TEL AVIV, Israel – Hamas has pledged to crush the Army of Islam, a Gaza-based Salafi group that has openly threatened Hamas and labelled it heretical and its policies “anti-Islamic.”
Earlier this month, the group released a video accusing Hamas of straying from the path of Islam and enforcing “man-made” laws against Allah’s will.
Breitbart Jerusalem reported that the video’s release was part of the Army of Islam’s bid to become the Islamic State’s sole representative in Palestine.
Reacting to the video, a Hamas official told Breitbart Jerusalem on Sunday: “Any attempt to destabilize the Gaza Strip or disturb the peace, either by carrying out bombings or by disseminating transgressive ideologies that may paint it as a bastion of IS, will be met with a decisive response.”
The official said Hamas told the Army of Islam that they would not allow the organization to gain a foothold in the Strip, and that the Army undermines Hamas’ efforts to forge a long-term ceasefire aimed at lifting the Israeli-Egyptian naval blockade.
Currently, Israel rules out a scenario in which the blockade is lifted, citing fears that marine routes into the Strip will be used for weapons smuggling and the importation of construction materials used for building fortified structures.
Hamas, for its part, believes a close association between the Army of Islam and IS may hamper Turkey’s willingness to mediate the crisis.
Despite the sharp rhetoric, it remains unclear what measures Hamas will take on the ground, in light of its recent rapprochement with the Sinai-based IS affiliate, Welayat Sinai. The latter is paid by the besieged government in Gaza to assist with weapons smuggling, as Breitbart Jerusalem reported last week.
Should Hamas decide to act against the Army of Islam – a group that has pledged allegiance to IS and its leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi – it may cut the lifeline provided by a sister organization.
More than a month ago, the Army of Islam pledged allegiance to IS and its leader, Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (pictured), but has yet to receive the privileged status of official IS representative in the Palestinian territories.
For his part, Mumtaz Dughmosh, the commander of the Army of Islam, recently finished memorizing the Quran in its entirety, the sources said. He has now moved on to memorizing other scriptures, mainly the Hadiths – collections of reports that claim to quote the prophet Muhammad verbatim. Some of Dughmosh’s teachers are Salafists who came to the Gaza Strip from Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, sources claimed.
Salafi organizations in Gaza and the ruling Hamas movement have been increasingly at odds.
In May, Hamas engaged in deadly clashes with IS supporters who challenged Hamas rule.
In July, the Information Bureau of the Aleppo Province, affiliated with IS, released a video entitled “A message to our folks in Jerusalem,” in which IS members originally from Gaza declared war on Israel and Hamas.
In the video, IS member Abu Azzam al-Ghazzawim, who is originally from Gaza, delivered a strongly-worded warning to what he called the “tyrants of Hamas”:
“You are nothing in our reckoning. You, Fatah, and all the secularists, we count you as nothing. Allah willing, we shall uproot the state of the Jews. You are nothing but froth that will be gone as we move in. Allah willing, Gaza will be governed by Sharia despite you.”
Abu Qatadah al-Filistini, an ISIS member who leads a faction in Aleppo, Syria, made an appearance in the video and called on all “monotheists in Gaza to join the convoy of the Mujahidin and join the state of the Caliphate.”
Abu Qatadah accused Hamas of “sliding gradually into apostasy, a slide that started with the demolition of the Ibn Taymiyah Mosque.
“It is a movement that does not seek to govern according to shariah but seeks to appease Iran and America, the heads of apostasy.”
Last week, Breitbart Jerusalem reported that Hamas’ efforts to rebuild its military power have been boosted thanks to Hamas’ cooperation with Welayat Sinai, the local branch of the Islamic State.
Breitbart Jerusalem previously reported
Last week, a leading Salafi source revealed that Menai mediated a deal whereby Hamas would give the Gaza Salafi opposition groups more leeway in exchange for Wilayat Sinai’s help in bypassing the Egyptian army’s restrictions on smuggling rocket parts into Gaza.
The resumption of arms smuggling combined with renewed Iranian financial support has greatly increased the training of Hamas’ military wing.
Abu Khaled, head of the media office of the Al Qassam Brigades, told Breitbart Jerusalem that he declined to comment on matters of national security.
This is not the first report of Hamas-IS cooperation in arms smuggling.
A Middle East think tank charged last month that there is information Hamas has been paying off the Islamic State’s Sinai branch to smuggle weapons into Gaza. “Over the past two years, IS Sinai helped Hamas move weapons from Iran and Libya through the peninsula, taking a generous cut from each shipment,” stated a report by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.