Hamas arrests Salafists for firing rockets into Israel


Hamas security forces in the Gaza Strip on Saturday detained two members of an Islamist group suspected of firing rockets at Israel, the group said in a statement.

Tawhid wal Jihad, a Salafist organization, confirmed that Hamas security forces had detained two of its members in an early morning raid.

“Forces from the government of Ismail Haniya arrested two members of a group of holy warriors from the Tawhid wal Jihad group in the north of Gaza on Saturday morning,” the Salafist organization said in a statement.

“The rest of the members were able to escape and withdrew safely to their homes,” the statement added.

The group acknowledged that the arrested members were part of a group firing missiles from Gaza, confirming earlier reports that Hamas forces had detained fighters who have fired dozens of missiles into Israel this month.

In the statement, the group warned that it would continue to fire rockets at Israel.

“Our weapons are directed at the Zionists and no one else, and we will not be diverted from the path of jihad like others have been,” the group said.

“We urge the police not to heed the decision of the government to stop the holy warriors and protect the defenses of the enemy against the holy warriors’ attacks,” the statement added.

On Thursday night, a rocket was fired at the southern town of Kiryat Gat without causing any harm, the Israeli army said.

In response, an Israeli warplane attacked a group suspected of firing the rocket, a military spokeswoman said.

Hamas made no official statement about the arrests, but has in the past targeted members of the handful of Salafi extremist militant groups operating in the Gaza Strip.

The ruling movement in Gaza has largely sought to maintain a calm agreed after Israel launched its December 2008-January 2009 Operation Cast Lead.

The past month has seen an increase in rocket fire into Israel from Gaza, with the Israeli military saying at least 23 projectiles have been fired into the Jewish state from the territory since July 1.

Israel has responded to the rockets by launching air raids targeting smuggling tunnels and what it says are militant training camps, while warning Hamas it holds the group responsible for any rocket fire from Gaza.

The uptick comes after several months of calm following a flare-up in April when an anti-tank missile hit an Israeli school bus, killing a teenager.

Israel responded to that attack with a series of air strikes that killed at least 19 Palestinians in the deadliest violence since Israel’s devastating 22-day assault on Gaza in December 2008-January 2009.

The violence raised fears of another offensive, but the Islamist movement Hamas which rules the Palestinian territory announced on April 10 a return to the truce that ended Israel's “Operation Cast Lead.”