Clashes between Hamas police and a radical group that declared an “Islamic emirate” in the Gaza Strip left 22 people killed, including the group’s leader.
"Clashes… between Hamas and an extremist group in the southern Gaza Strip left 22 people dead and at least 120 wounded," a spokesman for the Palestinian emergency services told Agence France Presse (AFP) on Saturday, August 15.
Abdul Latif Moussa, the leader of Jund Ansar Allah (Soldiers of the Partisans of God), was killed in the clashes between Hamas police and his supporters in Rafah.
A spokesman for the Hamas-run Interior Ministry confirmed that Moussa was killed in the clashes.
About 15 gunmen, including Moussa’s aide Abu Abdullah As-Suri, and six Hamas policemen were killed in the clashes.
The spokesman said about 40 "outlaws" affiliated with the group were arrested in Rafah.
The clashes erupted following the Friday prayers and continued until dawn when Hamas police stormed a mosque in Rafah where Moussa defiantly declared an Islamic emirate in the Gaza Strip.
"We are today proclaiming the creation of an Islamist Emirate in the Gaza Strip," said Moussa a 47-year-old pediatrician famed for his fiery sermons in Rafah’s "Brazil" district.
Moussa accused Hamas of failing to enforce Islamic law and seeking to appease the West.
"Who are you afraid of? America? Britain? France? The European Union? You should fear only God," he said in a warning to Hamas leaders seeking dialogue with the West.
Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri described Moussa’s speech as “wrong thinking”.
Hamas’s Interior Minister also described the radical leader as “mad”.
"Everyone outside the law and carrying arms in order to spread chaos will be pursued and arrested," the ministry warned.
Jund Ansar Allah accuses Hamas of being “too liberal” and seeks the strict enforcement of Shari`ah.
The group is said to have threatened to burn down Internet cafes and to want greater modesty on Gaza beaches.
Palestinian experts say the group consists of a few dozen activists and several hundred sympathizers and operates primarily in southern Gaza.
In July, Jund Ansar Allah said Hamas arrested three of its activists and charged them with planting a bomb that wounded 52 people at the wedding of a relative of Mohammed Dahlan, an ex-Gaza strongman of the Fatah group.
The group denied any responsibility and warned of reprisals against Hamas if any of its members were killed.
Hamas seized power in Gaza in June 2007 after a week of deadly fighting with forces of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah group.
The US considers Hamas a “terrorist” group and Israel maintains a crippling blockade on the Hamas-ruled Gaza.
Israel and the West accuse Hamas of seeking to establish an “Islamic state” in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas’s leaders say it is a moderate movement while independent analysts say it gives priority to Palestinian nationalist goals.
Hamas has been fighting Israel to end the four-decade Israeli occupation of the Palestinian lands.
(IslamOnline.net and Agencies)