A terror leader in the Gaza Strip on Sunday claimed that there are thousands of fighters either directly linked to or inspired by Al Qaeda operating in the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave.
“We are six groups and we have thousands of fighters, maybe 4,000,” Abu Bakir al-Ansari told the Associated Press, explaining that in 2012, the various Salafi groups situated in Gaza decided to form an alliance.
According to al-Ansari, the Al Qaeda-linked conglomeration is a threat to both Israel and Hamas, which it rejects for participating in the Palestinian Authority elections and for tacitly taking part in the Israeli-Arab peace process.
For the time being, the terror leader said that the Salafist groups are honoring a Hamas-imposed ceasefire with Israel, but remain ready to attack the Jewish state at any moment, without first consulting Hamas.
If the figures provided by al-Ansari are correct, and if the Salafist groups are well equipped, they could potentially pose a real threat to Hamas control over the Gaza Strip. So long as the two groups remain focused on the common enemy of Israel, they are likely to tolerate one another.