The leader of Jund Ansar Allah, an al-Qaeda-inspired group, has been among the 22 dead of fierce clashes in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah, reports say.
A spokesman for the Hamas-run Interior Ministry said Abdel-Latif Moussa was killed in the clashes between supporters of his Jund Ansar Allah group and Hamas policemen in Rafah, Reuters reported.
Hamas fighters surrounded the Ibn-Taymiyah mosque and the residence of its preacher Abdul-Latif Moussa on Friday after the imam and his followers declared Gaza an “Islamic emirate”.
Around 100 members of the extremist group, known as Jund Ansar Allah, were inside the mosque when Hamas started firing rocket-propelled grenades.
According to AFP, a spokesman for the Palestinian emergency services also said that Abdel-Latif Moussa was among the dead.
Reports earlier said that Hamas police forces raided Moussa’s house, but it was unclear whether the radial cleric was killed, detained or forced to flee. The group has threatened to take bloody revenge on Hamas if he is harmed.
The group has accused the democratically elected Palestinian government of Hamas, which currently runs Gaza, of not being religious enough, demanding that the movement impose strict Islamic law in the strip.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniya, however, has dismissed Moussa’s comments and his declaration of an “Islamic emirate”.
“These declarations are aimed towards incitement against the Gaza Strip and an attempt at recruiting an international alliance against the Gaza Strip,” said Haniya while delivering a Friday prayers sermon.