By Jim Kouri
A growing number of Islamists from the Egyptian-based Salafist network, who embrace global jihad, are multiplying and taking root in the Gaza Strip, while Hamas, which governs that portion of the Palestinian population, has done nothing to stop the extremist “invaders,” an Israeli police source told the Law Enforcement Examiner on Wednesday.
“We hope that Hamas will be more determined to deal with this threat. So far, Hamas’s attitude has shown a double standard: they say that they are taking steps on the ground, but the results are very poor,” Yossi Kuperwasser, director-general of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, told reporters in Jerusalem.
The remarks came days after Israeli aircraft targeted Hisham Saedni, one of four militants killed in cross-border violence that flared up last week.
Saedni headed the Shora Council of the Mujahideen, a group ideologically linked to al-Qaeda, and reportedly trained in Iraq at the outset of the U.S. invasion in 2003.
The Israeli police source told the Law Enforcement Examiner that Saedni and his men were involved in firing rockets into southern Israel and planting explosive devices, one of which killed an Israeli soldier and critically wounded another and were set to launch an attack on the Israel-Egypt border.
Prior to his death, the top militant was detained by Hamas on several occasions and released time and again. This revolving door policy reflects Hamas’s assessment of just how strong Salafist jihadism had grown in Gaza in recent years.
Israeli intelligence estimates that the Salafists currently number several dozen operatives in Gaza, according to the National Police (INP) source.
Sinai-based Islamists provide a steady flow of arms to their Gaza colleagues, while financial support is received from organizations and individuals located abroad who identify with the Salafist structure, the Israeli source said.
It remains unclear whether Hamas will succeed in stemming the tide of hard-core Islam sweeping Gaza, he said, adding that a growing number of Palestinian youths are being lured to join the ranks of the Salafists.