JERUSALEM – Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah organization has been providing financial support to al-Qaida allies in the Gaza Strip, including some of the most radical Islamist organizations in the territory, according to information obtained by WND.
Fatah, considered moderate by U.S. and Israeli policy, has been backing the Al-Qaida allies in a bid to destabilize the rival Hamas' leadership in Gaza. Hamas violently seized control of Gaza from Fatah last June, after Abbas unilaterally dismantled the democratically elected Hamas-led PA.
The last few weeks have seen a marked rise in the boldness of radical Islamist organizations in Gaza, particularly three groups: Jihadiya Salafiya (the Jihad of Ancestors), Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam), and the Islamist Doghmosh clan.
The Doghmoshes lead Jaish al-Islam but also act independently as a clan. They achieved notoriety for the March 2007 abduction of BBC reporter Alan Johnston.
Last month, Jihadiya Salafiya announced it established an armed wing, which it called the Damascus Soldiers, brandishing weapons in a public display in Gaza. All three Islamist organizations – Salafiya, Jaish and the Doghmosh clan – evidenced a recent infusion of weapons and have been openly challenging Hamas, according to Palestinian security sources in Gaza.
Unlike other radical Islamic organizations such as Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, which have demonstrated pragmatism in some aspects of political life while still holding an Islamist world view, the three Gazan Islamist organizations in question believe in a strict interpretation of the Quran and that only the Quran can dictate how to act.
The three groups are openly identified with al-Qaida ideologically; they believe jihad is the primary way to spread Islam around the world, including jihad against secular Muslim states.
Hamas has in the past worked with the al-Qaida-allied groups in Gaza. It took credit along with Jaish al-Islam for the kidnapping in June 2006 of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
But Jihadiya Salifiya and Jaish al-Islam have been regularly publishing pamphlets the past few months labeling Hamas as "non-Muslim" since the terror group ran in 2006 democratic elections, which the Islamist organizations see as an expression of Western values. Also, for the past two years, al-Qaida leaders themselves have released audio tapes at a frequency of almost one per month blasting Hamas for participating in elections and in the democratic process.
Hamas last week engaged in heavy fire clashes with the Islamist organizations in Gaza in which 11 were killed, including a top member of the Doghmosh clan. The fighting reportedly broke out after the Doghmoshes shot at Hamas policemen who had attempted an arrest raid against the Islamists.
According to informed security officials, some top members of Fatah have been funneling large quantities of cash to Jihadiya Salafiya, Jaish al-Islam and the Doghmoshes in a bid to build up the Islamist groups at the expense of Hamas.
The security officials said there was no official decision within Fatah to bolster the Islamist radicals, but that top Fatah officials were acting independently.
A perusal by WND of official Fatah websites, including Fatah news websites, during the last six weeks found a strange phenomenon – Fatah was publishing the anti-Hamas pamphlets of the three Islamist organizations in question and also provided the al-Qaida-linked groups a platform to espouse their ideology. Fatah news websites have traditionally been more secularly oriented and have stayed away from promoting al-Qaida.
A senior source in Hamas' Interior Ministry told WND that Hamas recently arrested a number of Fatah members in Gaza suspected of serving as links between the Islamist radicals and Fatah officials in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
The Hamas source said his group fears the three Islamist organizations, backed by Fatah, will attempt assassinations of Hamas leaders or suicide/car bombings against Hamas targets in Gaza.
The source said Hamas' Interior Ministry is contemplating the formation of an intelligence apparatus specifically to deal with the purported threat of Fatah backing Al-Qaida-linked groups in Gaza.
Aside from last week's attempted arrest raid, Hamas in recent weeks has rounded up and arrested prominent sheiks and religious leaders in Gaza who are known to promote al-Qaida views or are affiliated with the radical Islamist groups.
Israeli security officials, speaking to WND, blasted Fatah for supporting radical Islamists.
"They are playing a dangerous, stupid game," one top Israeli security official commented. "If they succeed in winning back Gaza, Fatah will have to contend with an al-Qaida territory."
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