The logo of the Army of Islam: a Qur'an, a sword, the globe and a banner with the Islamic shahada: ''There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet.''
Army of Islam operatives train in the Gaza Strip (Picture from the vb.n4h.com website).
Egyptian army reinforcements deployed in the Sinai Peninsula as part of the security campaign
Egyptian army reinforcements deployed in the Sinai Peninsula as part of the security campaign (Picture from Hamas' PALDF forum website, August 8, 2012).
Cartoon drawn by Hamas-affiliated Omaya Joha expressing the concern of the Gazans after the attack in the Sinai Peninsula, and a blanket denial of all involvement.
Mumtaz Dughmush, founder of the Army of Islam (right), with one of his operatives (Picture from a Hamas forum, January 24, 2007)
Alan Johnston's press pass (Picture from Al-Arabiya TV, May 10, 2007).
The video taken by the Army of Islam. It shows Alan Johnston strapped into an explosive belt and presents the Army of Islam's demands for his release (Picture from Al-Arabiya TV, June 25, 2007)
The Coptic church after the attack (Picture from the Al-Yawm Al-Sabaa website, January 3, 2011).
1. The Army of Islam is one of the Salafist jihadi terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip. It is considered a dominant organization, having the highest operational capabilities of all the global jihad networks in the Gaza Strip. The Army of Islam splintered off from the Popular Resistance Committees at the beginning of 2006, and is headed by Mumtaz Dughmush, who comes from a powerful clan centered in the Sabra neighborhood of Gaza City. The Army of Islam has close ties to Hamas, which allows it to operate in both the Gazan and Egyptian arenas, despite its Salafist jihadi identity.
2. The Army of Islam collaborated with Hamas in the abduction of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in the Kerem Shalom area in June 2006. In October 2010 it planned to abduct Israelis and/or foreign nationals in the Sinai Peninsula in collaboration with the Gazan Hamas, but the plans were prevented from being carried out. The Army of Islam has also carried out attacks against Western figures in the Gaza Strip and the Egyptian authorities have accused it of carrying out attacks in Egypt (including the mass-casualty suicide bombing attack at the Coptic church in Alexandria in January 2011).
Possible Army of Islam Involvement in the Recent Attack near Kerem Shalom
3. On August 5, 2012, an attack on Israeli soil attempted by a Salafist jihadi organization apparently originating in the Sinai Peninsula, was prevented. The attack, which killed 16 Egyptian soldiers, caused a storm of public outrage throughout Egypt and led to an ongoing, broad military campaign against global jihad strongholds in the Sinai Peninsula.
4. According to the Egyptian media, the terrorists who carried out the attack were aided by Salafist jihadi groups based in the Gaza Strip, and the Army of Islam was mentioned.
1) "Palestinian sources" reported that among the bodies of the terrorists killed in the attempted attack, one apparently belonged to an Army of Islam operative (Sama News Agency, August 8, 2012).
2) "A high-ranking Egyptian source" said that some operatives belonging to the network in the Sinai Peninsula which carried out the terrorist attack had spent time in the Gaza Strip. They entered the Gaza Strip through the tunnels controlled by the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military-terrorist wing. The source added that Hamas was not being accused of responsibility for the attack, but that some of its operatives, especially those in its military-terrorist wing, knew the attackers, who had been trained in the Gaza Strip and received weapons from Hamas. The "Egyptian source" also mentioned theArmy of Islam (Al-Hayat, August 8, 2012).
3) "Palestinian sources" reported that Egypt had asked the de-facto Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip to turn over three senior Army of Islam operatives for interrogation, among them Mumtaz Dughmush, Army of Islam commander (Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, August 9, 2012).
5. The Egyptian interest in the Army of Islam and its mention in the Egyptian media are, in our assessment, the result of several factors. They include the Army of Islam's high operative capabilities, its affiliation with Al-Qaeda, its ties to jihadist groups in the Sinai Peninsula and, in our assessment, within Egyptian itself, and its record of carrying out terrorist attacks in Egyptian territory. In our assessment, the Army of Islam did not itself carry out the attack near Kerem Shalom, but in all probability maintained contact with those who did.
Hamas' Predicament and Its Response
6.The attack which killed 16 Egyptian soldiers placed Hamas in a predicament:
1) On the one hand, the terrorist attack during Ramadan threatened to disrupt the improving relations between the Muslim Brotherhood administration in the Egypt and the de-facto Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip, and caused a storm of public outrage among both Egyptians and Palestinians. In addition, the Egyptian administration pointed the finger of guilt at the Gaza Strip, where Salafist jihadi networks, the prominent of which is the Army of Islam, operate under the Hamas administration. The attack also showed Hamas the dangers inherent in an increase in global jihad activity in the Gaza Strip, and the danger it poses to Hamas' governmental capabilities and the threat to relations with Egypt.
2) On the other hand, Hamas has good relations with the Army of Islam and turning its operatives over to Egypt will make it lose face. Thus as long as Egypt does not exert pressure on Hamas endangering its vital interests, it is doubtful whether Hamas will risk a direct confrontation with the Army and the other Salafist jihadi networks in the Gaza Strip.
7. As a way out, Hamas has so far chosen to initiate a political propaganda campaign, accompanied by security measures, to minimize the negative consequences of the attack in the Sinai Peninsula:
1) Senior Hamas figures have made reiterated their solidarity with Egypt, stressed commitment to security collaboration and promised that Hamas' own security forces would conduct an "intensive investigation" examining the links between jihadist networks in the Gaza Strip and global jihad operatives in the Sinai Peninsula (Al-Watan, August 8, 2012).
2) Senior Hamas figures denied any connection between the organizations in the Gaza Strip to the attack, and claimed that the Egyptian administration had not accused "anyone specific" in Gaza. They also denied that Egypt had asked for the extradition of three [Army of Islam] operatives (Al-Aqsa TV, August 12; Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, August 9; Safa News Agency, August 11, 2012). Hamas also tried to accuse Israel of responsibility for the attack.
3) In the meantime, Hamas has initiated security measures on the ground, including closing smuggling tunnels along the Sinai Peninsula-Gaza Strip border, while Egypt closed the Rafah crossing. Ismail Haniya, head of the de-facto Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip, publicly stated that if the Rafah crossing were permanently open and if a free trade zone were established on Gazan border, there would be no need for the tunnels and they would all be closed (Al-Aqsa TV, August 15, 2012). It was also reported that a joint Hamas-Egyptian security committee had been appointed to investigate the attack (Al-Hayat, August 15, 2012), that Hamas was conducting an independent investigation into the involvement of jihadist organizations in the Gaza Strip in the attack, and that dozens of Salafist jihadi operatives had been detained (PalPress, August 15, 2012).