News / Middle East

Israel-Gaza Fighting Renews Spotlight on Salafist Militants

The heaviest exchange of fire between Israel and Gaza in months is drawing attention to Salafist groups in the Palestinian territory. 
 
A group calling itself the Mujahedeen Shura Council says it has launched several rocket strikes on southern Israel since Tuesday.  In the latest salvo, Israelis rushed to bomb shelters early Wednesday.  Hours earlier, the Israeli military sent warplanes to attack militant targets in open areas of northern Gaza. 
 
There have been no reports of casualties from the rocket fire or air strikes, the first Israel has launched since a November cease-fire with Hamas militants who control Gaza. 
 
Militants in Gaza

HAMAS ("Islamic Resistance Movement")

-Formed by members of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1987
-Founding charter calls for destruction of Israel
-Won Palestinian legislative elections in 2006
-Has 10,000-20,000 fighters, belonging to its military wing and others providing internal security

Palestinian Islamic Jihad

-Established in 1980 by Muslim Brotherhood members
-Dedicated to replacing Israel with an Islamist Palestinian state
-Controls 1,000 fighters
-Fired rockets at Israel sporadically in recent years

Salafist Groups

-Loose network emerged in Gaza since Hamas's 2007 takeover
-Range from dozens to hundreds of members linked mostly by clan and neighborhood
-Share al-Qaida's belief in global jihad and establishing a pan-Islamic caliphate
-Engaged in sporadic rocket fire on Israel

Secular Nationalist Groups Linked to Fatah

-Militants allied to the secular Fatah movement
-Includes small factions such as the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades
The Salafist group said the rocket attacks were in revenge for perceived Israeli mistreatment of a 64-year-old Palestinian prisoner who died of cancer on Tuesday.

Israel said it offered medical care to Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh, who was serving a life sentence for attempted murder in a 2002 bomb plot against a Jerusalem cafe. 
 
Gaza is home to several Salafist Islamist groups whose members range from dozens to hundreds and share al-Qaida's belief in global jihad.  They have carried out sporadic rocket fire on Israel for several years, sometimes in defiance of Gaza's Hamas rulers. 
 
U.N. special coordinator for Middle East peace efforts Robert Serry said renewed violations of the November truce risk "unraveling the gradual, but tangible" security improvements in Gaza and southern Israel in recent months.  Israel and Hamas agreed to the cease-fire under U.S. and Egyptian mediation, ending an eight-day war. 
 
Israeli counter-terrorism analyst Boaz Ganor of IDC Herzliya said Gaza's Salafists remain small in manpower, but have strengthened their capabilities. 
 
He said the Salafists took the lead in firing rockets at Israel in the weeks before the November war, prompting Hamas to join the salvos for the first time in years to avoid losing the spotlight to its smaller rivals. 
 
"Those Salafists announced that they are going to establish a political party that will compete with Hamas in the next elections whenever they will be held in the Palestinian Authority," he said. "Hamas understood from that moment that if it will restrain itself and not take part in the clashes against Israel, it will pay in the ballot.  I understand the whole situation in the recent months to be based on that understanding of Hamas, and the Salafist movements' success in the political arena in the neighboring Arab countries."
 
Hamas has insisted it abides by Egyptian-mediated cease-fire agreements and previously has called for all factions to do the same to safeguard the Palestinian national interest. 
 
Ganor said Hamas used persuasion rather than force to prevent Salafists from launching rockets at Israel in the first three months of the truce.  
 
A Gaza-based Hamas spokesman told Reuters Television Israel is to blame for the latest outbreak of hostilities. Sami Abu Zuhri accused Israel of "killing" the ailing prisoner and escalating the situation by carrying out the air strikes. 
 
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon says Israel will not tolerate "any sporadic fire" toward its citizens or forces.  His warning also was in response to scattered mortar and gun fire from Syria into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Godwin from: Nigeria
April 04, 2013 7:30 AM
"gradual, but tangible security improvements in Gaza", Is there really an improvement in the security to Israel? Look at this: " I understand the whole situation in the recent months to be based on that understanding of Hamas, and the Salafist movements' success in the political arena in the neighboring Arab countries." This is where the problem lies. When it is who is the hero for being the first to want Israel shot at, how can anyone want Israel to be the first to rescind force? The mentality out there must change if peace will come to the area.

Everyone understands cancer to be a terminal ailment, so how did Israel kill the prisoner? These people only want war and nothing but war will stop them. Israel is by every means the superior force out there, is it not time to declare a total war so that if Israel has to pay the price of peace there, so be it. But if it gets to be that the Palestinian issue is to be solved by removing those now occupying the Gaza strip by forcefully evicting and repatriating them back to Jordan to bring peace to the region, let the whole world rise to speak with one voice and be fair for once. It is wrong to continue to oppress Israel for their benevolence of allowing the homeless find a settlement on Israel's land, and a worse judgment if Israel is asked to vacate their land because they are their brothers' keeper.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid