizational or ethical violations.

Among these groups is the People's Resistance Committees, the Salahuddin Groups, the Zarqawi Palestine Group, Army of Islam, the Unification and Jihad Brigades, the Umma’s Army, Army of the Supporters of Allah, Fatah al-Islam, the Swords of Truth, Al-Qaeda’s Army and the Salafist Group. There is little information about their structures and leaders.

Since their inception, these groups have not pursued armed conflict with Israel or presented themselves as resistance groups in the Palestinian arena like the traditional national liberation movements that emerged in the middle of the last century, e.g., Fatah, or their second wave, represented by Islamist groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Following are the Gaza Strip’s Salafist Jihadist groups that have the most influence and presence:

- Jund Ansar Allah (Army of the Supporters of Allah‎). Established in November 2008. It is part of the groups that emerged in response to Hamas’s move into the political field and its participation in the 2006 elections.

- Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam). Established in 2006 by members who left Hamas in order to pursue “a clear Islamic practice,” as they claim. It is led by Momtaz Dughmosh who took part in the kidnapping operation of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

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Found in: jund ansar allah, jaysh al-islam, hamas, gaza strip, gaza
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