Salafists denounce Hamas: From resistance to crackdown on resistance
GAZA CITY (Palestinian Territories) - The Palestinian movement Hamas which rules Gaza has arrested two Islamists in connection with rocket attacks on Israel, sources close to a Salafist group said Thursday.
The Hamas interior ministry, however, denied any arrests had been made for "resistance against the occupation."
Hamas's "internal security apparatus in the last two days arrested two mujahedeen. One was released after several hours. The other is still detained," a Salafist source said on condition of anonymity.
The source said it was part of a "campaign to pursue Salafists after the targeting of Israel with rockets."
A Gaza-based Salafist group claimed firing rockets at Israel on Tuesday and Wednesday that landed in open fields, causing no damage or casualties. In response, Israel carried out two air strikes, also without causing harm.
The Mujahedeen Shura Council said the rocket attacks were a response to the death of a Palestinian who died of cancer while serving a life sentence in an Israeli prison.
Interior ministry spokesman Islam Shahwan denied there had been any "arrests for resistance to the enemy (Israel)," saying such action would "not help national consensus (unity)."
The Islamist movement Hamas, which has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007, has regularly cracked down on Salafists in the territory, notably in 2009.
"Our security apparatus is part of the resistance and does not arrest anyone who resists the occupation. On the contrary, we encourage resistance," Shahwan said.
The Mujahedeen Shura Council, meanwhile, urged "the rational-minded in Hamas to pressure its security to release Salafists" in a statement on Thursday.
In response to the rocket attacks Israel has tightened a maritime restriction barring Gaza fishermen from operating more than three nautical miles off the Mediterranean coast.
The already stringent limits were tightened from six miles on March 21 after Salafist militants fired two rockets at southern Israel as US President Barack Obama was visiting the country.
Israel also closed down Kerem Shalom, Gaza's only goods crossing, and imposed tight restrictions on travel into and out of the territory via the northern Erez terminal which was limited to medical emergencies only.
A week later, the restrictions on the two crossings were lifted and Kerem Shalom and Erez began operating as normal.
But the fishing limitations were left in place, Palestinian officials said, with the Israeli army confirming it was a political decision taken after an uptick in rocket fire this week.
"It was decided after continuous firing of rockets today to keep the fishing zone limited to three miles until there is a political decision (to lift it)," a military spokesman said on Wednesday.
"This is a political issue and we're waiting for the politicians' decision to be made."
Last week, two Israeli rights groups Gisha and B'Tselem, demanded that Israel lift the fishing restrictions, saying the measure amounted to "collective punishment."