Ramallah, Asharq Al-Awsat—Fighters from the Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, have replaced policemen on the border areas of the Gaza Strip in an effort to prevent the firing of rockets at Israeli settlements, Asharq Al-Awsat can reveal.
An informed Palestinian source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, stated that the Ministry of the Interior of the Hamas government in Gaza withdrew security personnel from the field, except for a limited number who man official security points near the border, and replaced them with members of its Al-Qassam Brigades.
A number of Salafist groups hostile to Hamas recently fired several rockets at Israel, prompting its government to threaten retaliatory measures against Hamas and Gaza.
Last week, a barrage of rockets were fired from Gaza at Israel, with one landing in the Negev area. This resulted in Israeli air raids on training camps and positions belonging to Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
According to a Palestinian source, Israel sent messages through Egyptian mediators to Hamas emphasizing the need to stop the firing of rockets, saying anything short of this would result in Israel launching a large-scale attack on the Gaza Strip.
This has led to the deployment of the Al-Qassam Brigades in advanced positions along the border with Israel. According to the same source, the brigades have set up fixed and mobile roadblocks and have begun searching cars and travelers in nearby areas. Members of the brigade were also deployed in other areas far from the border that were used in the past to fire rockets at Israeli targets.
The source also revealed that gunfire broke out when an armed official of another faction ignored calls from a unit of the Al-Qassam Brigades to stop his vehicle. When the individual in question continued driving his car toward the border areas, members of the Al-Qassam Brigades opened fire at his car, stopping him by force, and eventually took him to a military post before officials intervened to resolve the problem.
Recently, a Salafist official told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Salafists will not comply with the agreement and will continue attacking Israel. This development forms part of mounting tensions between Hamas, which has governed the Gaza Strip since the split with Fatah in the wake of the elections in 2006, and Salafist factions based there.
The Hamas government’s security agencies have been carrying out a campaign of arrests among Salafist jihadists since they claimed responsibility for firing several rockets at Israeli targets.
On Monday, Salafist groups accused Hamas of allowing Egyptian intelligence officers to investigate their members held by the internal security agency in the Gaza Strip’s Ansar Central Prison. They also accused the Hamas government of sacrificing the detainees by placing them on Israeli list of targets for assassination.