TEL AVIV – An Islamic State faction in Sinai has been making gains against the Egyptian army and setting up autonomous enclaves in the peninsula, a Salafi militant source in Gaza told Breitbart Jerusalem.
He claimed that the Arab and international media collude with the Egyptian army to downplay IS victories. IS, said the source, has driven troops out of the strategic Sinai towns of Sheik Zweid and Al Arish.
“Every day soldiers are getting killed and the Mujahideen take root in Sinai at the expense of the army,” he said. “These towns are the militia’s home base. The locals turn to them to resolve disputes or get religious guidance. IS runs commercial enterprises, enacts marriages, and is in charge of other issues pertaining to civil life.”
A recently consolidated partnership between Libyan and Egyptian jihadists will soon affect the Gaza Strip, he added.
“Dozens of young Gazans undergo training in Sinai, and soon they’ll come back home to implement what they’ve learned,” he said.
Asked whether their effort will be turned against Hamas or Israel, he said: “Our goal is to reach every place where Muslims live. If Hamas changes its ways and enforces Sharia law, we will take on the Zionist enemy only. But if Hamas continues to act like the rest of the oppressive Arab regimes, we’ll have to deal with them too.”
“It is no coincidence that in its recent official statements IS has made reference to Palestine and Jerusalem,” he added. “Jerusalem is a central tenet of our agenda, both in ideology and in practice.”
In November, Breitbart Jerusalem obtained and published exclusive images of what jihadists said was an IS training camp in the Sinai. The camp was in the same general area where a Russian passenger plane crashed in October. Russia announced the aircraft was brought down by a “terror act” and IS published what it claimed was a picture of the bomb that downed the plane.
One of the most significant elements of the camp was the Gaza-centric imagery.
One image contained a sign bearing the name of Sheikh Imam Abu Noor al-Maqdisi, also known as Sheikh Abdul Latif Musa. Maqdisi was the leader of a Salafist group in Gaza who proclaimed the formation of the “Islamic Emirate of Gaza” on August 14, 2009. One day later he was killed by Hamas forces.
According to the Gazan militant who provided the photos in November, the camp was a 10-month training center that closed up shop last July, when the Egyptian Air Force bombed jihadist positions in the Sinai during a massive military campaign.
The jihadist said scores of Gazan militants received training in the IS base camp, which he says was run by the Sinai-based and IS-affiliated Al-Wilayat group.