Gaza blockade encourages radical groups emerging: report

10:24, March 31, 2011      

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Gaza Strip blockade and ignoring Hamas, the Islamic group that controls the strip, has encouraged more radical groups emerging in the coastal enclave, a latest study report said.

The Salafi-Jihadist groups pursue more hard-line approaches than Hamas in managing relationship with Israel, said the report, which was released Tuesday by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.

Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza in June 2007 after Hamas took over the area by force and routing forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

When Hamas won parliamentary elections in 2006, the United States led an international campaign to isolate it, putting pressure on the Islamic movement to recognize Israel and give up violence.

The report "Radical Islam in Gaza" says that the international policy towards Hamas and the coastal enclave, where 1.5 million people live, exacerbated the problem of extremism.

"As the international community seeks new ways to address political Islam in the Arab upheaval's wake, Gaza is not the worst place to start," the report said.

The Salafi groups in Gaza are not in large members as well as poorly organized, and neither their influence is prominent, nor negligible. However, they have been accusing Hamas of being tolerant in enforcing religious norms and they are responsible for tens of rocket attacks against southern Israel.

Some ideology of the Salafists, especially the social ones, " resonate with many movement supporters and lead the local authorities to greater zeal in applying Islamic law," according to the report.

The Salafis are also appealing to enthusiastic young fighters who are no longer satisfied with Hamas for turning to politics and accepting an unofficial ceasefire with Israel.

"These groups are composed mostly of former members of Hamas and other established factions. Many of their recruits are disaffected younger activists who see Hamas compromising with Israel while getting few in return," said Nathan Thrall, Crisis Group's Middle East analyst.

The Salafi groups became known mainly after Israel withdrew its forces and settlers from Gaza in 2005. When Hamas took over Gaza in 2007, its relations with the Salafists shifted from cooperation to hostility.

In August 2009, Hamas killed a leader of a Salafi group who defied its rule and announced an Islamic emirate in the southern city of Rafah.

Source: Xinhua
 
 
     
 
 
 
     
 
 
 
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