IS has no foothold in Gaza: Hamas

Updated 14 May 2015

IS has no foothold in Gaza: Hamas

GAZA: Islamic State sympathizers in the Gaza Strip are making their presence felt on social media, but the enclave’s Hamas rulers said on Thursday the group has no real foothold in the Palestinian territory.
Statements signed “Supporters of the Islamic State” have appeared recently on Twitter and several websites, accusing the group Hamas of arresting dozens of militants and threatening attacks in Gaza.
Hamas said it had detained what it described as “lawbreakers” after an explosion earlier this month near a Hamas security headquarters and another blast outside the headquarters of the UNRWA.
A senior security official loyal to Hamas described the explosions, for which no group has claimed responsibility, as no more than “noise bombs,” saying Islamic State existed “only on the Internet” in Gaza.
Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, said “there is nothing called the Islamic State in the Gaza Strip,” adding that the group only had “some supporters” in the territory.
“We do not fight people because of what they think, but at the same time, we do not allow any violations of security, whether by groups or individuals,” Abu Zuhri said.
Gaza-based political analyst Hani Habib said some activists identifying with ultra-conservative Salafi Islam were using social media to try to draw the attention of Islamic State and seek its recognition.
“They were inspired by the presence of ISIS in Iraq and Syria and moreover in the Egyptian Sinai peninsula,” said Habib, dismissing any notion that Salafis in Gaza had formally joined Islamic State.
A senior Israeli security official said it was hard to assess whether there was a serious Islamic State presence in Gaza.


Turkey, Russia discuss joint patrols option in Syria’s Idlib

Updated 37 min 30 sec ago

Turkey, Russia discuss joint patrols option in Syria’s Idlib

  • Ankara and Moscow have accused each other of flouting a 2018 de-escalation agreement
  • But there had been some rapprochement between Turkey and Russia in their talks on Idlib

ANKARA: Turkey and Russia are discussing possible joint patrols as one way to reach a deal to halt fighting and stem an exodus of civilians in Syria’s Idlib region, a Turkish official said on Thursday, a day after Ankara threatened military action to push back Syrian government forces.
Turkey and Russia, which back opposing sides in the nine-year-old conflict, have failed to reach an agreement after two rounds of talks in the last two weeks.
A Syrian government offensive to eradicate the last rebel strongholds in northwest Syria has led to some of the most serious confrontations yet between NATO member Ankara and Damascus, and prompted Turkey to send thousands of troops and convoys of heavy weapons to the border area.
Turkey has taken in about 3.7 million Syrian refugees since the war started and says it cannot handle any more over its border, which is now closed. The United Nations says more than 900,000 people, mostly women and children, have fled their homes in Idlib since early December.
The Turkish official said the talks with Russia had not been “completely without a result.” The discussions had moved forward but reached no final decision, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

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“Russia has maintained its position that Turkey withdraws from Idlib and evacuates its observation posts since the beginning. Withdrawing from Idlib or evacuating the observation posts is not on the agenda.”
“Various exercises are being discussed. For example, ensuring security through Turkish and Russian security officials and holding joint patrols could be possible,” the official said, adding that both Ankara and Moscow expected their presidents to “end the issue.”
Turkey, which backs rebels trying to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad, has threatened to use military power to drive back Syrian forces advancing in Idlib unless they withdraw by the end of the month. On Wednesday, President Tayyip Erdogan said a Turkish offensive into Idlib was a “matter of time.”
Ankara and Moscow have accused each other of flouting a 2018 de-escalation agreement that allowed Turkey and Russia to set up military observation posts in Idlib.
Turkey has said some of its posts in Idlib were surrounded by Syrian government forces, but that it would not evacuate the positions or move them. On Tuesday, presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Turkey had rejected alternative maps offered by Russia during talks.
Earlier on Thursday, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said there had been some rapprochement with Russia in their talks on Idlib but that they were still not at the desired levels.
“There is no such thing as the Russians imposing a map on us, we exchanged documents presenting our respective positions,” Cavusoglu told state broadcaster TRT Haber.
Russia, which backs Assad, has said a Turkish offensive into Idlib would be the “worst-case scenario” and that Russia would work to prevent the situation there from worsening. Iran, which also backs Assad, has said it was ready to mediate between Syria and Turkey if necessary.
The official said Turkey, Russia and Iran planned to meet in Tehran early next month to further discuss Syria, including the developments in Idlib. A Russian delegation may come to Ankara before that to evaluate progress made on Idlib, the person said.