Monday, May 07, 2007

School Attack in Gaza

Over the course of the last few months, radical Islamists in the Palestinian Gaza Strip have waged a brutal campaign against any form of expression considered "unislamic". Their efforts have included bombings of literally dozens of Internet cafes and music shops, a Christian library, and the American International School.

On Sunday, the Islamists took their campaign to a new level, launching an armed assault on a school where a sports festival was taking place. CNN has an overview of the incident, while the Jerusalem Post has the most detailed account of Sunday's events:

Witnesses told The Jerusalem Post that at least 70 Muslim fundamentalists participated in the attack on the Omariya School, where UNRWA and PA officials were attending a celebration.

The director of UNRWA operations in the Gaza Strip, John Ging, was inside the school at the time. He was not hurt, as PA policemen whisked him away to a safe location.

"The protesters surrounded the school and began chanting slogans denouncing the event as immoral," said one witness. "Their main argument was that girls and boys were asked to dance together in violation of Islamic teachings. This is a false claim because I didn't see a mixed gathering."

Another witness said the protesters threw a number of hand grenades and opened fire with automatic rifles as participants prepared to leave the school premises.

"It was a large organized attack on the elementary school," he said. "This is something unprecedented. It's a miracle that many people were not killed."

(Emphasis added-DD)

The Post offers additional background on the perpetrators of the incident, who are unsurprisingly identified as Salafists:

Salafism is a branch of Islam that is often referred to as Wahhabi - a derogatory term that many adherents to this tradition avoid using. Salafis believe that Islam declined as a result of foreign innovations (bid'ah) and seek an Islamic revival through the purging of these influences and the emulation of the early generations of Islam.

Unlike Hamas, the Salafis believe that Muslims should not engage in politics. Instead, they argue, Muslims should stick to Islamic activities, particularly jihad, and promote Shari'a rather than an Islamic political program or state.

The Salafis and other al-Qaida-linked groups, including the Righteous Swords of Islam, are believed to be behind a series of attacks on young women, Internet cafes, hair salons, restaurants, schools and foreigners in the Gaza Strip over the past two years.

"These groups have attracted many young men, including high school students, who are disillusioned with Hamas," said a PA security official. "They have killed several women in the Gaza Strip in the past few months after accusing them of being prostitutes."

(Emphasis added-DD)

When Hamas are the moderates, the situation is pretty bleak indeed.


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