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Hamas and Islamic Jihad struggle for influence over Gaza mosques

Amid ongoing tensions between Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a recent incident lays bare the animosities between the two Gaza terror groups.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists at a gathering in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, for commander Khaled Mansour, who was killed during the IDF's "Operation Breaking Dawn," Aug. 8, 2022. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists at a gathering in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, for commander Khaled Mansour, who was killed during the IDF's "Operation Breaking Dawn," Aug. 8, 2022. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.

On Tuesday, dozens of Hamas members took control of a mosque in the town of Rafah in the Gaza Strip and arrested a prominent figure associated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad, according to the Tazpit Press Service.

Eyewitnesses reported that dozens of members of Hamas’s “Restraint Police” stormed Rafah’s Al Awda mosque, considered one of PIJ’s centers of power, and a meeting place for its operatives. The Restraint Police are tasked with maintaining calm on the Israel-Gaza border by preventing demonstrations and rocket fire.

During the raid, Sheikh Yahya Mansour, who is responsible for religious activities in Rafah, was attacked and his hand was broken before being arrested. A number of PIJ operatives and civilians who tried to defend Mansour were also injured during the raid.

Gaza sources told TPS that the mosque’s seizure is seen as a strategic move by Hamas, which is aiming to take control of Gaza’s mosques and exert dominance over PIJ.

One contributing factor to the animosity between the two groups is Israel’s military operations in Gaza in May, in which the Israel Defense Forces eliminated a number of high-level PIJ commanders, and the IDF’s two-day incursion into the Jenin refugee camp in early July.

Hamas did not intervene during the May conflict, and sources inside the Jenin refugee camp told TPS that Hamas members in the camp refused to take an active part in the battles against the IDF in July.

“The relationship between [Palestinian Islamic] Jihad and the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades is very close, but they are all at odds with the Hamas people, who betrayed them like in Gaza,” said one Palestinian source. The al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades is aligned with Fatah.

A Palestinian Authority crackdown on both Hamas and PIJ in northern Samaria is further fueling tensions between the two terror groups. Arrests have included members of Hamas, PIJ and Lions’ Den.

“The P.A. received intelligence information according to which [PIJ] and Hamas operatives were planning to attack P.A. institutions and Palestinian government offices in the Jenin area,” a Palestinian official told TPS.

However, journalists, students and social activists expressing dissent against the P.A. have also been rounded up.

Hamas and PIJ are threatening to boycott a conference of all Palestinian factions being hosted by Egypt on July 30.

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