Gaza Salafists wave Al-Qaeda flag during prot
Gaza Salafists wave Al-Qaeda flag during protAFP/File

The Hamas terrorist movement, which rules Gaza, has arrested two hardline Islamists in connection with rocket attacks on Israel, sources close to a Salafist group told AFP on Thursday.

The Hamas interior ministry, however, denied that any arrests had been made for "resistance against the occupation."

Hamas's "internal security apparatus in the last two days arrested two mujahedeen. One was released after several hours. The other is still detained," a Salafist source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The source said it was part of a "campaign to pursue Salafists after the targeting of Israel with rockets."

A Gaza-based Salafist group claimed the firing of rockets at the western Negev on Tuesday and at Sderot on Wednesday. The rockets landed in open fields, causing no damage or physical injuries.

The Mujahedeen Shura Council said the rocket attacks were a response to the death of Maissara Abu Hamdiyeh, a terrorist who died of cancer on Tuesday in the Soroka Hospital in Be’er Sheva.

The PA has blamed Israel for Hamdiyeh’s death, which led to a wave of rioting.  

Islam Shahwan, a spokesman for Hamas’s interior ministry, denied there had been any "arrests for resistance to the enemy (Israel)," saying such action would "not help national consensus (unity)."

"Our security apparatus is part of the resistance and does not arrest anyone who resists the occupation. On the contrary, we encourage resistance," Shahwan said.

The Mujahedeen Shura Council, meanwhile, urged "the rational-minded in Hamas to pressure its security to release Salafists" in a statement on Thursday.

Shortly before Passover terrorists in Gaza fired five rockets at southern Israel. The attacks are believed to have been connected to United States President Barack Obama’s visit. Hamas arrested Salafists after those attacks as well.

Although Hamas, like its parent group the Muslim Brotherhood, is more observant of Islam than the secular Fatah faction, Salafi groups hold the ruling faction in contempt and hope to instead wrest control of Gaza from Hamas and install a Sharia-bound regime instead.