TEL AVIV – Hamas’ deterrence in the Gaza Strip has been significantly undermined by radical Islamists, according to an Egyptian intelligence estimate obtained by Breitbart Jerusalem.
The report, which was prepared ahead of the Hamas-Egypt bilateral talks last month, says that Hamas’ central authority, which it labored to impose on rival armed groups since it took over the Strip in 2007, has begun to weaken.
Prior to Hamas’ rise to power, armed opposition groups and powerful clans exploited the Palestinian Authority’s weakness and terrorized the civilian population in Gaza for its political and economic ends.
Following Hamas’ seizure of power, the report says, the terrorist group cracked down on these clans, most famously the Dughmush and Hiless families, arrested rebel members, and confiscated weapons.
For the next two years, Hamas clashed with opposition groups and put an end to the political anarchy that had almost dominated Gaza. In 2009, Hamas blew up the Ibn Tayamiya mosque in Rafah when a group of Salafists led by Sheikh Dr. Abdel Latif Mussa holed up inside and declared the establishment of an Islamic caliphate. The bombing, which many deemed disproportionate, led to 13 fatalities.
The Egyptian report says that the Ibn Tayamiya incident was effective in deterring dissent until the beginning of the Arab Spring in 2011, when caliphate-inspired terrorist groups returned to center stage.
Hamas arrested dozens of jihadi militants who blew up hair salons and internet cafes in Gaza, singling them out as symbols of “corruptive” Western culture.
At the same time, however, some elements within Hamas started warming to more radical Islamic views. They began cooperating with jihadi militants and helped some of the detainees escape from prison, the report says.
The report states that, internally, Hamas struggled to justify measures against fellow Islamists, as opposed to Israel or the secular Palestinian Authority. The arrival of the Islamic State on the global and local scene further exacerbated that tension.
The report also says that the erosion of Hamas’ authority culminated last year. In January 2015, Salafists celebrated the attacks on the Parisian satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, saying it was a deserved punishment for its insulting caricatures of the prophet Mohammed. Encouraged by the penetration of IS into neighboring Sinai, Salafists in Gaza launched attacks against Hamas vehicles and buildings. An internal Hamas inquiry showed that these attacks were assisted by active Hamas members, according to the report.
Most of the perpetrators fled to Sinai before being caught, where they joined Welayat Sinai, IS’s Egyptian affiliate. Others continued to Iraq and Syria. The operator of the tunnel through which they escaped was caught by Hamas, the report documents, and said in his interrogation that he had been first approached by top Hamas commanders.
Jihadis further embarrassed Hamas by firing multiple rockets on Israel, which in turn retaliated by striking Hamas targets.
The Egyptian report concludes by saying that Hamas launched far-reaching organizational reforms, especially in its military wing, in light of “the growing influence of Salafist ideology and practice.”
“This ideological confusion,” the report says, “leads to dual loyalties and a sense of abandon that many groups in the Gaza Strip, mainly jihadist, interpret as opportune for stepping up their subversion.”
Finally, the report says that these developments are a danger to Egypt’s national security.