GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — A Salafist group based in the Gaza Strip has accused Hamas of torturing its supporters in prison and closely watching other supporters in cities and refugee camps across the coastal enclave.A statement issued on Saturday by the group, which identified itself as the Salafist Trend, warned Hamas of consequences if the group’s supporters were not set free.
“Once again we ask the wise people of Gaza to stop the ongoing Hamas criminality and abusive detention of our brothers before it’s too late,” the statement said.
It added that the Salafist Trend “has details about what is going on inside the detention cells of the interior security service, including names of the criminal interrogators who torture and insult our people.” The statement went on to allege that security officers and undercover agents tasked with watching supporters and ransacking their homes are also known to the group by name.
“Those also won’t escape punishment, sooner or later.” The group urged any of their supporters that suffer assault to document it and send details to the group’s leadership.According to an International Crisis Group report in 2011, “The vast majority of Salafis in Gaza are apolitical, focusing on conventional daawa activities — scholarship, education and social outreach.”It is only a smaller sub-group “who espouse violence, taking up what they perceive to be the armed defense of the Muslim community against non-Muslim enemies,” the report said.
Hamas has in the past cracked down hard on Salafis in the Gaza Strip, particularly as the religious group enjoys the support of Fatah.
Recently Hamas has targeted the more violent Salafi fringe in particular, which it views as a threat to its power in the same vein as extremist groups such as the Wahhabi Islamic State group. Earlier this year, a group affiliating itself with IS in Gaza called for the release of several members they said had been detained by Hamas security services.That group, which called itself “Supporters of the Islamic Caliphate State,” demanded that security forces release the men in the next few days, adding that “threats and political arrests will not succeed in failing IS’s unification project.”