On 24 August 2009, Falluja Forum member Abu Yahya al-Mu’tasim issued a statement titled “A Jund Ansar Allah Clarification Regarding the Events of Rafah.” He claimed the statement is Jund Ansar Allah’s (JAA) newest, but forum comments to the post expressed doubts over its authenticity, referring to the fact that Hamas arrested JAA’s normal Internet spokesman after the “slaughter.” In the statement, JAA denounced several media allegations against the group and provided some clues to the make-up and outlook of the group.
According to the statement, fifteen of the JAA casualities in the Hamas attack were former members of Hamas’s military wing, the Qassam Brigades. These included Ibn Shaqiq Musa Abu Marzuq, a supposed former deputy to Khaled Mash’al, and a former leader in a “manufacturing unit” for the Qassam Brigades. It also alleged that JAA leader Abu Abdullah al-Muhajir “was very close to the Qassam leaders and participated in Qassam combat training.”
The statement claimed that Abu al-Nur al-Maqdisi’s announcement of an Islamic emirate in the Palestinian Territories was “symbolic.” It maintained that al-Maqdisi was aware of a possible Hamas strike and “wanted to illustrate to Muslims that Hamas actually rejects the idea of the Islamic emirate and fights the idea militarily.” The statement alleged that in al-Maqdisi’s final sermon, he dismissed many of the accusations levelled against the JAA, such as bombing merchants, declaring takfir on Hamas, and having connections to secular powers. The statement clarified that JAA did not join al-Qaida, and that it is not seeking revenge on Hamas. The declaration also denied that Abu al-Nur al-Maqdisi preached Khawarij teachings or that he blew himself up during the Hamas raid.
The statement maintained that Hamas is waging a campaign against the Salafi-jihadis. As evidence it cited the Hamas attack on the Army of Islam last year, recent arrests of Jaysh al-Ummah members, and the attack on JAA. It concluded, “We believe that Hamas does not want anyone to fight Jews unless it is under Hamas’s banner. Hamas sees that the Salafis who leave Hamas are the best fighters and most pious.”
This statement, regardless of its veracity, is an excellent example of the rhetorical war between Hamas and the Salafi-jihadis. The Salafi-jihadis depict Hamas as a power hungry entity that is not actually interested in Islam nor fighting Israel, while the Salafi-jihadis are pious and actively engaging Israel militarily. At the same time, they are careful not to insult rank-and-file members of Hamas. Given JAA’s allegation that fifteen of its recently deceased members were former Qassam members, and given Hamas’s need to confront the group militarily, it appears that this tactic is having some effect on Hamas’s members and that the leadership is taking notice.
In several instances, the statement denied that JAA were Khawarij, showing the Salafi-jihadi sensitivity to such names. The remarks denying al-Maqdisi’s suicide death may be an indication that suicide bombings, at least within Gaza, are taboo and another source of sensitivity for Salafi-jihadis. Finally, the statement made clear that JAA was not using takfir, making a distinction between itself and al-Qaida. Forum comments to the JAA statement took issue with this aspect of the statement and demanded further clarification. This would suggest that the Salafi-jihadism that is gaining ground in Gaza is not necessarily identical to that of al-Qaida. Moreover, On another level, it is yet an indication that the brand name al-Qaida is losing some of its appeal in the Muslim world.