Rafah, Gaza Strip
The Hamas-run government in the Gaza Strip announced on Saturday that its deadly Friday battle with local Al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic militants in the southern Gaza town of Rafah was over, ending the biggest internal challenge to Hamas rule since the group seized control of the territory in 2007.
Twenty-two people, including six Hamas policemen, six civilians and the radical militants’ alleged spiritual leader and local imam in Rafah, Abdel-Latif Moussa, were killed, and at least 120 wounded, according to local medical officials.
It is still unclear how many of the militants were killed or wounded by Hamas. Government forces prevented journalists from accessing the hospital in Rafah where they are reportedly being treated.
The battle began after prayers at a Rafah mosque on Friday when imam Moussa, guarded by armed members of the new, Gaza-based Jund Ansar Allah (Soldiers of God) movement, declared an “Islamic emirate” in the Gaza Strip.
The new extremist organization, which grabbed headlines for the first time in June when some of its members attempted to attack an Israeli military base on horseback, has recently criticized the more moderate Hamas for failing to implement Sharia, or Islamic, law in the Gaza Strip.