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Hamas Tightens Control over Gaza

Written by IICC

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hamas_police.jpgSeptember 23, 2008
IICC
Hamas security forces exerted massive military power to confront the Dugmush clan and operatives of the Army of Islam, a network affiliated with Al-Qaeda. It was another Hamas step to suppress opposition and tighten its control over the Gaza Strip.  

Overview

1. On September 15, 2008 , confrontations broke out between Hamas security forces and members of the Dughmush clan in the Al-Sabra section of Gaza City . The clan is important and powerful in the Gaza Strip. The confrontations began with security force attempts to detain two to its members, and led to the deaths of 11 Dughmushes and the wounding of 46. One Hamas policeman was killed and another wounded.

2. Among those killed and wounded by Hamas were a number of operatives of the Army of Islam , a radical Islamic group affiliated with Al-Qaeda (See the Appendix.) One of those killed was Ibrahim Dughmush, the brother of Army of Islam commander Mumtaz Dughmush, who may have been wounded in the fighting and/or detained by Hamas. The Hamas security forces also seized large quantities of weapons (light arms, RPGs, hand grenades and military equipment). Fifteen members of the Dughmush clan were detained following the confrontations.

3. Hamas represented the events as routine police activities were yet another Hamas step to suppress opposition in the Gaza Strip . Hamas is particularly eager to weaken the local clans (such as Dughmush and Hilles) and the terrorist organizations which do not accept Hamas authority, even if they are radical-Islamic, such as the Army of Islam.

4. The Hamas media were quick to represent the Dughmush clan members killed during the confrontations as criminals and the actions of the police as routing anti-crime police activity. However, the large force employed by Hamas indicates that the events were exploited to tighten security and control in the Gaza Strip by the violent suppression of focal points of anti-Hamas power and influence, which the organization regards as undermining its rule.

The events

5. The events which began on September 15, 2008 , in the Al-Sabra section of Gaza City were the following (Ma'an News Agency, September 16):

A) During the morning Hamas police tried to detain two wanted men. One of them Jamil Dughmush , suspected of killing a policeman, was apprehended at City Hall in the center of Gaza City . He resisted, leading to an exchange of fire which killed one policeman and wounded another.

B) In the afternoon security forces surrounded the Dughmush clan compound in Al-Sabra, in west Gaza City , and demanded that three clan member surrender to the police; all three refused. A violent confrontation followed with both sides firing weapons.

C) Close to midnight the confrontations worsened and the Hamas forces used heavy arms, including RPGs, machine guns, mortar shells and anti-tank missiles. The fighting continued throughout the night and into the morning of September 16.

6. When the fighting ended there were 11 Palestinians dead, most of them from the Dughmush clan, including the brother of Army of Islam commander, Mumtaz Dughmush. Six belonged to the Army of Islam and the others were civilians, including an infant and a young boy. Malram Dughmush , four of whose sons were killed, told the human rights institute Al-Dhamir that her sons had been executed before her eyes by Hamas operatives and that they had also shot her in the leg ( Note : Shooting opponents in the leg is a common form of punishment among Hamas operatives in the Gaza Strip, used in the past against Fatah supporters). Al-Dhamir called for an investigation of the events and accused Hamas of using excessive force in a densely-populated area. It was also reported that Mumtaz Dughmush, the commander of the Army of Islam, was wounded during the fighting. In another report, he was arrested by the Hamas security forces (IslamOnline website, September 17). During the confrontations Hamas seized large quantities of weapons from the Dughmush clan, including light arms, RPGs, hand grenades and military equipment.

weapons_1609.gif

Weapons seized by the Hamas security forces during confrontations with the Dughmush clan. (Photo from the Palestinian police in the Gaza Strip, shown on Al-Aqsa TV and posted on Hamas's PALDF Forum, September 16, 2008).
 

Reaction to the events

Hamas

7. Despite the severity of the events and the large number of forces employed the by Hamas movement, the organization tried to represent the incident as police activity carried out against "thugs" with criminal records. After the confrontations Islam Shahwan , a spokesman for the Hamas police, held a press conference where he stated that the activity had been carried out to preserve public order and security and that its objective was to detain a number of wanted criminals who belonged to the Dughmush clan. Those wanted men, he said, had taken part in the abduction of British correspondent Alan Johnston , 1 had shot at foreign embassies, murdered innocent civilians 2 and killed two policemen. He added that an attempt had been made to end the issue peacefully through the intervention of Dughmush clan elders who had agreed to turn over the wanted men, although their refusal to surrender had forced the police to use force.

8. Islam Shahwan, Hamas police spokesman, added that during the raid 15 other wanted clan members had been detained and that large quantities of weapons had been discovered. He noted that the police would not allow anyone to erect "security compounds" within the Gaza Strip, referring to compound in the Al-Sabra section of Gaza City , which was under Dughmush clan control (PalMedia website, Filastin al-Yawm, September 16).

The Dughmush clan and Islamist groups in the Gaza Strip

9 . Abu Muhammad , the mukhtar of the Dughmush clan , issued a statement accusing the Hamas police of killing 11 people, a young boy and infant among them. He claimed that the clan had promised to turn the two members suspected of killing the policeman over to Hamas, but that they had not been granted sufficient time by the Hamas administration. He also claimed that "there is no difference between the former Fatah rule in the Gaza Strip and the current Hamas rule." He accused the Hamas police of stealing NIS 27,000 and $1,500 during the raid and of searching clan houses (Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, September 18).

10. The Army of Islam's information office issued an angry announcement accusing Hamas of conspiring to destroy Salafit ideology 3 in the Gaza Strip. It refuted the Hamas claim that the incidents were police actions and claimed that it was part of a Hamas plan to destroy its opposition in the Gaza Strip . Proof, according to the announcement, was the fact that Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades (Hamas's military-terrorist wing) operatives took part in the confrontations, and not only police. Hamas, said the announcement, was "genuinely hostile to anyone who did not follow the Muslim Brotherhood regarding organization and ideology, and that its actions served the interests of the United States and Israel, and even Iran (the latter which "directly profited, because the Army of Islam was the obstacle to its disseminating Shi'a in the Gaza Strip" 4 (PALDF Forum, September 17).

11. The Army of the Nation, another Islamist network affiliated with Al-Qaeda, 5 joined the harsh criticism of Hamas. Its announcement accused Hamas of instituting "infidel laws" in the Gaza Strip at the expense of Islamic law (the Sharia'). In addition, it said, the Palestinians had suffered its greatest amount of bloodshed under Hamas rule. It called for all the Salafit networks to unite and call upon Hamas release the 32 prisoners belonging to the Battalions of the Unity of God ( tawhid ) and the Army of Islam.

Fatah

12. Fatah spokesman Fahmi Zaarir strongly condemned the events, calling them "slaughter of the fighting Dughmush clan and its warriors carried out by Hamas and its gangs." He said Hamas's action, carried out during [the holy Muslim month of] Ramadan , was more proof that Hamas had abandoned all its religious and humanitarian principles. He also said that the use of heavy artillery against civilians exposed Hamas's disregard for Palestinian blood.

paldf_1609.jpgHamas operative next to a pile of weapons seized by the Hamas security forces during confrontations with the Dughmush clan (Photo from the Palestinian police in the Gaza Strip, shown on Al-Aqsa TV and posted on Hamas's PALDF Forum, September 16, 2008).

Summation and evaluation

13. The violent suppression of the Dughmush clan, some of whose members belong to the Army of Islam, is another in a series of violent actions undertaken by Hamas to suppress opposition in the Gaza Strip and to tighten its hold. Since its June 2007 military takeover, Hamas has increased the frequency of such actions, and they continue during the lull in the fighting with Israel .

14. Powerful clans (such as Dughmush and Hilles) and terrorist organizations (such as Fatah and the Army of Islam), which do not accept Hamas's control, are in its crosshairs. The current confrontations are a continuation of previous military steps taken by Hamas against opponents. The most recent occurred at the beginning of August 2008, when Hamas targeted Hilles clan members. At the same time, force was used against the Hilles clan together with intensive detentions, especially among Fatah activists. One hundred and eighty Hilles members fled to Israel (most were transferred to the Palestinian Authority). Simultaneously, there were violent confrontations in the Saja'iya section of Gaza between Hamas and Army of Islam operatives. 6

15. Since it came into power, Hamas has worked to force an Islamic code on the residents of the Gaza Strip and to establish a kind of "Islamic emirate," as its opponents claim. 7 However, Hamas regards complete political and military control of such an Islamic emirate as obligatory, and that would also include strategic and tactical control of the armed terrorist campaign against Israel . Therefore, Hamas uses military force to suppress even radical Islamic networks which are ideologically close to it. Among them are the Army of Islam, which is affiliated with Al-Qaeda and the global jihad. 8 So far, Hamas's policy has been successful and it has tightened its hold over the Gaza Strip since the June 2007 takeover , even though there are still local pockets of power which do not obey its dictates.

Appendix

The Army of Islam

16. The Army of Islam ( Jaiish al-Islam ) is a Palestinian network in the Gaza Strip with several dozen operatives. It is ideological affiliated with the global jihad, in contact with its jihad operatives, and can be said to be an operational branch of Al-Qaeda in the Gaza Strip. Its commander is Mumtaz Dughmush who, with his followers, split from the Popular Resistance Committees. Initially the group was closely tied to Hamas.

17. Since its inception, the Army of Islam has adopted methods used by global jihad networks, such as abducting foreign nationals and attacking Christian and Western institutions. It also attacks entertainment venues in the Gaza Strip such as Internet cafes, which it considers opposing Muslim morality and identified with Western culture.

hamas_int.jpgMumtaz Dughmush (right) with a supporter
(Hamas website, January 21, 2007).

18. Some of its more noteworthy actions were:

A) March 2007 : The abduction of British correspondent Alan Johnston , freed by Hamas the following July.

B) August 2006 : The abduction of two Fox News correspondents.

C) June 2006 : Army of Islam operatives participated in the attack on Kerem Shalom during which Gaza Strip was abducted and two IDF soldiers were killed.

D) August 2005 : The murder of Mussa Arafat, head of Palestinian military intelligence.


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1 Alan Johnston was a BBC correspondent in the Gaza Strip, abducted by the Army of Islam in March 2007. He was released four months later, safe and sound, after Hamas operatives surrounded the compound where he was being held captive and exchanged fire with his captors.

2 Possibly a hint at attacks on Christians in the Gaza Strip. For further information see our February 21, 2008 Bulletin entitled "YMCA library building in Gaza City blown up: another incident in a series of attacks on Western and Christian targets in the Gaza Strip by groups associated with the global jihad and radical Islam".

3 Salafia refers to the term salaf -- first generation of Islam, considered by Muslims to have been peopled by honest individuals worthy of being role models. In the modern era it refers to extremist Islamic networks throughout the Arab and Muslim world, including the Gaza Strip. Some of the Salafit networks in the Gaza Strip, such as the Army of Islam, are affiliated with Al-Qaeda and the global jihad. Salafit activity in the Gaza Strip began during the 1980s and increased during the 90s. The Salafia in the Gaza Strip does not cooperative with Hamas and even shuns its ceremonies.

4 Recently Al-Qaeda spokesmen have attacked Iran and the Shi'ites. Ayman al-Zawahiri , bin Laden's second in command, recently claimed that the Islamic regime in Iran was cooperating with the Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan (Al-Jazeera TV, September 8, 2008 ).

5 The Army of the Nation is an network officially established about two years ago. It regards all Muslims are part of the Islamic nation, defines itself as purely Islamic and therefore refrains from adopting Palestinian national symbols. For further information see our February 11, 2008 Bulletin entitled "A group called ‘Army of the Nation, Jerusalem ' is yet another global jihad offshoot in the Gaza Strip" .

6 For further information see our August 4, 2008 Bulletin entitled "Fatah suppressed in the Gaza Strip: Violent Fatah-Hamas confrontations lead to the flight of 180 Fatah operatives to Israel . The operatives were transferred to the Palestinian Authority" .

7 After taking over the Gaza Strip, the Egyptians became worried that a revolution would turn the Gaza Strip into an "Islamic emirate." See our July 5, 2007 Bulletin entitled " Egypt condemns the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip, expresses its unequivocal support of the Palestinian emergency government, and campaigns to strengthen Abu Mazen" . Opponents of Hamas like Muhammad Dahlan continue to accuse Hamas of planning to establish an Islamic emirate in the Gaza Strip, which is fertile ground of Al-Qaeda (Al-Hayat, London , August 30, 2008). For the enforcing of the Islamic code by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, see our August 31, 2008 Bulletin entitled "Since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip, it has intensified its activities to impose an Islamic social code" .

8 Hamas and Al-Qaeda have indulged in verbal sparring. Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden's deputy, has frequently attacked Hamas claiming it abandoned the "jihad path" and had "sold Palestine " to gain rule. Hamas spokesman responded that Al-Qaeda's allegations were the result of its ignorance of the situation in Palestine . 
   

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