TEL AVIV – Hamas has succumbed to its supporters’ pressure to crack down on the Iran-backed Al Sabireen militia, despite Hamas’ dependence on Tehran’s financial support.
Al Sabireen’s members are seen in the predominantly Sunni Gaza Strip not only as Iranian agents, but also as Shi’ite missionaries.
Hamas has ordered the closure of the organization’s affiliated charities, bearing names such as the “Khomeini welfare agency.” They said the charities were a cover for illicit political activity.
The announcement came a few days after three Hamas militants were released from jail, where they served time alongside Salafi militants for hurling an explosive device at the home of Al Sabireen leader Hisham Salem.
Their early release was widely interpreted as the precursor to further measures to restrict Al Sabireen’s activity. Salem protested the decision, saying his request to receive information about the investigation was left unanswered.
A few months ago, Salem was stabbed during an interview for an Iranian TV network. No suspects have been detained.
According to Salem, Hamas officials told him they are not favorable toward a group named after Khomeini, which they believe stokes tensions with Sunnis.
Iran has yet to react to Hamas’ new measures, which may lead to the complete suspension of Al Sabireen’s activity.
Shi’ite Iran’s growing involvement in the Strip has caused controversy in Palestinian society, which sees it as interventionist and missionary.
Iran has recently withheld financial support to Islamic organizations in Gaza following their refusal to come out against Iran’s Sunni enemies in the Middle East, chief among them Saudi Arabia.
Al Sabireen, Iran’s current beneficiary in the Gaza Strip, is only a few hundred activists strong, but it is becoming increasingly attractive to members of Islamic Jihad and other groups that have been estranged from their primary backers.
Fearing Iranian backlash, Hamas authorities until now have been reluctant to crack down on the organization. However, Salafi elements have recently staged stabbing and bombing attacks against Al Sabireen members, who are accused of trying to impose Shia Islam on the population.
Inspired by Hezbollah, the most influential Shi’ite group in the region – which is funded by Iran – Al-Sabireen has won many hearts and minds among radical Gazans and is widely considered the next standard bearer in the so-called armed struggle against Israel. The group reportedly broke away from Iran-backed Islamic Jihad.
In December, Breitbart Jerusalem conducted an exclusive interview with Mahmoud Abu Alnada, a top Al Sabireen commander and former Islamic Jihad militant.
Spokesmen for Al-Sabireen deny any affiliation with Shi’ite ideology, though they clearly ally themselves with Iran’s ideological and political stance, and the group’s symbols are similar to those of Hezbollah.
Also in December, Al-Sabireen took responsibility for the attempted roadside bombing of an Israel Defense Forces patrol along the Gaza border. In October, Israel reportedly eliminated an Al-Sabireen commander, Ahmed Sharif Al-Sarhi, blaming him for numerous cross-border shooting attacks.