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

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    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.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora