In the midst of all of the talk about hitting Hamas hard (or even eliminating them as a political entity), no one is asking what will happen if they are so weak that they have to relinquish power.
The assumption is that a moderate Palestinian faction will arise. But, after so much violence, there’s a good chance a more extremist group will gain power. And who might that be?
Why, your local neighborhood Salafists:
…a more tangible threat for the rulers of Gaza is from other groups loosely linked to the sect, which are known collectively as A-salafiyeh al-Jihadiyeh. These extreme groups identify with salafi religious principles but dispute the principle of remaining aloof from political, military and diplomatic involvement.
The best-known of these groups are the Army of Islam and the Army of the Nation. Their ideology recalls the teachings of Al-Qaida, and they flaunt their connections with the latter. While the Army of Islam is clan-based and mainly connected to the Durmush family, the Army of the Nation is gathering numbers largely from people cast out by Hamas and Islamic Jihad because of their extremism.
In an interview with a Palestinian journalist, one of the leaders of the Army of the Nation explained that as far as his followers were concerned, there is no difference between the “military wing” and the “political wing.” “They are all soldiers,” he explains. These organizations see the need to return to Islam’s roots; for example, stoning adulterers, cutting off thieves’ hands and whipping people who drink alcohol.
In their view, anyone who is not a believing Muslim should be hounded, even beyond the borders of Palestine and including, of course, Jews and Christians. These are the people assumed to be behind the wave of strikes on Western institutions, from Internet cafes to libraries.
They are also believed to have been behind the grenade attack during a festival organized by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Rafah a year and a half ago, where 12-year-old boys and girls appeared together in a traditional dance. The militants consider this “un-Muslim.” They reject any kind of agreement with Israel or the West, which explains the statement to the Palestinian reporter by the Army of the Nation leader that “the leaders of Hamas do not believe in Allah.”
For its part, Hamas has not remained indifferent to the rise of this ultra-radical group, and is harassing them. The Army of the Nation currently has only a few dozen members, but like the salafis, the ranks are swelling amid the rising poverty, extremism and hatred for Israel and the West.
(one thing the story gets wrong is distinguishing between AoN and AoI; they are tightly linked)
Yes, AoI/AoN make Hamas look sane. Sounds kinda familiar….
When Israel invaded Lebanon (the first time), the PLO was weakened and more extremist groups, including Hamas, filled the gap. Now, Israel will weaken Hamas and….
Anyone who says things can’t get worse is simply suffering from a lack of imagination.