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Na początku marca 2018 r. wysocy rangą przywódcy salaficko-dżihadystycznego nurtu w palestyńskim obozie Ein Al-Hilweh w Libanie zwołali spotkanie z libańskimi dziennikarzami, by powiedzieć, że zmieniają nacisk i będą działać na rzecz wyzwolenia Jerozolimy i Palestyny zamiast działać w Iraku i Syrii, które przez niemal dwadzieścia lat były główną arena aktywności globalnego dżihadu. Powiedzieli, że jako Palestyńczycy mają odpowiedzialność za walkę i obronę własnej ziemi.

Przywódcy tej inicjatywy, Osama Al-Szihabi i Dżamal Hamed, przywódca i starszy członek, odpowiednio, organizacji Fath Al-Islam, oraz Tawfik Taha, wysoki rangą funkcjonariusz w Brygadach Abdallah Azzam Brigades, wyjaśnili, że ten ruch nastąpił po miesiącach wszechstronnej rewizji szeregu strategii i priorytetów w świetle rozwoju sytuacji na arenie międzynarodowej, przede wszystkim, oświadczenia prezydenta USA Donalda Trumpa o Jerozolimie jako stolicy Izraela, jak też dążeń izraelskiego rządu o zdobycie uznania jako państwo żydowskie. Podkreślili również, że zmiana priorytetów będzie długofalowym planem, włącznie ze zdobyciem serc i umysłów, szkicowaniem strategii i przygotowaniami militarnymi.

Tą inicjatywą ci trzej funkcjonariusze odchodzą od ruchu globalnego dżihadu pod przywództwem Al-Kaidy, który do dziś za priorytet uważa walkę przeciwko USA i przeciwko władzom w niektórych arabskich i muzułmańskich krajach. W wypowiedziach o swojej decyzji krytykują ruch globalnego dżihadu za, jak mówią, zaniedbywanie Palestyny w celu walki na innych arenach, takich jak Syria i Irak, oraz za ich wtrącanie się do Palestyńczyków w sprawach, z którymi „nie mają żadnego związku”. Jasno postawili sprawę, że oni i ich zwolennicy nie mają żadnych związków z Al-Kaidą i że do decyzji zmiany punktu skupienia działacze salaficko-dżihadystycznyni w obozach uchodźców w Libanie doszli niezależnie.

Jest możliwe, że przez skupianie się na oporze przeciwko Izraelowi – postrzeganym jako uprawniona postawa przez szerokie warstwy w Libanie, głównie wśród zwolenników Hezbollahu – i przez odwrócenie się od Al-Kaidy ci przywódcy chcą złagodzić naciski na salaficko-dżihadystycznych aktywistów w Ein AlHilweh, którzy są poszukiwani przez libańskie siły bezpieczeństwa. Widać to w zapewnieniach, jakie dali dziennikarzom, że będą trzymali się z daleka od wszystkich konfliktów i walk w obozie i ogólnie na libańskiej arenie[1]. Ci funkcjonariusze zdecydowali się również na oświadczenie tego libańskim mediom – włącznie z gazetą „Al-Akhbar”, związaną z Hezbollahem, który prowadzi wojnę przeciwko salafickiemu dżihadyzmowi – nie zaś salaficko-dżihadystycznym mediom. Sam Al-Szihabi napisał nawet artykuł dla „Al-Akhbar”, wyjaśniający powody tej zmiany i powtarzający, że będą trzymali się z dala od konfliktów wewnątrz obozu.

Możliwość, że to posunięcie ma na celu złagodzenie presji na salaficko-dżihadystycznych agentów w obozach, wzmacniają doniesienia w libańskiej prasie, że ci aktywiści od miesięcy próbowali uzgodnić z rządem libańskim możliwość opuszczenia obozu. W lipcu 2017 r. informowano, że kiedy w tym samym miesiącu podpisano umowę między Hezbollahem a Państwem Islamskim (ISIS) o wyjściu aktywistów ISIS i ich rodzin z Arsal w Libanie do Syrii[2], ludzie w Ein Al-Hilweh, którzy byli związani z Dżabhat Al-Nusra i ISIS proponowali libańskiemu rządowi, by ich włączył do umowy i pozwolił na opuszczenie Ein Al-Hilweh. Według jednego z doniesień, poprosili o pozwolenie pójścia do Syrii[3]; według innego, poprosili o pozwolenie pójścia na syryjskie Wzgórza Golan, by założyć tam siłę o nazwie Brygada Ghuraba Falesteen do walki z Izraelem[4].

Inną możliwością jest, że ta inicjatywa kieruje się przeciwko syryjskiemu reżimowi i jego sojusznikowi, Hezbollahowi, którzy obecnie starają się ożywić front oporu wobec Izraela po wyeliminowaniu większości bastionów rebeliantów walczących z reżimem. Tę teorię popiera fakt, że przywódcy inicjatywy należą do najwyższych rangą członków Fath Al-Islam – organizacji oskarżanej przez najwyższe czynniki w libańskich systemach bezpieczeństwa i politycznych o to, że kierują nią syryjskie siły bezpieczeństwa i wywiadu[5].

Dalszą tego wskazówką są wypowiedzi Al-Szihabiego o tej zmianie kierunku, które można interpretować jako komunikat dla syryjskiego reżimu. Powiedział on, że chociaż rewolucje w świecie arabskim w ostatnich latach istotnie zostały wywołane przez ucisk, kieruje nimi Ameryka w celu odciągnięcia walki od Jerozolimy i Palestyny. Jest to powtórzenie narracji syryjskiego reżimu i jego sojuszników, którzy twierdzą, że rewolucja w Syrii nie jest autentyczna i krajowa, ale jest amerykańskim spiskiem przeciwko nim.   

Ten raport [nie spolszczony] jest przeglądem wypowiedzi tych trzech salaficko-dżihadystycznych przywódców w obozie uchodźców Ein Al-Hilweh w Libanie.

From Now On, The Focus Of Activity Will Be Palestine And Al-Aqsa

In early March, senior leaders of the Salafi-jihadi stream in the Ein Al-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon invited Lebanese journalists to the camp and spoke to them about their decision to distance themselves from the bloody struggles within the camp and from every conflict with the Lebanese security apparatuses.[6] Al-Akhbar correspondent Radwan Murdata reported on March 3 that Al-Shihabi had asked to meet with him urgently in order to discuss “a most important issue.” He wrote that the meeting, held the following night at Shihabi’s home in the refugee camp, was attended also by Jamal Hamed and a man referred to as Abu Ubayda. At the meeting, the two leaders said that they represented a large group of supporters of the Salafi-jihadi stream in the camp that had conducted a months-long “reexamination [that was] not a retreat.” At the end of that examination, they said, they reached the conclusion that “the rifle” should be “re-aimed” towards Jerusalem, because the obligation to defend Palestine and Jerusalem lies first and foremost with them, as Palestinians and residents of the land.

In an article published by Al-Akhbar, Al-Shihabi wrote: “We have not backed down, and we will not back down, but we have conducted a reexamination, in order to re-aim the rifle. We are a group among the young Muslims who long to fight the criminal Jews who have occupied and expelled us from our land and sentenced us to death, expulsion, oppression, and prison. Therefore, after scrutiny, examination, study, consultation, and requests for aid from Allah, we have decided on the following: to prepare, to the best of our ability, to confront the criminal Zionist Jews. This preparation is demanded by the shari’a and by reality, because negotiations with the Jews and making concessions to them will not help. A bullet demands a[nother] bullet [in response]. With regard to religious law, preparation is an obligation, because the issue of Palestine and Al-Aqsa belongs to all Muslims… Preparation is a necessity of reality for us, since we are residents of Palestine. Our duty is double. The effort that we are obligated to make is much greater, since it is upon the residents of the occupied land to do as much as they can, and if they cannot, then the matter moves to the neighboring states.”

Explaining that this will be a long-term program requiring ideological, cultural, and military preparation – that is, not necessarily an intent to launch military activity against Israel immediately – Al-Shihabi continued: “We will study their [i.e. Israel’s] past, present, and future – what they are planning, what their aims are, how they draw up their policy, and who helps them and supports their oppressing decisions. [We will study] how they fight us ideologically, and why they have succeeded and we have failed. We will begin with ourselves and our men. Since this will be a long-term battle, we will prepare ways and means to fight the Jews for the next generation, so that they will go [forward] with clear perception and goals.”[7]

Prior to that, on March 1, Osama Al-Shihabi and Jamal Hamed gave an interview to Al-Jadeed TV, in which they explained their initiative.

Osama Al-Shihabi (center) and Jamal Hamed (right) on Al-Jadeed TV (Image source: Youtube.com/watch?v=g2o_CH_9G3w, March 1, 2018)

Addressing The Lebanese People And Syria

Many of the statements by these Salafi-jihadi leaders were addressed to the Lebanese people. Since most of the top members of this stream are wanted by Lebanese security forces for involvement in the bloody struggles in the camps, and for their attacks on Lebanese and foreign targets across the country,[8] one motive for this change in position might be pressure by Lebanese security forces and by their Palestinian rivals in the camps. Thus, Al-Shihabi also wrote in his article: “We will distance ourselves from the struggle within the Ein Al-Hilweh refugee camp, and we will not be party to any conflict. If we have the ability to stop any problem that emerges, we will do anything to preserve the security of the people in the camp. The people are tired of the clashes in which innocent people are killed and wounded… These clashes have only increased the fear and alarm among the people, prompted them to leave [the camp], destroyed their homes, and wasted resources that should have been put towards fighting the Jews – [and if they had been,] our situation today would be better. For 30 years, we have waged battles in the camp that have aroused [desire] for revenge, handed down from generation to generation. The only ones benefiting from this are the Jews and their helpers. We will not be involved in the [internal] Lebanese struggle.”[9]

On its website, the Lebanese MTV channel reported, citing activists in the Salafi-jihadi stream, that the motivation for the decision on the conflict with Israel is the leaders’ understanding that “difficult battles are expected between Israel and the resistance in Gaza and Lebanon.”[10] These statements can be interpreted as indicating an intention to help Hizbullah – which is at this time waging an all-out war against them in Syria and Lebanon – in a future war against Israel. Jamal Hamed even said that the Salafi-jihadis were determined “to fight the Jews alongside anyone who bears arms to liberate Al-Aqsa.”[11]

The leaders also directed a reassuring message to the Syrian regime, the toppling of which they had until recently supported. Thus, Al-Shihabi, by saying “There is one direction and it is Jerusalem and Palestine,” was espousing the Syrian regime’s narrative about the revolution against it. With regard to the rest of the fronts, such as Syria and Iraq, he said: “Even if the motive that led them to break out was oppression – and it is this that we believe, and for this that we and our young people have come out – we are certain that America’s hand is guiding the revolutions [in the region] in order to divert the struggle from its real direction.”

Al-Akhbar reported, citing a Lebanese source, that several wanted men in Ein Al-Hilweh had in July 2017 asked that the Lebanese government allow them to be included in the Hizbullah-ISIS deal regarding Arsal and that they be “permitted [to leave to leave the refugee camp and] go to the [Syrian] Golan Heights, to establish there a Ghuraba Falesteen Brigade.” The source added: “They promised that they do not want to be involved in the Syrian quagmire but want to plan for jihad for the sake of Palestine, which they think is nigh.” The source also stressed that the Lebanese government had rejected this proposal.[12] Al-Akhbar had published a report on this matter in July 2017, in which it stated that wanted men from Ein Al-Hilweh, among them Osama Al-Shihabi, had asked to be included in the deal and to be allowed to leave the camp for Syria, and that the Lebanese government had rejected their request.[13]

Criticism Of Al-Qaeda

Apparently, as part of their efforts to reconcile Lebanese public opinion, which is apprehensive about the establishment of pro-Al-Qaeda elements on their soil, Al-Shihabi and Hamed stressed in their statements that their move was independent, and that they had no ties to Al-Qaeda. Al-Shihabi told AlAkhbar: “Our contacts with the leadership of the organization [i.e. Al-Qaeda] have been severed, and [this initiative] is independently motivated.”

Criticizing Al-Qaeda and the global jihad movement, which they said had diverted the struggle from Jerusalem to other arenas, Al-Shihabi stressed that there is “one direction, and that is Jerusalem and Palestine,” before Syria and Iraq. He noted: “According to our perception, jihad is a means and not an end. We will not be deterred even if thousands of martyrs fall among us – but we want it to be for a goal. We want to eat the fruit, not burn the tree…

“Palestine is ours. This was the direction [before], and there must be a return to it… The situation that existed until today will not return… The idea of the fighting the Jews is very ancient. We had dreamed of fighting the Jews in the framework of a great plan, but all these plans have failed…  [To date] there has been no courage to relinquish several previous perceptions.”

Likewise, Jamal Hamed said: “Throughout history, they have thwarted us [Palestinians], and involved us in issues to which we are unconnected. The rifle that we will carry from today onwards will be in order to fight the Zionist-Crusader program.”[14]

* N. Mozes is a Research Fellow at MEMRI.


[1] For years, Ein Al-Hilweh, situated near Sidon and the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, was known as a center of tension due to the rivalry and struggles for areas of control among the various Palestinian factions, and gun battles between groups frequently made headlines. Over time, the camp became a refuge for men wanted by the Lebanese security forces. Additionally, Salafi-jihadi activists in the camp participated in the 2013 clashes alongside followers of Lebanese Sheikh Ahmad Al-Assir against Lebanese Army forces (see MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 988, Lebanese Salafi Sheikh Al-Asir Launches Armed Struggle Against ‘Shi’ite’ Lebanese Army, June 26, 2013). Some Salafi-jihadi activists, such as Al-Shihabi, were also wanted by Lebanese security forces for their involvement in attacks within Lebanon against Lebanese and foreign interests.

[2] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7077, Iraqi PM Protests Hizbullah-ISIS Deal, Ignites Controversy Within Resistance Camp, September 3, 2017.

[3] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), July 31, 2017.

[4] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), March 3, 2018.

[5] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 1880, Lebanon Publishes New Evidence of Ties Between Syria and Fath Al-Islam, April 9, 2008; MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 365, Syrian Efforts to Deny Fath Al-Islam Affiliation With Syrian Intelligence, June 22, 2007; MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 1747, In Letter to U.N. Secretary-General, Lebanese Prime Minister Accuses Syria of Being Behind Fath Al-Islam, October 31, 2017.

[6] See Endnote 1.

[7] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), March 3, 2018.

[8] MTV.com.lb, March 3, 2018.

[9] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), March 3, 2018.

[10] MTV.com.lb, March 3, 2018.

[11] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), March 3, 2018.

[12] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), March 3, 2018.

[13] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), July 31, 2018.

[14] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), March 3, 2018.