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Eight people were killed and at least 85 wounded in gunfights between Hamas forces and Islamist extremists from a Palestinian group calling itself Jund Ansar Allah, when the latter defied the Hamas rulers of Gaza on Friday by declaring an "Islamic emirate" in the territory, Channel 2 reported Friday evening.
Members of the group Jund Ansar Allah, surround their leader Abdel-Latif Moussa, knwon also as Abu al-Nour al-Maqdessi (in red) as he speaks during Friday prayers in Rafah.
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A senior Hamas official and an 11-year-old girl were among the casualties, according to Gaza health officials.
Army Radio quoted Palestinian reports saying the Hamas official killed was Abu-Jibril Shimali, commander of Izzadin al Qassam Brigades, the group which kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Schalit three years ago.
Junds Ansar Allah's leader fled the Rafah mosque where he made the declaration earlier in the day, and Hamas forces were surrounding his house and waging another gunbattle later Friday with his men.
Though the "Warriors of God" rallied only a few hundred men for their event at the Gaza mosque, it was the latest challenge to Hamas's nationalist brand of Palestinian Islam by groups espousing a pan-Arab militancy aligned with al-Qaida.
Al-Qaida uses the historical term "emirate" to mean clerical rule across the Islamic world.
At least 24 people were killed in clashes with the shadowy group, which posed one of the biggest challenges to Hamas since the militant group seized power in Gaza two years ago.
The fighting broke out Friday when Hamas security men surrounded a mosque in the southern Gaza town of Rafah on the Egyptian border where about 100 members of Jund Ansar Allah, or the Soldiers of the Companions of God, were holed up.
Jund Ansar Allah claims inspiration from al-Qaida's ultraconservative brand of Islam but no direct links have been confirmed.
These groups are also upset that the Hamas regime has honored a cease-fire with Israel for the past seven months.