The Growing Hamas/Al-Qaeda Connection

[Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs] Lt. Col. (res.) Jonathan D. Halevi - Al-Qaeda generally thrives wherever central authority of governments is collapsing and therefore its current success in the war-torn Gaza Strip should not come as a surprise. Just after Israel's unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip in August 2005, there were reports that al-Qaeda had exploited the new security vacuum that had been created and begun to dispatch its operatives to this territory. By March 2006, Mahmoud Abbas told the London Arabic daily Al-Hayat, "We have signs of the presence of al-Qaeda in Gaza and the West Bank." In the meantime, across the Middle East, the external Hamas leadership maintained close ties with well-known figures associated with the al-Qaeda network, like the leader of the Kashmiri organization, Hezb ul-Mujahidin, Sayyid Salahal-Din, in Pakistan and Abd al-Majid al-Zindani, a bin Laden loyalist, in Yemen, who met with Khaled Mashaal on March 20, 2006. Significantly, Al-Hayat reported on April 4, 2006, "a definite presence" of al-Qaeda operatives in Gaza, who had infiltrated from Egypt, Sudan, and Yemen. A little over a month later, Egypt's Ministry of the Interior disclosed that two terrorist operatives involved in the April 2006 attack on the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Dahab underwent training in the use of weapons and explosives in Gaza. On May 9, 2007, the "Army of Islam" (Jaish al-Islam) published, on a website identified with al-Qaeda, an official announcement in which it took responsibility for the kidnapping of BBC journalist Alan Johnston in Gaza, and called for the release of Palestinian sheikh Abu Qatada, who is considered one of the main ideologues of al-Qaeda in Europe and is known to be the one with whom the heads of the group that carried out 9/11 consulted. Hamas spokesperson Ayman Taha acknowledged the fact that Hamas and the "Army of Islam" had cooperated on the military operational level.

2007-05-18 01:00:00

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