The leader of an al-Qaida-inspired Palestinian group in Gaza is dead
following a gunbattle with Hamas security forces that killed 24 people
and wounded more than 120.
Hamas officials said Saturday hardline cleric Abdel-Latif Moussa -- the leader of Jund Ansar Allah ("Soldiers of the Followers of God") was killed when he detonated an explosive vest he was wearing during the shootout.
Fighting started Friday, when Moussa declared Gaza an Islamic emirate and called for the implementation of strict Sharia (Islamic) law in a challenge to Hamas, which rules Gaza.
Hamas security forces engaged in an hours-long battle at a mosque in the southern town of Rafah to put down the uprising.
Five Hamas policemen, a senior Hamas commander, (Abu-Jibril Shimali) and an 11-year-old girlwere killed in the fighting.
Jund Ansar Allah is one of a handful of small, extremist groups that
have criticized Hamas for its cease-fire with Israel, and demanded the
imposition of a strict form of Islam in Gaza.
Although Hamas is an Islamist movement, observers say its focus on
Palestinian nationalism sets it apart from al-Qaida's goals of broad
The issue of al-Qaida influence in Gaza is particularly sensitive.
Israeli officials have alleged that non-Palestinian militants who
previously fought in Iraq and Afghanistan have infiltrated the area.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh denied in his Friday sermon that
any non-Palestinian gunmen had taken up residence in the Gaza Strip.