Hamas Claims Pursuit of Salafists in Gaza

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Hamas, the Palestinian faction controlling the Gaza Strip, reportedly began house-to-house searches this week for members of Salafist Jihadist, a Gaza-based terror group claiming responsibility for many of the recent rocket attacks on southern Israel.

Hamas, listed as a terror organization by the United States, England and Israel, says it's investigating the "structure" of Salafist Jihadist, as well as its "sources of funding and arming," the London-based Arabic-language Asharq Al-Awsat  newspaper reported on Friday.

The report quotes Abu Abdullah al-Muhajir, a Salafist Jihadist official, saying Hamas forces have arrested 37 of its members recently, including Sheikh Omar al-Homs and his deputy Sheikh Hossam al-Jazzar, two prominent leaders.

"They are pursuing jihadists from house to house and street to street," al-Muhajir said, calling the crackdown "unjustified."

"We are standing in the face of [Israeli] occupation," he said. "Our accurate striking of targets has annoyed Hamas, which wants to stand as the embodiment of all action in the Gaza Strip," he added.

Al-Muhajair said his group is not interested in "confrontation for confrontation's sake," but would "resist arrest by all means necessary."

"Our battle is solely with the Zionist occupation," he said, echoing the ideology of Hamas word for word.

On Tuesday, Salafist Jihadist issued a statement decrying the crackdown by its Islamist brothers.

"[Hamas] is carrying out a broad campaign of arrests targeting our ranks to prevent the firing of rockets toward the Zionist towns near Gaza, with the aim of preserving the security of the occupation that does not hesitate to bombard our people and property and continue its war on the West Bank and Jerusalem," the statement read.

"We stress that the continuation of this campaign and the leveling of accusations against Salafist Jihadist elements of being behind different attacks…will ultimately lead to dire consequences," it concluded.

Meanwhile, in response to escalating rocket fire, Israeli airstrikes targeted Gaza's terror infrastructure overnight Wednesday, killing six terrorists and wounding four others.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, condemned "the Israeli escalation" in Gaza, saying it creates "destructive atmospheres" that "only lead to more violence," the P.A.'s semi-official WAFA news agency reported.

Rudeineh appealed to the international community to pressure Israel to cease retaliatory attacks against Palestinian rocket fire emanating from the Gaza Strip.

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