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January 16, 2012

Meet the Shiites of Gaza: the Palestinian Hezbollah!

January 16, 2012

January 16, 2012

After Hezbollah emerged unscathed and "victorious" from its 2006 war with Israel, hundreds of Gazans converted from Sunni to Shiite Islam. Behind these conversions of course was an implied belief that salvation from Israeli occupation will only come on the hands of Shiites (add to this, some crucial Iranian funding); also, Hezbollah, Iran and Syria are the only backers of Gaza's militants.
These converts belong mainly to the Islamic Jihad movement; the converted cadres had been expelled from the organisation, only to return later under Iranian pressure.They have formed an umbrella group, the Shaqaqi forum, after the Jihad's assassinated leader, Fathi Shaqaqi. But their activity came under Hamas's scrutiny; their security forces arrested the forum's leader, Hisham Salem (photo below with Islamic Jihad fighters).

Salem who was arrested in July last year, while his forum and other societies were shut down (among his projects are the martyrs play-field and the Baqiat Salehat society). Another Shiite leader in Gaza is Eyad el Hasani (Abu Anas), photo below, wearing a brown jacket.

Both Salem and Hassani are active in Alquds Brigades, the military wing of Islamic Jihad. In addition to the fact that the Islamic Jihad received Iranian funding, its leaders were known to be particularly sympathetic to Shiites and the Iranian revolution. In fact, Fathi Shaqaqi was rumored to have converted himself.
This week, Hamas has launched another crackdown on Gaza's Shiites for commemorating a Shiite event. There are many reasons why Hamas would do that, in spite of its Iranian links. For starters, its rival, Fatah, has accused it of being "Shiite" which does not resonate well among its pious Sunni followers. Secondly, and while Syria's revolution turns slowly into a Sunni-Allawite (Shiite offshoot) war, Hamas needs to draw the line in regards to its neutrality or maybe later its support to its Sunnis brethren. Thirdly, and finally, Hamas fears getting unwillingly dragged into a proxy conflict by Iranian elements.
Regardless of what Hamas does, the Shiites are there, and because of their known links to Iran and Hezbollah, I suspect that they are well-trained, armed and funded to play a role in any future confrontation with Israel.

(Here is a video of the Shaqaqi forum commemoration of the Iranian revolution in Gaza)


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