Hamas-styrker angrep fredag kveld en gruppe jihadister kalt Jund Ansar Allah. 13 ble drept, og 150 såret, av dem er tilstanden kritisk for 29, mange av dem kvinner og barn.
Hamas nektet ambulanser å komme frem til stedet for skytingen.
Det som utløste angrepet var at lederen for gruppen, Abdel-Latif Moussa, benyttet fredagsprekenen til å erklære Gaza som et islamistisk emirat, noe han var advart mot. Det fikk Hamas til å gå til aksjon.
Jund Ansar Allah er mer internasjonal i sitt syn enn Hamas, som forsøker å holde fokus på krigen mot Israel. Men Hamas har selv endret noe på dette ved sitt nære samarbeid med Iran.
Jund Ansar Allah er kanskje ikke så mange, men representerer en alvorlig trussel mot Hamas. De er mer radikale, og villige til å slåss selv om det får taket til å falle ned, dvs. selv om Israel slår tilbake.
Hamas har overholdt en våpenhvile i over seks måneder, og det er noe Jund Ansar Allah kraftig kritiserer. De vil ha aksjoner, uansett kostnad for sivilbefolkningen.
The fighting began when Hamas forces surrounded a mosque in the southern Gaza town of Rafah where about 100 members of Jund Ansar Allah, or the Soldiers of the Companions of God, were holed up, including some armed with suicide belts and rifles, according to residents of the area.
The confrontation was triggered when the leader of the group defied Gaza’s Hamas rulers by declaring in a Friday prayer sermon that the territory was an Islamic emirate.
Jund Ansar Allah and a number of other small, shadowy radical groups seek to enforce an even stricter version of Islamic law in Gaza and have criticized Hamas for not doing so. They are also upset that the Hamas regime has honored a cease-fire with Israel for the past seven months.
Hamas has said it seeks to set an example and does not impose its views on others. It also says its violent struggle is against Israel, not the Western world. The more radical groups’ calls for global Jihad undermines Hamas’ attempt to appear more moderate to Western eyes.
The hard-line groups are perhaps the most serious opposition Hamas has faced since it seized control of Gaza and ousted its rivals in the Fatah movement in a five-day, bloody civil war in June 2007.
The leader of Jund Ansar Allah, Abdel-Latif Moussa, warned Hamas forces against trying to enter the mosque compound.
«If Hamas does that, it will be their end,» he said.
Shortly afterward, a gunbattle broke out between the militants inside the mosque and Hamas forces surrounding it. Hamas officers then raided the mosque.
The group’s leader had already fled the mosque, and Hamas forces surrounded his house later and waged another gunbattle with his men.
A large explosion was heard from Moussa’s home late Friday, and the house partially collapsed, witnesses and security officials reported. It was unclear whether the explosion was set off by Hamas forces or militants with explosives holed up inside. Hamas has closed off the area and ambulances have been unable to access the scene of the fighting.