Arab News (Editorial)
August 17, 2009 - 12:00am§ion=0&article=125531&d=17&m=8&y=2009

Hamas may have ended the rebellion launched by the Al-Qaeda-inspired Jund Ansar Allah, but it did so the hard away. Not before 24 people were killed, including two children, and over 100 were injured, was some semblance of order restored in the southern Gaza Strip. If Hamas would like to take credit for crushing this Al-Qaeda group in a standoff that came to a fiery end, it must also take the blame for having started the conflagration when it opened the Gaza Strip two years ago to foreign extremist elements in the absence of a legitimate Palestinian authority. Ever since Hamas’ takeover of Gaza in the five-day civil war with Fatah in June 2007, terrorists with links to Osama Bin Laden have been infiltrating into Gaza. The fact is that the Hamas-Fatah rivalries not only complicated Palestinian efforts to gain independence but opened an extremist can of worms.

To Hamas’ credit, it has taken down Jund Ansar Allah. If the West believes Hamas is bad, what about Jund Ansar Allah which is accusing Hamas of not being Islamist enough? Groups like Jund Ansar Allah are a dangerous lot not only because of their everyday targets — net cafes, weddings and beauty salons — but because of their call for a global jihad against the entire Western world. Hamas is trying to distance itself from these more radical groups and at least claims that it seeks to set an example and not impose its views on others. Radical splinter groups, on the other hand, turn places of worship into centers that promote extremism to make their point that Hamas has strayed from the true path of jihad.

The Jund Ansar Allah incident was one of the most violent in the Gaza Strip since the Israeli offensive of January and the worst inter-Palestinian violence since the Hamas seizure of Gaza. The danger has not yet passed. Hamas is aware that because organizations such as Jund Ansar Allah adopt Islamic rhetoric, they may have greater success in winning over Palestinian youth. Of all the challenges facing Hamas and its government, the proliferation of such groups is the most important.

This is not just a security problem but a political burden. The success of such groups gives credibility to Hamas’ opponents who say that Hamas has turned Gaza into an “Islamic Emirate”, the very state that Hamas accused Jund Ansar Allah of trying to create. Hamas leaders are aware that these groups will not hesitate to attack Hamas leaders and activists, claiming that Hamas is no longer committed to implementing the Shariah law.

The weekend’s decisive confrontation, in which 95 Jund Ansar Allah members were arrested and its leader was killed, solidified Hamas’ rule in Gaza. However, Jund Ansar Allah is not the first Al-Qaeda-inspired group nor will it be the last. It has several hundred sympathizers in southern Gaza. The challenge Hamas faces is not to put down such rogue elements from time to time because they might take over Gaza, but to return to the Palestinian fold. This is the only way to undermine and defeat such movements.


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