In November of 2008, a new group in Rafah declared itself as the ultimate Salafi Jihadist force of Palestine. After many previous attempts made previously by al Qaeda inspired factions at least since 2001, Jund Ansar Allah (JAA) led by Abel Latif Mussa, aka Abu al Nour al Maqdissi, seized the control of a local Mosque and segments of a neighborhood and launched a couple attacks against Israel as of early 2009. The JAA issued many declarations calling for “real Jihad,” ending negotiations with Fatah, the international community and opposing any type of elections and constitutional structure in Gaza other than pure Sharia. From his pulpit, Sheikh Mussa criticized Hamas’ leadership for failing the Jihad they promised to deliver, and for betraying their own constitution calling for an Islamic Emirate all over Palestine, not just in Gaza and the West Bank. Hundreds of already indoctrinated youth joined the JAA and formed the nucleus of a Jihadi milita. Their ranks were growing at an alarming rate for Hamas, which felt time came to squash them, before they became a competitive organization. The JAA was on its ballistic way to devour Hamas from the inside. It was using the same doctrines upon which Hamas was founded, grew and used to overthrew Fatah from Gaza.
After a few incidents, Hamas forces overwhelmed the headquarters of JAA killing dozens of militants. The fighting took its toll on both groups. Unverified reports said Abu Jibril Shemali, commander of Izzedine al Qassam Brigades (Hamas’ SS-like force) and Abu Abdallah al Suri, JAA’s military commander were both killed in the clashes. The founder of the Jund Ansar Allah Abdel Latif Moussa was killed during the explosion of one of his suicide bombers as he targeted advancing Hamas fighters. By now, the “Jund” has been crushed, its Mosque seized and its survivors pursued. In return JAA underground has threatened to punish Hamas leadership for their apostasy against “Allah’s true fighters.” In this is Jihad versus Jihad inside a world of indoctrinated circles of militants, one circle enjoying power, money and recognition and the smaller circle wanting to snatch it away from the most powerful. But what are lessons we need to learn from this pool of piranhas, where big Jihadi fish eat little Jihadi fish?
1. According to many commentators on al Jazeera, Hamas chose to finish up the “Jund” as a maneuver to lure the West in general -- Great Britain and the United States in particular -- into “engaging” the organization, lifting its name from terror lists and adding it to the peace process between the Palestinians and Israel. Hamas spokespersons rushed to use one term, that resonates greatly in Western ears, especially with the Obama Administration and the Brown Government, “we too are fighting the extremists, the terrorists as you are fighting them and pursuing al Qaeda,” declared Hamas English speaking communicators, hours after the combat was over. Analysts in the Arab world, shrewd enough to detect the Hamas tactical move wasn’t greedy in revealing their game: crushing an “al Qaeda” like group in Gaza would grant an immediate license to the mainstream for Hamas. One must expect sympathizing journalists, apologist academics and soon enough diplomats and envoys citing the “glorious” deeds of Hamas as evidence of fight “against terrorism.” Some savvier analysts believe many “engagement” architects in Europe and America have even suggested such a move to break the veto against Hamas. Interestingly, the US narrative lately has been underlining that there is no war against “Global Jihadsim” but only a “war against al Qaeda” only. So those in the business of Jihad, including Hamas, Hezbollah, and a plethora of other groups, can make their credential known to the West by slapping some local, little al Qaeda boys, and claiming a green card to the world of “accepted Jihadists.” Two summers ago, the Syrian regime and to an extent, Hezbollah, tried to come up with a similar model: Damascus released a copycat group in northern Lebanon, Fatah al Islam, before they claimed they beheaded the organization few months later, suggesting to Washington that Bashar can also kill al Qaeda crowds.
2. Is there a link between Hamas and the “Jund” it just sacrificed as a price for its public international image to be enhanced? In classical Western eyes, these links cannot be seen. But seasoned observers of Middle Eastern politics and Jihadi tactics can swiftly detect the equation Hamas-Jihadist factions. Firstly, the constituents of the “Jund” (JAA) are part of the larger indoctrinated pools created by Hamas. There are no differences in the basic doctrine between Hamas and JAA: they are both adepts of Jihadi Salafism. Secondly, Hamas tolerated the presence of these ultra-Jihadists in their midst for a reason, that is as long as their size was small and as long as they were allowed to grow so that they can be used tactically: either by blaming them for wild rocket launching or to crush them and cash in. Comparatively, Hamas couldn’t “tolerate” Fatah for example. By June 2007 the followers of Mahmoud Abbas were massacred in the enclave, because they were credible partners in a potential peace process and real competitors. Ghazi Hamad, a Hamas spokesperson told al Jazeera English his organization was always dialoguing with the “Jund.” Which means they had relationship with them even though Hamas was the only dominant force in Gaza. Hence there was a reason for this “tolerance” before Hamad admitted that Hamas stopped “tolerating.” Logically, the Jihadist regime in Gaza fed the little Jihadists and allowed them to grow until the time of the sacrifice came.
3. This brings us back to review the current Western re-reading of the so-called War on Terror and the decision by the Obama and Brown Administrations to let go of the counter Jihadist narrative hoping, as they said, to drive a wedge between the so-called “good Jihadists” and the “extremists.” Hamas quickly understood the message and delivered the goods promptly hoping they will be reclassified as “good Js.” Not so fast, because Hamas needs to also cater to its own Gaza indoctrinated constituencies, which were made to believe for decades that Jihad fi Sabeel Allah is the only way. Tragicomically, Hamas was trapped by a smart question fielded by an al Jazeera English anchor who was pressing their spokesperson to show the difference between Hamas and the JAA. “Don’t you think that the people you just killed are more faithful to your constitution calling for the establishment of an Islamic Emirate on all of Palestine than yourselves, who are in power now? Ghazi Hamad rushed to answer by instincts, revealing too much perhaps: “These guys wants to establish the Caliphate immediately on any part of liberated land, they are irrational; they don’t understand how Jihad works, we do.” He said Hamas knows better how to achieve victory. In my book Future Jihad, I have often argued that the Jihadists are of several strategic schools of thought: short term, medium term and long term. The difference between Hamas and the JAA is not about good or bad Jihad, as experts to Western Governments are claiming. Not at all. It is a difference about when to trigger the missile, under whose orders and within which framework of alliances. The “Jund” wants it all the time, anytime they can. Hamas wants a perfect kill, coordinated with its allies Hezbollah, Syria’s Baath and Iran’s Pasdaran. The Jund doesn’t care what the infidels in Washington and London think. Hamas cares strategically how the allies of its immediate enemy, Israel, behave. It wants to be part of the widest regional alliance against the Jewish state, while the latter loses all its allies, before D-Day is unleashed.