Muslim Hate in Gaza

Anti ship missiles, Farsi manual found on seized vessel

IDF estimates some 50 tons of weapons found on Gaza-bound 'Victoria' vessel intercepted by commandoes; Rear Admiral Ben-Yehuda says Chinese-made C-704 anti-ship missiles would have threatened Israeli sea-based strategic installations, navy vessels had they reached Strip. Containers were loaded after Iranian ships docked in Syria two weeks ago, he adds

Boaz Fyler
March 15, 2011

IDF commandoes who seized the "Victoria" vessel some 200 nautical miles off Israel's coast found 50 tons of weapons in containers that were meant to hold cotton and lentils, roughly the same amount that was found on the Karin A, the army said Tuesday evening.

During a briefing on the takeover of the Gaza-bound ship, Deputy Navy Commander Rear Admiral Rani Ben-Yehuda said the Iranian ships that had crossed the Suez Canal a few weeks ago were connected to the arms smuggling attempt.

"This morning a Shayatet 13 vessel identified  - some 200 miles off Israel's coast  - a ship that was making its way from the Turkish port of Mersin to the Alexandria port in Egypt. The (IDF) force questioned the captain of the ship regarding the ship's destination and cargo, and following an initial examination of the vessel's route, which showed that it docked in a Turkish port and prior to that in a port in Beirut, the force asked to conduct a more thorough check of the ship. He fully cooperated," Ben-Yehuda told reporters.

"Everything was conducted in accordance with international law and the procedure pertaining to vessels that are suspected of carrying illegal cargo. The prime minister (Benjamin Netanyahu) and the defense minister (Ehud Barak) authorized the operation," he said.

According to the Navy, soldiers who searched the ship found numerous 60 and 120-millimeter mortar shells, as well as two to four Chinese-made C-704 anti-ship missiles with a 35-kilometer range. Had they reached Gaza, the missiles would have threatened Israeli sea-based strategic installations and navy vessels, Ben-Yehuda said.

He added that weapons were smuggled from Iran to Syria, where the ship collected them on its way to Turkey and then sailed to Egypt.

Ben-Yehuda also presented a Farsi-language manual for the missiles found among the vessel's cargo, which apparently links Iran to the arms smuggling attempt. He stressed that he is convinced that neither Turkey nor Egypt knew what was hidden on the "Victoria".

"This was not merely a smuggling attempt, but a clear attempt to arm the terror organizations and change the situation in the entire region," said the rear admiral.

Ben-Yehuda said the army suspects two Iranian ships which docked in Syria's Latakia port two weeks ago were connected to the smuggling attempt. "The containers were loaded in Latakia after the (Iranian) vessels were there," he said, adding that the ship's crew did not know it was carrying weapons.

"To say that we intercept everything that is sent to Gaza would be arrogant. This affair underscores our need to inspect ships in accordance with international law," Rear Admiral Rani Ben-Yehuda stated.


Thousands hold Islamic Jihad rally in Gaza

Published: Oct. 29, 2010

GAZA, Oct. 29 (UPI) -- Supporters of the Islamic Jihad group rallied Friday in Gaza to commemorate the assassination of the group's founder.

Speakers called for an end to talks with Israel, the Ma'an News Agency reported. The agency said the crowd in Kuteiba Square numbered in the tens of thousands, although its description of the rally suggested the actual number was 10,000 or less, since it described several thousand people sitting in chairs with hundreds standing to the rear.

Fathi Shaqaqi and other founders of the organization called for the liberation of Palestine and destruction of the Israeli state. Shaqaqi was shot dead in Malta Oct. 26, 1995.

Mohammad al-Hindi, one of the current leaders of the group, also called for an end to the Palestinian Authority.

"Jihad is the fate of this nation. There is no other option but this one," he said, quoting Shaqaqi.


Hamas Threatened by Muslims Preaching Violence in Gaza Campaign

By Daniel Williams

October 27, 2009 (Bloomberg) -- On the streets of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, clusters of men wear long tunics over baggy trousers, a costume common in Pakistan but virtually unknown among Palestinians -- until recently.

It is an emblem of the Salafi, a branch of Islam that advocates restoring a Muslim empire across the Middle East and into Spain. Some preach violence, even killing Muslims deemed not pious enough. While historically a fringe group in the southeastern Mediterranean, they have sought inroads in Lebanon and Jordan and are battling Hamas in Gaza.

While al-Qaeda, which shares the Salafis’ conservative religious views and promotion of holy war, hasn’t gained a foothold in the region, Salafis may be the wave of the future. In Algeria and Morocco, similar movements have expanded in the past two decades to create havoc through civilian bombings and attacks on police.

“This is the challenge we face in the world,” said Bilal Saab, a researcher in Middle East security at the University of Maryland in College Park. “We are getting better at dealing with insurgencies, though Afghanistan is proving to be an exception. It is much more difficult to combat the constant threat of underground urban terrorism.”

Armed Salafis are challenging the authority of Hamas, the Islamic party that rules the Gaza Strip and has fought Israel for two decades. Gaza Salafis say Hamas surrendered its credentials as an Islamic resistance group when it declared a unilateral cease-fire after a 22-day war with the Jewish state that ended Jan. 18. Hamas’s Health Ministry said 1,450 Palestinians were killed in the conflict. The Israeli Army put the toll at 1,166 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.

‘Given Up’

“They believe Hamas has been neutralized and has given up the fight,” said Mkhaimar Abusada, a professor at Al-Azhar University in Gaza.

Hamas, on the U.S. State Department list of terror organizations, is holding dozens of Salafis in jail, trying to persuade them to end their opposition, said Hamas police spokesman Rafik Abu Hani. “They want to implement their own ideas through weapons, and we can’t allow that.”

Arrests began after an Aug. 14 Hamas raid on a mosque in Rafah where armed Salafis belonging to a group called Warriors of God had gathered. Its leader, Abdel-Latif Musa, proclaimed an Islamic emirate in Gaza directly challenging Hamas rule, according to a transcript published by the Middle East Media Research Institute, a Washington-based translation and analysis organization. Musa and 21 other people, including six civilians, died in the battle.

‘Crossing a Line’

“The emirate idea was crossing a line of Hamas tolerance,” Abusada said. “Hamas basically said, ‘Don’t mess with us.’” Since the crackdown, Salafis have been responsible for two bombings that didn’t cause any casualties, he added.

The Warriors of God group is among at least four armed Salafi organizations in Gaza, along with the Army of Islam, Victory of Islam and Lions Den of Supporters, Abu Hani said. Members total no more than 400 to 500, he estimated. Abusada said there are many more: between 4,000 and 5,000, including defectors from Hamas.

The next step would be for these groups to unify and organize, attract more newcomers dissatisfied with Hamas and try to forge ties with al-Qaeda, Samir Ghattas, a Palestinian analyst at Gaza’s Maqdis Center for Political Studies, told a Sept. 30 terror conference.

Refugee Camps

In 2007, a Salafi group in Lebanon called Fatah Al-Islam held off a three-and-a-half month siege by the country’s army on the Nahr Al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp. The combat left about 400 militants and 168 soldiers dead, according to Lebanese press reports.

Salafi remnants have probably taken refuge in other Palestinian camps in Lebanon, Saab wrote in the September issue of CTC Sentinel, a publication of the Combating Terrorism Center at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York. Security forces have also foiled Salafi attacks in Jordan, he wrote.

The Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat has spearheaded several years of civil war in Algeria. After pledging allegiance to Osama bin Laden in 2006, the group changed its name to al- Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. It has bedeviled Algeria with bombings and ambushed security forces, even though membership is only in the hundreds, according to U.S. State Department statistics.

Radical Groups

While there’s no indication of any direct relationship between militant Salafis and al-Qaeda, they have become a reference point for radical groups from Morocco to Central Asia. One Salafi in the Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis who called himself Abu Iyad said he doesn’t belong to any armed organizations but understands people who do.

Hamas adherents “say they resist Israel, but they stopped fighting,” he said. “Why did all the people die? Hamas is acting just like Fatah,” the movement led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who favors peace talks with Israel.

“What the Salafis don’t understand is we need to give the people a break; we need to rebuild and prepare for the next battle,” said Younis Astal, a Hamas member of the disbanded Palestinian parliament. “We can’t have perpetual war. That would be inhuman. Anyway, they want to make Gaza like an al- Qaeda base, and we don’t want that.”


Endangered Gaza Christians Mull Flight Amid Deaths, Firebombs

By Daniel Williams
February 26, 2008

(Bloomberg) -- The stone walls of St. Porphyrius church in Gaza were raised in the fourth century, a reminder of Christianity's long role in the Mediterranean city's history.

The saga may be coming to an end. Christians, a minority of 3,000 among the Gaza Strip's 1.2 million Muslims, are increasingly menaced by Islamic fundamentalists in this besieged Palestinian territory. Christians say they are on the verge of being driven out.

"Never in Palestinian history did we feel endangered until now,'' said Archimandrite Artemios, the Greek Orthodox priest who heads St. Porphyrius. ``We face the question of whether we are part of this community or not.''

Insecurity intensified last June when Hamas, the Muslim-based party at war with Israel, ousted the secular Fatah party, which favors peace negotiations, from control of Gaza. Fatah continues to control the West Bank.

While there are few indications Hamas itself is trying to intimidate Christians, the change brought to the surface underground Muslim groups that are actively hostile to Christians, said Hamdi Shaqura, 46, an official with the independent Palestinian Center for Human Rights.

"One problem is one that affects all: a state of lawlessness that lets extremism raise its head,'' Shaqura said.

On Feb. 15, arsonists firebombed a library operated by the Young Men's Christian Association and destroyed 10,000 books, police and YMCA officials said. Last fall, kidnappers killed a Christian bookstore owner and the shop was blown up twice. In August last year, vandals damaged a Catholic church and school.

Under Threat

Christianity, along with other minority religions, is under threat in several Middle Eastern countries. In Iraq, Christian churches and residents suffered assaults in Baghdad and the northern city of Mosul since the March 2003 U.S. invasion, and thousands fled to Syria and Jordan.

Against the backdrop of political turmoil in Lebanon, Maronite Christians are migrating. In Egypt, Copts, an ancient Christian denomination, complain of discrimination. Public Christian worship is forbidden in Saudi Arabia, where foreign workers have been jailed for holding prayer services in private homes, according to Saudi Arabian press accounts.

According to a 2006 survey carried out by the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem, the West Bank's Christian population has grown little in recent decades: from about 40,000 in 1967 to an estimated 45,800 in 2006.

Physical Isolation

In Gaza, Christians and Muslims share a walled-off, physical isolation from the outside world, unemployment over 30 percent and anxiety about periodic Israeli armed assaults. Israel has sealed off Gaza in its effort to contain Hamas and keep it from launching rockets at southern Israeli towns.

John Holmes, United Nations undersecretary for humanitarian affairs and relief coordination, said during a Feb. 16 visit to Gaza that 80 per cent of residents depend on food aid.

"If the current state of affairs continues, there is a real risk that what is left of the Christian Palestinian community will opt to go somewhere else, ending centuries of indigenous Christian presence in that part of Palestine,'' said Bernard Sabella, a sociology professor at Bethlehem University.

Christian fears, and attacks on Christian property, pre-date Hamas, said Artemios, 31, the priest at St. Porphyrius.

Street gun battles between Hamas backers and Fatah, the party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, created a climate of anarchy even before the takeover, he said. Periodic Israeli embargoes on the Gaza Strip also occurred under Fatah rule.


"The lack of work has long been the main problem,'' said Artemios. ``If young people get out, they don't come back.''

The Oct. 7 murder of Rami Ayyad, 30, who operated the Palestinian Bible Society Bookstore in Gaza, was the first time that a Christian was killed for religious reason, Artemios said. Five Christian families have fled to the West Bank since, he noted.

Three months before Ayyad's death, a pair of bearded men warned the bookseller, who was a Baptist, to convert to Islam or die, said his mother, Anisa Boutros Francis, 55.

"On the day he was killed, he called home and told his wife, `I'm busy with some people. I will be late home,''' Boutros Francis said. ``That was the last we heard, until the next day when his body was found.''

Ayyad's body was punctured by stab wounds and bullet holes. No one claimed responsibility for his death. After four months, Gaza authorities have found no suspects, said police spokesman Islam Shahwan.

"Before, Israel was the only enemy. Palestinians were together,'' said Ayyad's mother. ``Now, you don't know who is who.''

Names of freelance fundamentalist groups roaming Gaza include Sword of Righteousness and Sword of Islam, said Shaqura, the human-rights worker.

Whoever is at fault, the bonds linking Christians to Gaza are breaking, Artemios said. He observed that, according to legend, the old columns in his church were from a temple destroyed by Samson after his haircut at the hands of Delilah. ``The edifice of tolerance is crashing down over our heads,'' he said.