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

French Refugee Drama Wins Cannes Top Prize

Dheepan is about a group of Sri Lankan refugees who pretend to be a family in order to flee their war-torn country for a housing project in France More

Photogallery Crisis in Macedonia Requires Meaningful and Swift Measures

The international community has called on Macedonian leadership to take concrete measures in support of democracy in order to exit the crisis More

Activists: IS Executes 217 Civilians, Soldiers Near Palmyra

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday said the victims include nurses, women, children and Syrian government fighters 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs