Attempted coup splits Hamas military wing in two
Iz al-Din al-Qassam, plagued by infighting, has seen several attempts by commanders to kill rivals.
The Hamas military wing, Iz al-Din al-Qassam, has split into two groups after an attempt to depose its military commander, Ahmed Al-Jabari. Palestinian sources say the attempt to replace Al-Jabari with Imad Akal failed, but has split the organization into two camps: one led by Al-Jabari and the other by Akal.
Mohammed Deif, the former head of Iz al-Din al-Qassam, was behind the attempt, according to the sources.
The crisis in the Hamas military wing started, among other reasons, because of the long-standing disagreements and tension between Al-Jabari and the political leadership of Hamas in Gaza. But the tension exploded into the public eye as a result of the Hamas police's attempt to arrest members of the military group who were suspected of criminal activities. The Hamas militants resisted arrest, and the police and Iz al-Din al-Qassam members exchanged fire.
The head of the Hamas police in Gaza, Taufik Jabar, who is not a Hamas member, asked one of the heads of the Hamas political side, Said Siam, to intervene and ask Al-Jabari to hand over the militants - but Al-Jabari refused.
After the refusal, Siam turned to Deif, who was considered Israel's most wanted man for years; he holds no official post, but Deif is still considered to be a symbol of the movement and one of the most respected activists by Hamas militants.
Siam asked him to arbitrate between the sides, examine the matter and make a decision. After a short time Deif announced that Akal would replace Al-Jabari, but he refused.
In recent weeks assassination attempts have been made against one of Al-Jabari's closest supporters, Ali Jundiyeh, and Gazans assume Akal is behind the attempts.
However, Hamas published an announcement that Jundiyeh was injured in a traffic accident. Another of Al-Jabari's men had a bomb planted near his home.
The military arm has suffered a number of splits and internal fights recently, which remind many of the earlier infighting among Fatah militias. According to the sources, Iz al-Din al-Qassam is divided, and there have been several attempts by commanders to kill their rivals to ensure they control an area or the organization's assets. In Khan Yunis, for example, for over a year there have been three local commanders, each of whom considers himself the chief in the region. In addition, senior Iz al-Din commanders have become more and more involved in criminal activities recently, and in particular in smuggling, which they control exclusively.
However, the split has not yet had an impact on the cease-fire with Israel, and all members have been strictly keeping it, despite a debate among Hamas political leaders over the issue.