Lebanese supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Lebanese supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Photo by Reuters
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A new ally has joined Israel in the struggle against Hezbollah. Al-Qaida recently published a harsh attack on Hezbollah, in which it calls on Shi’ites to leave the renounce the organization “if they do not wish to be the target of Al-Qaida attacks.”

In a recording broadcasted on Al-Qaida websites, the commander of the Abdullah Azzam Shaheed Brigade in Syria, Majd al-Majd, stated that “the claim that of the Shiite leaders that Israel and the United States are responsible for the murder of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri and for sparking the rebellion in Syria are baseless. The ones behind the murder were the leaders of Hezbollah, the keepers of the border with Israel.”

Al-Majd, a Saudi citizen who lived until recently in the Ein al-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon, and from there moved to Syria, is on Saudi Arabia’s most wanted list. Two months ago, he was “elected” to be the head of the Syrian branch of Al-Qaida. According to Jordanian intelligence, Al-Majd oversees nearly 6,000 militants that entered Syria from Iraq and Turkey.

Al-Majd tells the Lebanese Shi’ites that “sending your sons from Lebanon so that they fight on the side of the criminal regime in Syria, kill our sons and frighten our wives, is considered support for the oppressor against the oppressed, and fully participating in a crime…Hassan Nasarallah’s characterization of the members of the regime who were killed as martyrs is an insult to millions of Muslims.” Al-Qaida is a Sunni organization, and its leaders see Hezbollah’s rule in Lebanon and the minority Alawite rule in Syria as a reality that must be forever changed. Al-Majd does not hesitate to threaten all of Lebanon, should Hezbollah continue to support the Assad regime. “Hezbollah’s existence is a threat to Lebanon’s security and tourism industry,” he said, hinting that his organization would not think twice before planning an attack on tourists in Lebanon, should the state continue to strengthen Hezbollah and its leaders. 

The Al-Qaida branch in Syria is competing with another jihadist organization headed by Jordanian Salafi preacher Muhammad Al-Shalabi, also known as “Abu Sayyaf.” In an interview with Saudi newspaper Al-Sharq, Abu Sayyef said that he oversees hundreds of fighters from Jordan, Iraq, Libya and other Arab states, some of which are “fighters from Al-Qaida who went to battle in Iraq,” and that his organization “received the recognition of Al-Qaida.” His organization claimed responsibility for several impressive bombings in Syria, while Al-Majd claimed his organization was responsible for those same bombings.

A power struggle is now taking place between the two organizations, while Abu Sayyef’s group is focusing on operations in southern Syria, specifically in Daraa. On the other hand, Al-Majd is focusing on northern Syria, and has even taken control over one of the border crossings between Syria and Turkey. Al-Majd demands that his fighters, as well as those of the Free Syria Army refrain from carrying out attacks with explosive devices, since they can harm innocent people. It seems, though, that said expressions of compassion are just another way to criticize Abu Sayyef’s organization.   

Another power is expected to enter the fray, as well. A group of Al-Qaida militants from Yemen, have apparently decided to journey to Syria to fight against Assad’s regime, and attempt to seize a stake in ruling the country. According to reports in Yemen, an initial group of militants has already begun the journey to Syria, and there is much concern that a religious war between the organizations will erupt as well – to be fought alongside the war against Assad.