Hamas has cracked down on Salafi activists, some of whom openly support the Islamic State, in the wake of two incidents in which rockets and mortars were fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip, a security official in the territory told Breitbart Jerusalem.
In retaliation, Israel launched airstrikes on Hamas installations.
Hamas, the organization that rules the Strip, informed Israel via Qatari, Egyptian and Turkish intelligence officials that it remains committed to nonaggression for the time being, the official said.
Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, for his part, said Thursday that while Israel does not want to spark a war with Hamas, it will answer every attack from the Gaza Strip with a “forceful response.”
“We are not looking for adventures and no one wants to push for escalation with Hamas in the Gaza Strip — however, we are determined to protect the safety of the citizens of the State of Israel, and on that point there will be no compromise,” Liberman said at a Tel Aviv event honoring outstanding officers and NCOs.
“All fire from Gaza into the sovereign land of the State of Israel will get a forceful response. Hamas rules the Strip with a firm hand and when it wants to get something or prevent something, it knows how to do that,” he said.
Meanwhile, Hamas has arrested dozens of Salafists in connection with the rocket attacks after Israel struck several tunnels and rocket launchers, some adjacent to the Israeli border, Breitbart Jerusalem learned.
The Gaza source said that the latest round of hostilities cost Hamas millions of dollars, which apparently spurred the Islamic organization to act decisively against rowdy militants.
The source said that Hamas hopes the latest clampdown will send the Salafist dissidents a message that Hamas would not let the security situation deteriorate. He added that some of the detainees weren’t suspected of taking part in the attacks, but were relatives of militants who had gone into hiding “and can be used to provide useful information as well as send them a message that we mean business. We will not let Gaza become an IS launching pad.”
Radical Islamists have repeatedly challenged Hamas’ central authority by goading Israel into attacking Hamas targets, which has inflicted heavy losses on the struggling Gaza government.
Speaking to Breitbart Jerusalem, a Salafi source said that the arrests included raids on homes of Salafi activists and their friends and relatives, saying that it wasn’t simply a punitive measure against the attackers but an attempt to collect intelligence about members of jihadi groups.
“Many of the activists are former members of other organizations, including Hamas,” he said. “Some have split officially but others work for Salafi groups although they’re still members of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Resistance Committees – and these are the ones Hamas wants to uncover.”