Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in remarks published on Thursday that there are signs of a potential Al Qaida network in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
He stated that the the Palestinian Authority (PA) has intelligence information about the presence of Al Qaida members, but haven’t pinpointed specific suspects.
Abbas told the London-based Al Hayat newspaper that he received a security report on the issue three days ago, “but this is the first time I have spoken about the subject”.
Earlier on Thursday, the spokesperson of Hamas block in the Palestinian Legislative Council, Dr. Salah Bardawil, said to Ma’an News Agency that Hamas has no information or reports about Al Qaida presence in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip. He added that if the reports are true, the Palestinian Authority should adopt suitable means to inform the people of such a presence and take whatever necessary measures.
Also, Bardawil stated that if there is any presence of Al Qaida in the Palestinian territories, Israel is to be held responsible because it “continues to carry out crimes and attacks against the Palestinian people”.
A group in Gaza calling itself the “Jihad Army and Fighters Against Corruption” released a statement Thursday that some observers say points to the group having an Al Qaida connection. The statement called for non-Muslims and foreigners to get out of Gaza within a month.
The statement also warns those whom it called the ‘heads’ of corruption in the PA that the group will come after them, it also warns the merchants of cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs, and girls who go outside without covering their heads or wear pants.
The statement also warns Palestinians who are collaborating with Israel as agents – to stop their collaboration with the enemy.
Israeli authorities also say that Al Qaida is operating in the Gaza Strip, and that they have arrested a Palestinian allegedly working with the group. Using this and the January Hamas victory in Palestinian elections as a justification, Israeli military forces have been given ‘free reign’ by Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz to attack Palestinians with an “iron fist”. Israeli military operations have killed at least 35 Palestinians, including several children, in the month of February alone.