Hamas ‘softness’ on Salafists worries Israel
JERUSALEM - Israel questions the willingness of Gaza rulers Hamas to confront such radical groups as the Salafists, who carry out most anti-Israeli attacks, a senior official said on Wednesday.
Ministry of strategic affairs director general Yossi Kuperwasser also said that the surface-to-air missile recently fired from Gaza at an Israeli aircraft, the first ever of its kind, "most probably came from Libya."
In Gaza, "most of the activity coming now is not from Hamas; it comes from other sources," he told reporters.
"Hamas is cautious. When they decide to react, recently, on one or two occasions, they reacted in a way that also had in it a message 'we don't want to really escalate; we react but we don't want escalation,' but the question is to what extent they really control" Gaza, Kuperwasser said.
Hamas "haven't reached yet a strategic decision that they would put an end to this phenomenon," Kuperwasser said, noting that Salafist jihadist groups have "many dozens of activists."
"I'm not sure to what extent they're totally sure that they can rely on those people to do the job if they reach the decision to do it," he said of Hamas leadership.
Kuperwasser also confirmed that last week a surface-to-air missile from Gaza was fired at an Israeli plane, saying it was "the first anti-aircraft missile launched from the Strip itself."
He said it was "most probably" a Strela missile that had come from Libya via Egypt, along with other arms entering the Gaza Strip since the fall a year ago of Libya leader Moamer Gathafi.
The missile, which missed its target, was fired during an exchange of gunfire and strikes around the Gaza Strip, Israeli military sources said, without providing further details.
On October 7, an Israeli air strike targeted two Gaza Salafists in the southern city of Rafah, killing one and critically wounding the other.
Five children and three adults were also hurt in the strike, prompting a rare armed response from Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants, who fired a barrage of rockets at Israel.
The violence rumbled on until the weekend, when a series of Israeli air strikes killed five militants, including a top Salafist leader.