Shi'ite religious centers have opened for the first time in Gaza, Walla! News reports Tuesday, and are being directly funded by Iran.
The centers, under the name 'Al-Sabrin,' (from the Arabic word for 'patience') are attempting to spread Shi'ite Islam in the Sunni stronghold, according to the news agency, and are doing so on Tehran's orders.
Most Palestinian Arab Muslims are Sunni, and very few people have embraced Shi'ite Islam instead, but this is a completely new phenomenon in Gaza.
Photos of the centers sent to the daily show banners featuring Ayatollah Ruholloh Khamenei, the leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, hanging over the entrances. One banner even reads, "good luck to the Iran-Jerusalem axis."
The Al-Sabrin leader has been named as Hisam Salam, who established the movement earlier this year. Salam has published opinions in various publications condemning Saudi attacks in Yemen, as well as attacks on Egypt and in the Palestinian Authority (PA).
The declarations have reportedly put Hamas in a difficult position in relation to its Arab neighbors, as the movement – which operates in Gaza under Hamas consent – openly supports the Shi'ite Houthis in Yemen, in opposition to Hamas's Sunni allies.
Several of the charities run by the organization have been under attack during the past several weeks, mostly by Salafi extremists. However, Hamas has begun to crack down on Salafists within its borders, some eight cells of which were revealed to be in the small Gaza area on Sunday.