'Increase in Gazans joining rebel forces in Syria'
by Khaled Abu Toameh
The Jerusalem Post
February 22, 2013
The number of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip who are traveling to Syria to join the anti-regime forces is on the rise, Palestinian sources revealed Monday.
In the first year of the crisis, only a few Palestinians headed to Syria through Turkey to join the fight against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, the sources said.
Recently, however, there has been an increase in the number of Palestinians who left the Gaza Strip to join the anti- Assad rebel forces, the sources added.
The sources told the Palestinian Al-Quds newspaper that most of the Palestinians who have joined the rebels in Syria were members of radical Salafi and Jihadi groups in the Gaza Strip.
Some of the Palestinians used to belong to Hamas and its armed wing before joining the more radical Islamist groups, according to the sources.
The last two months saw a sharp increase in the number of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip who headed to Syria, while many others have expressed their desire to join the rebels, the sources said.
Abu al-Ayna al-Ansari, a leader of one of the Salafi groups in the Gaza Strip, confirmed that many of his supporters had joined the Syrian rebels. Ansari said that the Palestinians left the Gaza Strip to join the "mujahideen [warriors] of Jabhat al-Nusra, which is fighting against the criminal regime in Syria."
Established in January 2012, Jabhat al- Nusra was recently designated by the US as a terrorist organization.
Ansari said that all the Palestinians who headed to Syria did so voluntarily. He refused to say whether the men had been sent to Syria as part of pre-planned coordination with the Syrian Free Army.
He pointed out that some of the Palestinian militants who headed to Syria had been previously detained by Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip.
Evidence of the involvement of Palestinians in the fighting in Syria surfaced six months ago when Nidal al-Eshi, 23, of the Gaza Strip, was killed in the Syrian town of Aleppo.
Eshi fled the Gaza Strip 18 months ago after being accused of launching a terror attack on a vehicle belonging to the International Committee of the Red Cross in the town of Beit Hanun in northern Gaza.
A Palestinian court sentenced him in absentia to seven years in prison, but he managed to escape from the Gaza Strip.
Last December, another Palestinian man, Mohamed Kunaita, 32, was also killed in fighting between the Syrian army and the rebels. Kunaita was also from Gaza and had served as a military commander in Hamas.
In a separate development, some 70 Palestinian families that fled from Syria have arrived in the Gaza Strip, Al-Quds reported.
The families came from Palestinian refugee camps near Damascus, which have become the scene of fierce fighting.
Over the past three months, tens of thousands of Palestinians have fled from Syria to Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt.
Related Topics: Gaza, Syria | Khaled Abu Toameh
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