In terms of activities and recruitment, I think that Gaza is one of the easiest places in the world for Al Qaeda or any similar organization. Due to its historically tragic situation under the Israeli occupation, troubled Gaza has always been fertile ground for those seeking revenge or a challenge. The situation is now worse due to the state of social rupture under the rule of Hamas, which at present is at conflict with Fatah as well as other Palestinian factions. Today, the Iranians, the Syrians, old communists, nationalists, Baathists and even the leftists of the Israeli opposition all have a presence in Gaza but not Al Qaeda. Such an organization, the success of which was vast enough to reach London and Rome, did not enter Gaza in spite of its fame and popularity amongst the discontented. It is not because Al Qaeda is rejected, but because Al Qaeda itself does not want to be there.
Therefore, I find the declaration made to journalists in Gaza by a group claming to be Al Qaeda hard to believe, despite the “Al Qaeda” graffiti that was sprayed on the walls and the masked man brought in for the photo opportunity. I also cannot believe that Al Qaeda wants to operate in Israel’s milieu; if so it would have done so ten years ago. This extremist organization adopted a crystal clear policy that it would not confront Iran or Israel, while it plays a political game of ‘not every enemy is an enemy, and not all friends are friends.’
Al Qaeda has a political agenda according to which others are targeted and Israel is not despite being the region’s number one enemy. The Al Qaeda organization has not claimed responsibility for a single operation inside Israel, even falsely, despite being active for a decade and having targeted at least thirty countries worldwide starting with Indonesia all the way to the USA.
The terrorist group’s second in command Ayman al Zawahiri was the one to come up with this policy when he stated that Al Qaeda intends to target Israel after its battles in Iraq and elsewhere are completed. This could take anything between a decade and a century.
Having reviewed Al Qaeda’s past declarations and operations, the claim that the group has a division in Gaza requires a closer look. It could be nothing more than an intimidation ploy by those who feel ignored after the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit and the continuous launching of rockets yielded no results. It could be elements within Hamas that want to be taken seriously, or even opponents of Hamas that want to eliminate it.
I’m afraid that the story of Al Qaeda in Gaza is no more than a lie. This is reminiscent of [former Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein when he flaunted his arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, and when asked why, he answered that it was for intimidation purposes only.
Because of the continuous isolation, the [peace activist] boats on Gaza’s coasts that breached the Israeli blockade achieved nothing, and crossings have been destroyed and remained closed, and tunnels have been dug and refilled. Recently, a group calling itself Al Qaeda emerged and distributed images of its members as if it is an army battalion rather than a top secret organization.