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Signs that Hamas is Losing Control Over Gaza

Messages are flying between Hamas commanders deployed throughout the region, expressing concern that local leaders are losing control over Gaza.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 3/7/2010, 10:34 AM / Last Update: 3/7/2010, 10:43 AM

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Messages are flying between Hamas commanders deployed throughout the Middle East, expressing concern that local leaders are losing control over Gaza. Ahmed Ja'bri, head of the terror group's Izz a-din al-Kassam armed division, recently sent an urgent missive to Hamas politburo leader Khaled Mashaal in Damascus, complaining about the organization's “deteriorating” authority in Gaza.

According to a report published Saturday in the London-based Arabic-language newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, the letter noted that “several worrisome explosions recently occurred in Gaza, security anarchy is extensive, and al-Kassam men are being killed.”

Not the First Warning
The letter was apparently not the first sent by Ja'bri, warning Mashaal that the situation in Gaza has become increasingly tense. Global jihadists have been posing a growing challenge to Hamas's authority in the area, he informed his superiors. The latest message followed a spate of attacks targeting the offices of senior Hamas commanders, including the Gaza prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh. It was not clear who was behind the assassination attempts.

“This is the second letter sounding the alarm, the first having been sent in November,” he reminded. “I want to stress once again that the situation in Gaza is worsening,” the text of the letter read.

“We began to lose control of the internal situation after you asked us to transfer control to the government and not to interfere, in order to allow it to direct the affairs of Gaza,” he complained.

“A number of government officials have complained about operations in which we eliminated some Fatah operatives, something that was necessary to secure peace internally. Izz a-Din al-Kassam may have made a few stupid errors, such as killing agents from the Palestinian Authority security force, and these resulted from personal motives – but the security of the [Hamas] movement was always vastly more important than an occasional death,” he added.

Hamas-Global Jihadist Power Struggle Intensifying
Hamas has been struggling in recent months with a growing challenge to its authority from mushrooming Islamist groups linked to the international al-Qaeda terrorist organization. According to IDF military intelligence sources, global jihad (al-Qaeda) operatives were active in Gaza for several years; an IDF soldier was killed in an attack perpetrated in January 2009 by global jihadists near southern Gaza.

Global jihadists also clashed with Hamas terrorists last July over control over a mosque in the area of the Rafiah, the only border crossing that does not lead into Israel, but rather into Egypt and the rest of the world. IDF military officials warned in 2008 that al-Qaeda terrorists were among the hundreds who had infiltrated Gaza after Hamas operatives blew up the security barrier on the Egyptian-Gaza border in January 2008.

One of the three Hamas-linked terrorist groups involved in the June 2006 kidnapping of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit was the Army of Islam, a group that has ties to the Doghmush clan, and that is considered a branch of al-Qaeda in Gaza.

The group was also responsible for the March 2007 kidnapping of Alan Johnston, the Gaza City bureau chief for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). It was nearly four months before Johnston was freed; Shalit is still being held hostage – his condition and whereabouts remain unknown.

Last month another British journalist was kidnapped by Hamas terrorists -- freelancer Paul Martin was arrested at a Gaza courthouse for allegedly supporting a terrorist facing charges of collaborating with Israel. Martin, who has written for the BBC and the Times of London, among others, is still being held by the terrorist group, which has not announced formal charges against him, but has said he will be held until at least March 15.

Hamas, which seized control of the region following a milita war with Fatah in June 2007, claims Martin “committed offenses that harmed the security of the country” but has not detailed what those offenses are. Since Gaza is not a sovereign country, and Hamas does not respect the Geneva Convention or any other international law, negotiations for Martin's release will rest largely on the skill of his defense lawyer alone, Sharhabil Zayim.