Gaza clashes between Hamas, Islamist radicals kill 13

GAZA CITY, Mai Yaghi - Hamas police stormed a mosque in Gaza on Friday where radicals had declared an Islamist "emirate," sparking clashes that left 13 people dead and injured at least 100, emergency services said.
Shooting continued after dark, witnesses said, after clashes began in the afternoon following weekly prayers in the southern city of Rafah, which straddles the Egyptian border.
Among the dead was Mohammed al-Shamali, head of the Hamas military unit for southern Gaza, emergency services said, adding that bodies of some other victims could not be reached because of the intensity of the fighting.

Sheikh Abdollatif Isa
Sheikh Abdollatif Isa
Twenty of the wounded were said to be in serious condition as the confrontation developed into one of the most violent incidents in Gaza since Israel's 22-day onslaught on the impoverished enclave in December and January.
An Egyptian security official said a three-year-old boy was critically wounded by a bullet from the fighting across the border.
Witnesses said that following prayers, a group of Palestinians announced the formation of the Islamist "emirate," defying the authority of Hamas, which has ruled Gaza's 1.5 million people for the past two years.
"We are today proclaiming the creation of an Islamist Emirate in the Gaza Strip," Abdul Latif Musa, a representative of Jund Ansar Allah (Soldiers of the Partisans of God), said at the Bin Taymiyya mosque, the witnesses reported.
Musa was surrounded by armed fighters when he made his statement, according to the witnesses.
Rafah is the Gaza stronghold of the so-called Salafist movement, of which Jund Ansar Allah is said to a part and which is ideologically close to Al-Qaeda.
An AFP photographer reported that Hamas police dynamited Musa's house. It could not be established whether the Islamist was there at the time.
Hamas police blocked all entrances to Rafah, the photographer said.
The Hamas interior ministry warned that those violating the law would be pursued and arrested.
"Everyone outside the law and carrying arms in order to spread chaos will be pursued and arrested," a ministry statement said.
At the same time, Hamas premier Ismail Haniya denied that the group exists.
"No such groups exist on the ground in Gaza," he said at prayers in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya. He blamed the "Israeli media for spreading this information with a view to turning the world against Gaza."
Hamas seized power in Gaza in June 2007 after a week of vicious fighting with forces of the secular Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas.
Itself Islamist, Hamas is regarded by the United States and Israel as a terrorist group and Israel maintains a blockade on the territory.
US-based monitoring service SITE Intelligence said Jund Ansar Allah announced its allegiance to the "Islamic Emirate in the Heart of Beit al-Maqdis (Jerusalem)" in a message issued on its website and jihadist forums on Friday.
A translation of the statement declared that Abu al-Nur al-Maqdisi (Abdul Latif Musa) was the leader.
"The soldiers of tawhid (unification) will not rest ... until the entirety of Muslim lands are liberated and until our imprisoned Aqsa (mosque in Israeli-occupied east Jerusalem) is purified from the desecration of the accursed Jews," the group's statement said.
Jund Ansar Allah seeks the strict enforcement of Islamic Sharia law and accuses Hamas of being too liberal, witnesses in Gaza said. The group is said to have threatened to burn down Internet cafes and to seek greater modesty on Gaza beaches.
Musa demanded Hamas "cease its aggression against Salafists," SITE reported.
Before the Friday sermon, Jund Ansar Allah and jihadists warned of a confrontation erupting between Salafists and Hamas security forces at the mosque, the monitoring service said.

Saturday, August 15th 2009
Mai Yaghi

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