Last week, the Sinai branch of Islamic State (IS) released a video of its men executing a Hamas terrorist-turned-IS terrorist for smuggling arms and people from the Sinai to the Hamas regime in Gaza. Is the close cooperation between the two groups, which has lasted for several years, coming to an end? Bassam Tawil draws out the implications:
There are many Palestinians from the Gaza Strip who have joined IS in the past few years . . . [and many of these] are former members of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, [an Iran-backed group that enjoys cordial relations with Hamas]. Some even held senior positions in the armed wings of those two terror groups.
The business of smuggling weapons and terrorists across the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt has flourished for many years. Until recently, IS and Hamas were in full cooperation in this business, [which] undoubtedly facilitated some of the major terror attacks against Egyptian civilians and the Egyptian army carried out by IS in the Sinai in recent years.
IS, [however], is now making it clear that it has its eyes set on the Gaza Strip. By calling on Palestinians to rebel against Hamas, IS hopes to facilitate its mission of infiltrating Gaza. Its previous attempts to do so have been successfully thwarted by Hamas. Hamas brooks no competition. Ever. . . .
This is . . . a power struggle between two ruthless Islamic jihadist terror groups who have much in common regarding strategy and ideology. . . . For now, no one knows where this IS-Hamas feud is headed. What is certain is that the ongoing attempts by IS to infiltrate the Palestinian arena should worry not only Palestinians but Israel and Egypt as well.
If IS manages to get a toehold in the Gaza Strip, they will be that much closer to Israel’s doorstep, and their jihadists minutes from Israeli towns and cities. For the Egyptians, this means that one day they will have to fight IS not only in the Sinai but also inside the Gaza Strip. The biggest losers, once again: the Palestinians.