Daesh warning highlights Hamas’s relationship with Sinai militants
Daesh warning highlights Hamas’s relationship with Sinai militants
Daesh last week released a video calling on its members and supporters in Gaza to fight Hamas, which it accused of moving closer to Iran.
The video ended with an extremist from Gaza, killing another Sinai person by shooting him in the back of the head for allegedly collaborating with Hamas’s military wing to obtain arms through Sinai.
While Daesh has made similar threats against Hamas in the past, hostility between the two sides has increased recently, especially after the Egyptian government and Hamas reached a number of agreements last year.
Extremists have also increased their activity in Sinai since the ousting of the Muslim Brotherhood president in 2013. The militant group Ansar Bait Al-Maqdis pledged allegiance to Daesh and launched an insurgency which has killed hundreds of civilians, soldiers and police officers.
Hamas has tried to dismantle all Salafist groups in Gaza, some of which are connected with other groups in Sinai.
These groups have carried out a series of attacks in recent years against Hamas members and leaders in Gaza, which Hamas has ruled since 2007. Some of the attacks have also targeted shops and business with explosives.
Eyad Al-Bozom, a spokesman for the interior ministry in Gaza, said the territory was stable because Hamas had imposed tight restrictions to ensure the militancy in Sinai did not spill over into Gaza.
“The security is stable in Gaza strip, the security forces are spending all efforts to sustain the stability,” he told Arab News.
“I can assure you we don’t have any of those extremist groups, there are some people believe in such thoughts but we don’t have any faction or group like in other places.”
The relationship between Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula became entrenched after 2007, when Israel enforced a blockade of the territory. The border with Sinai became the only outlet to the outside world after 2007.
A network of tunnels under the border became essential for Gaza and its economy, while providing tax revenues to the Hamas government. The tunnels also extended a corridor for arms and money to Hamas’s military wing, the Qassam Brigades.
“The geopolitical map obviously made Gaza part of Sinai on all levels, and particularly on the security one,” said Hani Habib, a political analyst based in Gaza.
“The security in Sinai connected in a way or another to Gaza strip whether positively or negatively, and in the previous 10 years at least the unrest in Sinai created incredible impact on Gaza.”
Among the various Salafist groups that emerged in Gaza were the Army of Islam (Jaish Al-Islam), which participated with Hamas in the abduction of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, the Nation Army (Jaish Al-Omma) and the Islamic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Egypt launched a large campaign to eliminate the tunnels between Gaza and Sinai after an attack across the border in August 2012. Cairo intensified its efforts during the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood after President Mohammad Mursi’s downfall.
Hamas was politically aligned with the Brotherhood and Mursi had tried to improve relations with the Islamist group.
With the tunnels cut off, Hamas moved to improve relations with Egypt to ease the siege on Gaza Strip and strengthen its rule.
To do this, the group considered it necessary to change its policy toward Daesh in Sinai, which had helped Hamas smuggle weapons from Libya and Sudan into Gaza.
Habib said one of the reasons that made Egypt and Hamas reach a deal to tackle Daesh, was because Hamas is more moderate than most militant groups in Sinai.
Hamas tried at different times to deal with the Salafist groups, both with dialogue and force, in order to deter them from attacks or to encourage them to comply with Hamas’s orders to fire rockets at Israeli towns during the last three conflicts with Israel.
Tensions between Hamas and the groups often escalate when they fire missiles into Israel after Hamas has agreed to a cease-fire.
It is yet to be seen whether Daesh’s video and warning to Hamas will lead to increased militant activity against the group by sympathizers based in Gaza.
Israeli forces wound 77 Palestinians at protest near Gaza Strip border
- Palestinians have been protesting along the border since March 30, demanding an end to Israel’s blockade of the territory and the right to return to lands that Palestinians fled or were driven from upon Israel’s founding in 1948
GAZA: Israeli soldiers shot and wounded 77 Palestinians during protests near the Gaza Strip border on Friday, the enclave’s Health Ministry said.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said about 10,000 demonstrators massed at the border and that some threw burning tires, grenades and explosive devices at the troops across the fence. About 30 Palestinians suffered tear gas inhalation, the Gaza Health Ministry said.
But the protest was relatively small — some of the previous gatherings included about 30,000 people, a sign that tensions that have built up in the past few days may be easing.
On Thursday, Israel had ramped up armored forces along the Gaza border, a day after a rocket fired from the enclave destroyed a home in southern Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, vowed “very strong action” if attacks continued. A Palestinian official said Egyptian security officials had held separate meetings in the past few days with Israeli counterparts and with leaders of the Palestinian Hamas group that rules Gaza in an effort to prevent an escalation in violence.
Palestinians have been protesting along the border since March 30, demanding an end to Israel’s blockade of the territory and the right to return to lands that Palestinians fled or were driven from upon Israel’s founding in 1948. About 200 Gazans have been killed by Israeli troops since the protests started, according to Palestinian Health Ministry figures. Pale stinians have launched incendiary balloons and kites into Israel and on occasion breached the Israeli frontier fence. More than 2 million Palestinians are packed into the narrow coastal enclave. Israel pulled troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005 but maintains tight control of its land and sea borders.
Egypt also restricts movement in and out of Gaza on its border. Nickolay Mladenov, the UN’s Mideast peace envoy, earlier urged Israel and the Palestinians to exercise restraint ahead of the protests. Mosque loudspeakers in the Palestinian enclave urged Gazans to attend Friday’s demonstrations, despite statements by Gaza’s leaders that Hamas seeks to rein in the protests. “In light of today’s planned Gaza march, I urge all to exercise restraint, to proceed in a peaceful manner, and to avoid escalation,” Nickolay Mladenov said in a statement. “The UN is working with Egypt and its partners to avoid violence, address all humanitarian issues and support reconciliation.”
Egyptian intelligence officials met with Hamas and Israeli officials on Thursday in efforts to broker a cease-fire and ease months of deadly border protests. Egypt and the UN have attempted to negotiate a truce between Israel and Hamas for weeks in a bid to ease tensions in the beleaguered Gaza Strip.
Hamas has organized weekly protests since March that seek, in part, to secure an easing of the Egyptian-Israeli blockade of the Palestinian enclave imposed after the Islamic militant group seized control of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority in 2007 in an armed coup.
At least 156 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire at the protests, and an Israeli solider was killed by a Palestinian sniper.
The protests have intensified in recent weeks as Egyptian and UN cease-fire negotiations have faltered, and cross-border violence earlier this week has brought tensions to a simmer.
On Wednesday, a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip destroyed a house in the Israeli city of Beersheba in the worst bout of violence in recent weeks. Israel retaliated with airstrikes and has beefed up its military forces along the border. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Security Cabinet resolved to retaliate more severely to cross-border attacks, but has thus far refrained from further action, suggesting it was giving the Egyptians a chance to restore calm.