Bloody clashes as Hamas crushes proclamation of an Islamic Emirate in Gaza

Sarah Gallagher
17 August 2009

Bloody clashes between Hamas security forces and Al-Qaida-affiliated militants on 14 August have left up to 28 dead and 100 injured. The fighting broke out at the Ibn Taymiyah Mosque in Rafah after Abdel Latif Moussa, leader of the Jund Ansar Allah group, best known for a horse mounted attack on an IDF border post two months ago, proclaimed Gaza an Islamic Emirate at Friday prayers. Moussa was accompanied to the sermon by armed guards, who defended the mosque from responding Hamas security forces for a bloody seven hours. Moussa apparently blew himself up after Hamas attempted to arrest him. Hamas claims that the whole of Gaza has been fully restored to its control and funerals have been taking place under tight security.

The ToD verdict: This forceful crushing of the Jund Ansar Allah group brings to the fore the complex political makeup of the Gaza strip. While the West has treated Hamas as an extremist Islamist group in their own right, these events reveal that more hard-line groups are operating in the area. Some reports suggest that Hamas has been exploiting the firepower of these groups to further their own aims. It appears that this tactic may now have backfired as those groups seek greater power in the strip, perhaps in response to Hamas' gradual acceptance of the need to come to some modus vivendi with Israel.

Palestinian human rights groups and Fatah have already stepped up to condemn Hamas' actions but it is unclear whether there will be any serious consequence for Hamas' political image at home or abroad. While Hamas's excessive use of violence may dampen hopes that the group had become increasingly moderate, the aversion of an al Qaeda-inspired coup in Gaza will come as some relief.    

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More violence in Afghanistan as elections near

A suicide car bomb attack on NATO's ISAF headquarters that killed seven and injured dozens was just one of several incidents over the weekend signalling a further increase in pre-election violence across Afghanistan.

Such violence can only be expected to continue as the Taliban have vowed to prevent participation in the elections and, in the clearest indication of the actions they will take against civilians, have reportedly threatened to cut off fingers, noses and ears of those who attempt to vote.

Meanwhile, President Karzai has invited back exiled militia General Abdul Rashid Dostum in an unexpected move to counter an expected poor turnout in Taliban controlled Pashtun areas. The return of General Dostum and Karzai's expanding coalition of warlords and militia commanders has raised concerns about the future stability of democratic politics in Afghanistan.

Threats and conciliatory words emanate from North Korea

There were mixed messages from North Korea on Sunday as the country's military responded aggressively to joint US and South Korea military exercises while a successful meeting between South Korean Hyundai boss Hyun Jeong-eun and Kim Jong Il suggested that the border might once again be reopened to tourists.

North Korea has made no secret of its displeasure with US and South Korean military ties and sees their regular military exercises, the latest of which began today, as an aggressive act. North Korea's state news agency KNCA issued a statement from the military promising "merciless retaliation" to any infringement of its sovereignty.

North Korea's suggestion that they might reopen the border with the South follows other small concessions such as the release of two US journalists this month. Such moves  are likely an attempt to mitigate the effect of international sanctions on North Korea's economy but it is possible they could signal the start of renewed period of much needed cooperation and dialogue.

Truck bomb underscores growing instability in Ingushetia

At least nineteen people were killed and 58 wounded on Monday as a truck packed with explosives was driven into a police compound in Nazran, the principle city of the Russian province of Ingushetia. The bomb killed and injured police officers and residents of nearby homes.

The attack comes just four days after the government announced that the Kremlin appointed president of Ingushetia, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, would return to the region after recovering from injuries from an attack on his life in June.

Ingushetia is part of the troubled North Caucus region, where the Russian government is struggling to suppress several violent separatist groups. Ingushetia has seen regular violence and assassinations in the past, but this attack distinguishes itself by its scale and may signal a significant deterioration in the security situation. 

After criticism of its human rights record suppressing separatists in neighbouring Chechnya, Russia's response to the violence will be closely observed. Chechnya has recently suffered a spate of murders of human rights activists despite the republic being considered relatively stable of late.

The mystery of the missing ship

It has now been over three weeks since a Finnish owned, Maltese flagged, Russian crewed cargo ship, which was reportedly carrying timber, was hijacked. Yet, despite Russia's best efforts, reports that the ship has been spotted near the Cape Verde islands and a ransom demand, the ship is no closer to being found.

The ship, bound for Algeria, was allegedly boarded by armed men as it sailed through the Baltic Sea. The unusual circumstances of the hijacking has led to suggestions that it was carrying a secret cargo.The incident remains shrouded in mystery and its repercussions on maritime and international security will only fully be known once the ship is found and its cargo accounted for.

Protests over Garcia's lack of action

Hundreds of people blocked Peru's main highway to Lima on Saturday in a largely peaceful protest against the government's lack of action following an earthquake almost two years ago. President Alan Garcia has failed to act on promises to help re-house people affected by the earthquake.

Peru has seen a number of protests in recent months, the worst of which were in June, demonstrating the populations' growing discontent with Garcia's business friendly policies but perceived neglect of poverty in the country. It is yet to be seen how this discontent will play out, although upcoming elections in 2011 may well see a change in leadership.

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