Gaza jihadis take credit for attack on French Institute

Jund Ansar Allah video decries ‘despicable, impure French’; displays explosive device used against French cultural center

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Palestinian police inspect a damaged wall of the French Cultural Center in Gaza City on December 12, 2014 after an explosion. (photo credit: AFP/MAHMUD HAMS)
Palestinian police inspect a damaged wall of the French Cultural Center in Gaza City on December 12, 2014 after an explosion. (photo credit: AFP/MAHMUD HAMS)

A jihadist group supportive of the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for an attack on the French Cultural Institute in Gaza City December 12, the second such attack on the building in two months.

Jund Ansar Allah, a Salafi jihadist group, said in a video uploaded to YouTube Wednesday that it had decided to attack the Institut Français of Gaza, the sole European cultural center in the Hamas-controlled Strip, due to France’s participation in the Western assault on the Islamic State terror group.

“Try to kill an American or European apostate, and especially the despicable, impure French, subjects of the countries which united against the Islamic State, and trust in God,” a narrator in the video says.

The video displayed an explosive device placed against the compound’s external wall, as well as photos taken from the scene following the explosion, which caused minor damage to the building. Jund Ansar Allah boasted a successful operation, despite the heavy Hamas security in the building’s perimeter.

The French Institute in Gaza photo credit: Facebook image
The French Institute in Gaza (photo credit: Facebook image)

Friday’s explosion was the second attack on the new multi-million dollar center in two months, the sole Gaza venue that houses Western art and music.

On October 7, a powerful blast destroyed the Institute’s fuel depot, used to power the building’s generator. The French Institute has been closed to the public since October, and its director, the only French national working in the Institute, was relocated to Jerusalem, The Times of Israel has learned.

French diplomatic missions and official buildings have been on high alert since the start of a spate of kidnappings and beheadings of foreigners by Islamic State jihadists and their allies, particularly that of Frenchman Herve Gourdel in Algeria.

France has angered IS by taking part in airstrikes on the group’s forces in Iraq.

Hamas, for its part, has denied the presence of the Islamic State in Gaza, after fliers signed by the group and distributed earlier this month warned women to dress modestly or face a religious tribunal.

AFP contributed to this report.

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