Al-Qaeda expanding into Palestine?

Publication: Terrorism Focus Volume: 2 Issue: 15

On August 2 a posting on the forum al-Mustaqbal al-Islami (Islamic Future) included what it termed the “First Declaration of al-Qaeda from the Land of the Outpost, Occupied Palestine,” specifically the ‘military wing’ of a group calling itself “Alwiyat al-Jihad fi Ard al-Ribat” (The Jihad Brigades in the Land of the Outpost).

The declaration, accompanied by a video download, described an operation undertaken on July 31 against the settlement of Neve Dekalim and a second operation against Ganne Tal, both using Sajil rockets. It described the operations as “Carried out in the context of the Islamic Jihad by our mujahideen brothers of al-Qaeda’s World Organization against the Jews and Crusaders.”

The Brigades, the declaration explained, “are a blessed new departure in a blessed land, [inaugurated] so that the enemies of God and their allies may taste what they were warned of. We declare that the Brigades are not a new or passing organization on the land of Palestine, but a [true] believer spirit that urges on the mujahideen to make themselves into a single rank … that empowers the mujahideen and fortifies them from sliding into the snares of politicians who trade in blood and who seek after worldly prestige under the banner of traitors, corrupt ones and atheists … we will not allow anyone to end the jihad in the Land of the Outpost. God willing we will continue our jihad on the enemies of Almighty God, until the occupier is swept from all of our blessed land, onwards toward victory over mortal men or toward God among the immortals.” []

At first sight the posting may be a belated response to a call often circulated on the jihadi forums, complaining of the lack to date of an al-Qaeda group for Palestine. Much like earlier ‘affiliate’ formations, it consciously attempts, although not fully in this case, to invent a new term for a geographic entity — on the pattern of “al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Shrines” (Saudi Arabia) or “al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers” (Iraq). At the same time Israeli authorities have voiced their concerns that some Hamas extremists would turn to al-Qaeda.

The name of this group is awkward and unfamiliar, and the reliability of the posting cannot be guaranteed. But its appearance on the web certainly excited some lively interest on the jihadi forums. “This is what we need”, ran one, “unified mujahideen in Palestine. We are sick and tired of those who simply want to grab power, and gain status under that accursed [President Mahmoud] Abbas who has sold out his country” []

However, the Palestinian forums included views which were more dubious of the declaration, on the grounds that “many declarations have been published in the name of al-Qaeda in Palestine, particularly during quiet periods, and which amounted to no more than paper. It appears that such claims are little more than wishful thinking of those who amuse themselves on the Internet.” Others noted the grudge element of the language of the declaration, almost as an act of protest which made the declaration ‘feeble’, or feared that it might be a repeat of the case of the Tanzim Jund Allah (Army of God Organization) which “after it claimed the destruction of the military jeep we never heard from it again, and rumors circulated that it was a breakaway formation of Hamas, or a branch of al-Qaeda in Palestine, till we heard that it came from Fath’s preventive security department.” Another, more cogently, argued that a new formation “generally announces itself through a major operation, and not via the firing of a couple of rockets which boys in the Gaza sector can make inside any house.” []