Gaza group rejects U.S. terror classification decision

GAZA, May 20 (Xinhua) — A Gaza-based extremist group on Friday rejected a recent U.S. decision that labeled it a foreign terrorist group.

“We completely reject this decision and consider it unfair,” said a spokesman for the Army of Islam, calling himself Abu Al- Abbas. “This American decision only aims at harming Islam,” he said.

The U.S. State Department said the group was responsible for kidnapping Americans, Britons, New Zealanders over the past few years in the Gaza Strip. It noted the group, comprising former members of various Palestinian groups, threatened the security of Israel and Egypt.

The al-Qaida-inspired group appeared in 2006, when it joined the Islamic Hamas movement in capturing an Israeli soldier in a cross-border raid near Gaza. A year later, Hamas took over the Gaza Strip by force. The State Department did not mention anything about the kidnapping of soldier Gilad Shalit.

Abu Al-Abbas said his people did not use Arab lands near Gaza in their attacks on Israel. Earlier this year, Egypt, then in the final days of former President Hosni Mubarak’s rule, accused the Army of Islam of being responsible for a deadly attack at an Alexandria church on the eve of the New Year.

A Brussels-based conflict and politics research organization, the International Crisis Group, said recently that ties between Hamas and Jihadist groups in Gaza have shifted from cooperation to confrontation.

The first confrontation was in 2009 when one of these pro-Qaida groups defied Hamas’ rule and declared an Islamic emirate in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah. Hamas crushed the group after hours of deadly clashes.

In April, Hamas also killed two members of a similar group after they captured and killed a pro-Palestinian Italian activist, Vittorio Arrigoni, also in Gaza.

Source: Xinhua.

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