Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Hamas and Islamic Jihad Fight for Control of Gaza’s Mosques | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Ramallah, Asharq Al-Awsat- Sources in the Islamic Jihad movement have accused the deposed government in the Gaza Strip of launching a large-scale campaign to arrest a number of its members in the Gaza Strip following disagreements between the two movements after previously closed dossiers were reopened and Hamas attempted to control mosques belonging to the Islamic Jihad.

The sources said that Hamas security agencies pursued Islamic Jihad members in various areas in Gaza, particularly in Khan Yunus and Al-Shujaiyah, after the public prosecutor issued an arrest warrant against members of the Al-Quds Brigades, the Islamic Jihad’s armed wing. The arrest warrant was issued in connection with an old shooting incident that was resolved at the time with approval by the then Interior Minister Said Siyam who was assassinated by Israeli forces during the recent war on the Gaza Strip. The Islamic Jihad members are also pursued because of the ongoing war to control a number of mosques.

Sources within the Islamic Jihad told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Al-Quds Brigades declared a large-scale state of alert, a move that almost led to clashes between the two sides after a member of the Al-Quds Brigades fired shots at government personnel who tried to arrest him before he escaped.

The sources said that Hamas security agencies stormed homes of the Al-Quds Brigades personnel in an improper way in Khan Yunus, southern Gaza Strip, late at night without respect for the privacy of homes.

The sources added: “Twenty of our personnel are still being pursued.”

Moreover, more serious incidents took place in Al-Shujaiyah, where large altercations and skirmishes took place between Hamas and Jihad members after Hamas was accused of attempting to control the Al-Rahman and Al-Quran Mosques.

The sources noted that Hamas’s attempts to control the Islamic Jihad mosques are old and continuing. This time, the sources added, the attempt began when Hamas members removed signboards, which the Islamic Jihad had hung in the two mosques, and then tried to prevent the Jihad members from praying in these mosques.

The sources said:”The problem was resolved temporarily after a leading Islamic Jihad figure, Khadir Habib, and leading Hamas figure Osama al-Mazzini intervened. However, their agreement did not last long because the Hamas police attempted to arrest the Jihad personnel who were involved in the problem of the mosque.”

The sources added: “One of our personnel fired at them, and members of the public who gathered at the scene helped him and prevented Hamas from arresting him.”

The Islamic Jihad controls tens of mosques (some 70 mosques) but Hamas managed to control about one-quarter of them.

Hamas denies these charges and says those who level them seek to tarnish the image of the resistance. It adds that it has no disagreement with the Islamic Jihad, but rather stands with it in the same trench.

However, the Jihad sources insist on accusing Hamas of attempting to impose its control on the entire political and military action in the Gaza Strip, in addition to controlling the mosques.

The Jihad says that Hamas prevented it many times from firing rockets, arrested and beat the persons who fired the rockets, and attempted to search for rockets.

Last week, Hamas prevented the Islamic Jihad from holding a military parade in commemoration of one of its leaders in the Gaza Strip, while it held military parades to show support for the Al-Aqsa [Brigades].

This war of mosques recently extended to the West Bank, where the Islamic religious trust annexed all mosques to itself. The aim of this move is to drive Hamas away from the West Bank mosques, which it long controlled and which served as a staging point for Hamas. According to sources, the security agencies arrested every person who tried to impede the handover of mosques to the Islamic religious trust even in areas where the PA has no security control.

Pulpits have been used well in the Palestinian territories to attract, rally, and organize people. Therefore, these mosques continue to be a target for both governments and organizations.

Sources in the Fatah Movement acknowledged that the movement belatedly took notice of the mosques’ role in influencing people. To prevent this, the [PA] Minister of Awqaf in Ramallah Mahmud al-Habbash took a decision to unify the themes of Friday sermons in all mosques. He said: “Religion belongs to God.” Meanwhile, the PA took stringent measures to ban any non-religious activity in mosques.