A rocket attack planned by Gaza terrorists and thwarted by the IDF on Saturday night was the work of Al-Qaeda inspired Salafi-Muslim terrorists, and not mainstream Sunni-Muslim terrorist groups as initially reported.

Five terrorists were killed in an airstrike as they tried to fire on southern Israel. All five were identified as former members of Hamas, Islamic Jihad or the PRC who had become followers of Salafi ideology.

The attempted attack appears to show an increased readiness on behalf of Salafi groups to openly challenge Hamas, which claims the right to coordinate terrorist attacks on Israel, and decide when rockets are or are not fired.

Salafi groups in Gaza seek to impose sharia (Islamic law) on all residents, and ultimately, on the entire world – by force if necessary. Salafi leaders have derided Hamas as “traitors” and “Islamism-lite” for its willingness to hold elections, and its acceptance of some secular laws alongside sharia.

The philosophy is increasingly popular in Gaza. In 2008, Salafi groups claimed just 5,000 members, but by early 2010 their ranks had swelled to an estimated 11,000. The groups count only adult men when reporting membership, meaning their true numbers, if women and children are included, could easily have passed 50,000.