The Syrian civil war has given rise to a new terrorist link that poses a potential threat to Israeli security — Gazans traveling to Syria to fight with Salafi-jihadi rebels — The Jerusalem Post reported on Wednesday.
The numbers are so far small — only a few dozen — but the problem is growing, according to a report from the Tel Aviv-based Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center.
“In Syria, the Salafist-jihadi volunteers from the Gaza Strip are expected to acquire military experience, ideological training and ties with groups affiliated with al-Qaida and the global jihad,” the report said.
Dr. Reuven Erlich, head of the Center, called Syria “an academy of terrorism.”
“Upon their return to the Gaza Strip, they are liable to turn the area into a hotbed of terrorism and subversion against Israel, Egypt and even the Hamas de-facto government.”
Most of the volunteers are members of Salafist-jihadi groups in Gaza, and some are former Hamas operatives. “They enter Syria via Turkey (as do most of the foreign volunteers). Some ostensibly depart for Saudi Arabia (for example, under the guise of going on a Hajj) and from there they enter Syria via Turkey. In Syria, they usually join the Al-Nusra Front and other jihadist organizations,” the report stated.