debkafile's military sources report that a bitter feud within the Popular Committees, climaxing in a failed attempt to murder the group's leader Zakaria Doghmush, triggered the mortar volleys against the Kerem Shalom goods crossing and missile attack on Ashkelon Thursday, Jan. 8. It also marks weakened Hamas control.
Israel retaliated Thursday night with air strikes on three smuggling tunnels in southern Gaza, another snaking under the Israeli border and a missile foundry. The Palestinians report seven strikes and two dead. Their attacks have intensified in recent weeks, a year after Israel's Operation Cast Lead against Hamas.
The attempt on the clan leader's life, which the Popular Committees and Hamas kept dark, was staged last Monday, Jan. A taxi driver pulled in at Doghmush's headquarters in the Sabra district of Gaza City insisting to his bodyguards that the large package he was carrying was for personal delivery to their boss. It went through without being examined and exploded thereupon. Doghmush was out of the room in those seconds and survived.
debkafile's counter-terror sources report that two Popular Committees factions are warring over the distribution of power and funds and vying for Hamas support. Doghmush heads one camp, Abdul Khalim Fayoumi, known as "The Grandfather," the second. He is suspected of the plot to murder his rival.
The next day, an Israeli bomber caught a Popular Committees group outside Khan Younes poised to fire a missile. The Committees' missile chief, Jihad a-Samiri, was killed and five others injured. Doghmush resolved to turn the heat on the Israeli side of the border, both to avenge his death and to gain points in his feud with Fayoumi.
Doghmush is credited with opening the Gaza door to al Qaeda four years ago. Its influence in southern Gaza is expanding fast, posting a challenge to Hamas control, through a cluster of factions known, Jund al-Ansar Allah, Jaljalat, Jaish al-Islam and Shaish al-Umma. The powerful Doghmush clan, one of the largest in the Gaza Strip, made rich by smuggling and racketeering, dominates Jaish al-Islam, which together with Hamas carried out the cross-border kidnap of the Israeli soldier Sgt. Gilead Shalit in 2006.
It gained notoriety by snatching BBC journalist Alan Johnston in March 2007. Unlike Shalit, Johnston was later released.