Last summer, Hamas security forces raided a mosque affiliated with the Salafi-Jihadi group Jand Ansar Allah, killing 24 and wounding 130 in the ensuing firefight. This relatively recent episode highlights the presence in Gaza of Salafi-Jihadi groups inspired by but not yet formally affiliated with al-Qaeda. Unlike Hamas, which despite espousing violent Islamism has nevertheless occasionally agreed to short-term ceasefires, Salafi-Jihadi groups champion "pure resistance" in their dealings with Israel. The resulting tension between these groups and Hamas, the latter currently reigning as the political authority in Gaza, has created the perfect environment for further radicalization of Palestinians.
So far, none of the Salafi-Jihadi groups have established formal ties to al-Qaeda, but many intelligence analysts argue that such a relationship could develop quickly given the right combination of circumstances. Should U.S. policymakers be concerned? In The Washington Institute' s newest Policy Focus, my co-authors Yoram Cohen and Becca Wasser and I assess the game-changing potential of a formalized al-Qaeda presence in the West Bank and Gaza, including implications for the wider Arab-Israeli conflict and international counterterrorism efforts. In the troubling words of one senior Palestinian Salafi-Jihadi leader, "So far al-Qaeda has not sponsored our work. We are waiting to carry out a big jihadist operation dedicated to Sheikh Usama bin-Laden."
DEKAFile recently ran a story which expressed this growing concern as well - http://www.debka.com/headline.php?hid=6447
Could Gaza become a future Al-Qaeda franchise?