How Salafism’s Rise Threatens Gaza

What It Means for Hamas and Israel

Members of Palestinian security forces loyal to Hamas patrol on the border with Egypt in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, October 2017. Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / REUTERS

The once-feuding Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah may be moving closer to reconciliation in Gaza, but Salafi jihadist groups launching audacious attacks could spoil any rapprochement, potentially dragging the Palestinians back into another conflict in the process. In August, a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest in the Gaza Strip near the border with Egypt, killing a member of Hamas’ security team and wounding several others. Far from being an isolated incident, this attack represents the emergence of yet another violent militant faction in Gaza—a densely populated strip of land wedged between Israel and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, which crams 1.8 million people into an area slightly more than twice the size of Washington, D.C. This major shift toward an even more radical and violent milieu is mainly due to a growing Salafi movement in Gaza, a new phenomenon that threatens the temporary equilibrium of what is usually a

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