The Islamic State (IS) group has taken responsibility for the overnight explosion at the French Cultural Center in Gaza.
The group’s until now unknown Gaza branch, issued a statement on Wednesday, saying that it had placed 200 kilograms of explosives next to the building’s fuel tankers and electricity generator.
The statement, issued in a flyer, explaining that the building had been targeted because it was a “center of moral corruption.”
MEE contributor Mohammed Omer in Gaza, said that this “explained the massive damage” at the site.
The building in Gaza City was set ablaze early Wednesday. Palestinian officials initially said that the fire, which ravaged the empty building, was caused by faulty fuel tanks.
Interior ministry spokesman Iyad al Bozum wrote on his Facebook page that a fire broke out at the French Cultural Centre “caused by faulty fuel tanks, the civil defence is trying to control it and an investigation into the circumstances is under way.”
Eyewitnesses told AFP that they heard two explosions that were followed by the flames. AFP journalists arriving at the scene overnight said that a fierce fire was in progress.
This is the first successful attack that Islamic State claims to have carried out in Gaza, with the group now pledging to step up attacks in the flyer.
However, Charlie Cooper a programs officer at the UK-based Quilliam Foundation urged for caution.
“I am dubious about this flyer,” Cooper told Middle East Eye. “Curiously the flyer refers to the group as Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham which is what the group called itself before 29 June.
Not only does it “seem behind the times” it also references the attack as happening on 10 October, two days after the fire actually occurs, Cooper explains.
Hours after the first poster appeared, another group calling itself the ‘Islamic State in Gaza’ issued a statement saying it had had nothing to do with the explosion. Our “mission is to implement Sharia law in Islamic lands and murder the children of Zion,” the second group said in a statement.
No one was hurt in the blast. The building has been closed for the Muslim Eid al-Adha holidays.
The blast comes a day before the Palestinian unity government was scheduled to meet in Gaza for the first time.
(Middle East Eye – http://middleeasteye.net)