Hamas forces have arrested 22 members of its military wing en route to join Welayat Sinai, the Islamic State affiliate in the Egyptian peninsula, a top official in Gaza told Breitbart Jerusalem.
Eighteen militants, two of them senior operatives, were arrested in the city of Rafah, near the Egyptian border. Another four, one of them a senior militant, were arrested in Gaza City and its environs. They were all interrogated by Hamas police.
The official said that Hamas set up an “ideological watchdog” in the wake of growing sympathies for radical jihadism among its members, especially the group’s so-called military wing.
Suspected IS loyalists are turned over to Hamas “reeducation committees,” while more senior members are first arrested and interrogated, then assessed by the committees and eventually “pardoned,” the official said.
IS, for its part, has started turning to disgruntled Hamas activists as a recruitment source. The organization is targeting them on social media, as well as publishing names and pictures of former Hamas members who were killed in action in Sinai in a bid to embarrass the Egyptian government.
Since last year, dozens of Hamas militants, including several very senior ones, have defected to join IS ranks.
Hamas retaliated by arresting hundreds of IS loyalists in Gaza. The arrests involved at least one exchange of gunfire.
Asked for comment on the arrests, Iyad Albuzum, a spokesperson for Hamas’ Interior Ministry, told Breitbart Jerusalem he could not provide details about actions taken by the security services.