New Shi’ite player in the Gaza Strip: Hizbullah backs commander once banned by Hamas

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GAZA CITY — The Iranian-sponsored Hizbullah is said to have encouraged the launch of Al Sabirin, a pro-Shi’ite militia, in the Gaza Strip.

The militia is said to come under the command of Hisham Salem, which declared its first operation on May 25.

100469-004-847FD7B2“This movement was launched to resist the occupation,” Salem, referring
to Israel, said.

Palestinian sources said Salem was regarded as a longtime supporter of
Iran and Hizbullah. They identified Salem as a former senior official of the
Iranian-sponsored Islamic Jihad and arrested by Hamas in March
2013 as he raised funds for a charity.

In 2011, Hamas shut down Salem’s
charity, Baqiyat Al Salihat, charged with spreading Shi’ism.

Since the launch of Al Sabirin, Salem, expelled by Jihad in 2010, has
been promoting Shi’ism in the Gaza Strip. Salem has also displayed the flag
of his new movement, which strongly resembles that of Hizbullah.

In recent interviews, Salem said Al Sabirin would promote the principles
of Islamic Jihad, with the largest medium- and long-range rocket arsenal in
the Gaza Strip. He also called for unity between Sunnis and Shi’ites and
acknowledged Iranian financial support.

Al Sabirin did not disclose its leadership, size or weapons arsenal. The
sources said Salem was believed to have recruited disgruntled or ousted
members of Jihad, including Abdullah Al Sahmi, a cleric expelled in 2009.

The sources said Al Sabirin represents the latest effort by Iran and
Hizbullah to penetrate the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. They said Hamas, after
years of friction, has agreed to cooperate with Jihad on condition that it
does not promote Shi’ism.

“If this had taken place even a year ago, Salem and his associates would
be in jail for promoting sectarianism,” a source said. “Today, Hamas needs
Iran more than ever and is holding back.”

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