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

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

Video One Year After Massacre, Iraq’s Yazidis a Broken People

Minority community still recovering from devastating assault by IS militants which spurred massive outrage More

‘Malvertisements’ Undermine Internet Trust

Hackers increasingly prey on users' trust of major websites to delivery malicious software 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.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs