Tuesday, August 2, Al Qaeda claimed it had established a Gaza branch, calling it “Al Qaeda-Palestine, the Jihad Brigades of the Border Land.” (This is an al Qaeda locution meaning warfront.)
The announcement, accompanied by a video tape, appeared on Websites normally reserved for important communiques, such as the Madrid, London and Saudi bombing attacks and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s operations in Iraq. It was therefore meant to be taken seriously. The tape also followed the organization’s practice of showing an operation after the fact. This time, masked Palestinians were depicted firing Sinjal rockets (which Jihad Islami is known to possess) at the Israeli communities of Neve Dekalim and Ganei Tal in the Gaza Strip Saturday night, July 30.
August 9, al Qaeda-Palestinian issued another notice, its second in a week, with answers for “all those who asked: Who are these people and what do they want?” This release was signed “The Ashura Council of al Qaeda-Palestine,” betokening a broad organization each of whose branches’ operations are governed by an authoritative body fully competent under Islamic precepts to make decisions.
This second statement offers a religious explanation for creating the new branch:
“Our brothers,” meaning Hamas, the Jihad Islami and the Palestinian fronts, “have adopted the concept of democracy and the notion of a Palestinian Authority government chosen in a general election.” The statement goes on to declare, “Any connection between the democratic process and the Islamic principle of an Ashura Council, whose decisions are taken in council rather than by vote, is utterly forbidden.”
Democratic elections lead the faithful astray to elect representatives “who enact laws contrary to the Sharia code.” While true believers have a role in decision-making, it must not be realized through democratic elections,”
“All countries with constitutions are a priori infidels and heretics, because all law-making that is not consonant with the Sharia is apostasy.”
Hamas is warned not to step out of the prescribed Islamist line
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s al Qaeda experts, this communique holds a double warning for Hamas; it is cautioned not to entertain ambitions to join the Palestinian government and, above all, not to make common cause with heretics.
The Palestinian Authority is addressed in pejorative terms though not referred to by name.
“To combat the Jews and Crusaders,” says the release, “it is permitted to follow a corrupt military leader, provided he obeys the edicts laid down by the Ashura Council” and is not appointed emir after victory.
As translated by our al Qaeda experts, this is a tactical dispensation for Hamas to defer to Abu Mazen, provided the Palestinian Authority chairman, though corrupt, obeys Islamic laws and canons. But on no account may Hamas supported his continued rule after the faithful have defeated the heretics and the crusaders.
The statement ends by justifying the jihadist movement’s tactical compromises: We are bound to accept the intermingling of heresy and the true faith, because we live in a period in which our highest priority must be to make war on the Jews and the Crusaders.Al Qaeda inserted its Palestinian venture between the Sharm al Sheikh bombings on July 23 and the start of Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip on August 15 with deliberate intent. The Sinai bombings, the work of cells strewn across Sinai and Egypt, were designed to unsettle President Hosni Mubarak‘s regime and upset his campaign for re-election. They were also a signal to Egyptians, Palestinians, Israelis and Americans that al Qaeda was closing in; Sinai’s seizure was one step, but al Qaeda did not intend stopping there. It was a stepping stone to the next stage, symbolized by the unveiling of the new branch in the Gaza Strip, in which al Qaeda proposed to thwart Washington’s plans for the Palestinians.