TEL AVIV – Hamas leaders have become increasingly worried as the movement has been hemorrhaging militants who join the Islamic State and similarly radical organizations, a source in Hamas told Breitbart Jerusalem.
The Hamas source in Gaza revealed that three prominent members of Izz al-Din al Qassam Brigades, the movement’s military wing, left Gaza through an underground cross-border tunnel to join IS forces in Sinai last week.
The source said that the three, all members of Hamas’ elite unit in the central Gaza Strip, won top spots in the movement’s recent performance competition.
In the past year, Hamas launched “re-education” committees for members who are suspected of having been “led astray” by IS ideology. But in recent months, Hamas has unofficially admitted to the effort’s failure.
Last week’s defection came a few days after three Hamas members who had been suspected of masterminding the assassination of Mithqal Alsalmi, a prominent Shi’ite activist in Gaza, reportedly fled the Strip to join IS in Sinai.
The source added that the killer himself belonged to Hamas’ elite unit in Western Gaza City, and was in charge of training militants. In addition to his two accomplices who escaped with him, a fourth man was arrested by Hamas police.
The source said that the recent clampdown on Salafists in Gaza is driven by their growing sway in Hamas’ ranks. Hundreds of arrests have been made, including that of Abdullah Alashkar, a top Salafi militant accused of masterminding dozens of rocket attacks on Israel, as well as the bombing of a CIA vehicle in Gaza in 2006.
Hamas has also led a campaign against Salafi clerics who have been actively recruiting Hamas militants. The source said Hamas recently realized that IS’ foothold within Hamas ranks is more significant than previously suspected, and that many members have pledged allegiance to IS without formally renouncing their membership.