Mitchell Prothero
The National
August 14, 2010 - 12:00am

A campaign by Hamas security forces against violations of an unofficial but strictly enforced ceasefire with Israel has drawn the ire of their former allies in Islamic Jihad, who now accuse the Hamas leadership of pursuing peace with Israel rather than military operations.

The issue came to a head on July 31 after two homemade rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip by disgruntled militants linked to Islamic Jihad’s Al Quds Brigade, who acted out of frustration and on their own accord, according to top officials in both groups.

Both also denied claims by some Israeli security officials that Hamas had either encouraged or allowed the strikes.

After years of targeting nearby towns and cities in Israel with homemade rockets and mortars, the Israeli invasion of Gaza at the beginning of last year has been followed by an unusual period of quiet, and no rockets have been fired since the two late last month.

Hamas officials, however, immediately denied reports of tensions with Islamic Jihad but admitted that they are discouraging rocket attacks and other militant activities in order to “allow the people of Gaza to breathe and rest after the massacre of Operation Cast Lead”, according to Abu Khalid, a top commander of the Izzidine al Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas.

“Despite our role in the government, Hamas remains a resistance organisation first and foremost,” he told The National in Gaza City. “We have an excellent relationship with Islamic Jihad and our brothers know that we are only taking this time to build our strength and communities after years of war.”

His statement followed an announcement on August 8 by a Hamas spokesman that described the relationship between the two groups as “strategic”.

Sami Abu Zuhri said in a press conference: “We believe there are stable relations with Islamic Jihad at the highest levels.”

Hamas consults Islamic Jihad on matters related to “the Palestinian people’s interest, and there is field co-ordination between the movements as efforts to develop better relations are ongoing”, he added.

But a top military commander for Islamic Jihad in the Rafah refugee camp in southern Gaza denied that the two groups work together closely or maintain cordial relations.

“This is politics only, Islamic Jihad and Hamas hate each other right now because Hamas is pursuing their true goal: An Islamic government,” Abu Musab said. “Because they are really the Muslim Brotherhood, it is more important to them to rule Gaza than liberate Palestine.”

Hamas’s ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, which advocates Islamic governance throughout the Arab and Muslim world as an antidote to the widespread corruption, are well established, and Mr Musab argues the group’s willingness to engage with Israel is strongly opposed by Islamic Jihad.

“Hamas says they are for resistance but they ran in the elections which were established by the Oslo agreement,” he said. “Hamas say they oppose Oslo, yet they benefited from the main result of Oslo. We warned them not to run in the elections or they would become politicians and not resistance, but they have a Brotherhood agenda that is bigger than defeating Israel.”

“I don’t understand why the Israelis don’t talk to Hamas,” he added. “Hamas will accept 1967 borders, they admit it and even today fight those like Islamic Jihad who insist on liberating all of Palestine. 1948 Israel will one day be liberated for Palestine.”

“If Hamas is so Islamic, why are the tunnels to Egypt full of cigarettes, drugs and DVDs that they can sell and tax?” asked Abu Mousa, an Islamic Jihad commander in Khan Younis. “If those tunnels were controlled by Hizbollah, the tunnels would be full of rockets, ammunition and fighters coming to liberate Palestine. Hamas is nothing like Hizbollah who want to fight Israel, not get fat taxing the people of Gaza.”

Abu Mousa confirmed reports that Islamic Jihad fighters are regularly harassed or even killed by Hamas for attempting military operations against Israel.

“Look, they won’t come to your home and arrest you for talking about resistance like Fatah used to in Gaza,” Abu Mousa said. “But if they catch any of our boys trying to fire rockets or attack Israeli forces, they will beat them or shoot them in the knee. If they catch you more than once, they’ll kill you and dump you in the sea. Islamic Jihad is much smaller than Hamas, we cannot fight them, and so we stay home.”

Mr Musab said the problem has become one of corruption by the previously honest Hamas commanders.

“I think it was some famous communist who said, ‘The minute the revolution collects taxes, resistance ends’,” he said.


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