A new group calling itself the Palestinian Islamic Army (PIA) has popped up in the Gaza Strip, signaling incontrovertibly the growing influence of the Islamic State (ISIS) among Palestinians.
A thirty-minute video put out by the PIA shows its followers pledging allegiance to ISIS "Caliph" Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, and paints Hamas leaders as "apostates" and "infidels" for failing to implement Islamic sharia law in the Gaza Strip. The video constitutes proof positive that the ISIS ideology has infiltrated Gaza -- a truth that Hamas has unsuccessfully been trying to conceal for the past year.
A frame from the recent video produced in Gaza by the Palestinian Islamic Army (PIA), in which the PIA followers pledge allegiance to ISIS "Caliph" Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.
In the video, Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Mashaal are denounced for aligning themselves with moderate Arab leaders in the Gulf, who are described as "criminals and enemies of Islam." Apparently, Hamas has been too kind to Christians living in the Gaza Strip. The narrator blasts Hamas leaders for offering greetings to Christians on their holidays and condolences on the death of some of the community's members. Hamas leaders are featured making visits to Christian "polytheists" in the Strip.
Yet Christians are not the only bedfellows prohibited to Hamas by the PIA. The video also damns Hamas leaders for their alliance with the Shiite Muslims of Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah. For the PIA, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is a "Satan" waging war on Sunni Muslims. And this "Satan" is in good company: "The Hamas government in the Gaza Strip is a sect of apostasy and blasphemy," the PIA video declares. Muslims are urged vigorously to distance themselves from the heretical Hamas.
The PIA holds Hamas responsible for the deaths of 11 of its members in the Gaza Strip. "The Hamas members executed them in front of their mothers, and left the wounded to die after preventing ambulances from reaching them," the video charges. "One of those killed in this massacre was brother Saeb Abu Obaida, who was executed by Hamas in cold blood." According to the video, Abu Obaida was the "emir" of the PIA in the Gaza Strip.
One of the leaders and founders of the ISIS-affiliated PIA, Mu'taz Daghmash (known by his nickname Abu Al-Majd), was killed in an Israeli airstrike two years ago -- much to the satisfaction of Hamas. The video reveals that arch-terrorist Daghmash was involved in the 2006 abduction of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and the assassination of two Palestinian security commanders in the Gaza Strip -- Musa Arafat and Jad Tayeh.
A second jihadi mentioned in the video, Sultan Al-Harbi, is described as a senior member of ISIS who received military training in Yemen, Sudan and Libya before returning to the Gaza Strip. He too was killed last year in an Israeli airstrike.
Nidal Al-Ashi (aka Abu Huraira) was another PIA member in good standing, before becoming the first Palestinian to be killed in Syria while fighting for ISIS. Al-Ashi participated in multiple rocket attacks on "the enemies of Allah, the Jews," and attacks on churches and other Christian targets in Gaza, as well attacks as on Western journalists and diplomats.
Egyptian security officials have attested repeatedly that the Gaza Strip has become a major exporter of jihadis to Sinai. Events have proven those officials correct. It seems that there may be valid reasons for Egypt's reluctance to reopen the Rafah border crossing with Gaza, as well as to Israel's opposition to lifting the naval blockade on Gaza -- initiated to prevent weapons from being imported to Hamas and other extremists in the Gaza Strip. The PIA video provides definitive proof that the Gaza Strip has become a hub for jihadi groups posing a murderous threat not only to Israel and "the West," but also to Muslims who are deemed by the terrorists as lacking in religious standards.
Hamas has brought nothing but havoc to its people in the Gaza Strip. As for the Palestinian Authority and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, all that is left for them is to be grateful for the presence of Israel in the West Bank. Without the Israeli military, Hamas and ISIS would eat Abbas and his Palestinian Authority for breakfast. One wonders: Is this the sort of state that Palestinians are seeking to establish?
Khaled Abu Toameh is an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem.