TEL AVIV – Palestinian terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip have recently expelled dozens of members for supporting the Islamic State, illustrating ISIS’ rising popularity in the Palestinian coastal enclave.
Sources in a number of Palestinian jihadist groups told Breitbart Jerusalem that as many as 30 members have been ejected from the military branch of Islamic Jihad; Hamas’ so-called military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigade; and the Popular Resistance Committee’s military branch.
The expulsions took place after the subjects were interrogated about their support for ISIS, the sources said. In many cases, the Palestinian jihadi groups held what one source described as “ideological education” sessions to convince them to abandon ISIS.
Hamas’ “Daawa” committee – charged with strengthening the group’s ideology – initiated a number of talks with the “suspects” with the goal of dissuading them from supporting ISIS. One Hamas source said that the ISIS-aligned Hamas members were expelled when it became clear that they could not be persuaded.
Sources in several Gaza jihadist groups said that at least some of the expelled members filled mid-level roles in their organizations. One of the ISIS supporters was exiled to the Gaza Strip after he was released from prison as part of the October 2011 deal between Israel and Hamas that freed kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Recently, there have been multiple reports that support for ISIS is rising in Gaza.
Last week, in a speech at the Saban Forum, an annual gathering at the Brookings Institution in Washington, Hillary Clinton referenced an Israeli media report that an ISIS leader held a meeting with Hamas in Gaza to discuss cooperation between the two terrorist organizations.
Shadi Al-Mani’i — commander of Wilayat Sina, ISIS’ Sinai branch — was said to have held the meeting with heads of Hamas’ military wing, according to Israel’s Channel 2.
Stated Clinton: “An ISIS affiliate across the border in Sinai is becoming more aggressive and sophisticated. It is responsible for the destruction of a Russian airliner. And Israeli media reported last week that an ISIS commander from the Sinai visited the Gaza Strip, raising the stakes even higher.”
Hamas denied the report, with representative Ismail Radwan telling reporters, “This talk is untrue. We reject these hostile remarks.”
Last month, Breitbart Jerusalem published images of what jihadists say was an ISIS training camp in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. According to the Gazan jihadist who provided the photos, scores of Gazan militants received training at the ISIS camp, which he said was run by the Sinai-based ISIS-affiliated Al-Wilayat group.
One of the most significant aspects of the camp is its Gaza-centric imagery. One image contains a sign bearing the name of Sheikh Imam Abu Noor al-Maqdisi, aka Sheikh Abdul Latif Musa. Maqdisi was the leader of a Salafist group in Gaza that proclaimed the formation of the “Islamic Emirate of Gaza” on August 14, 2009. One day later he was killed by Hamas forces.
In May, Hamas engaged in deadly clashes with ISIS supporters who challenged Hamas rule.
In July, the Information Bureau of the Aleppo Province, affiliated with ISIS, released a video entitled “A message to our folks in Jerusalem,” in which ISIS members originally from Gaza declared war on Israel and Hamas.
In the video, ISIS member and Gaza native Abu Azzam Al-Ghazzawim delivered a strong-worded warning to what he called the “tyrants of Hamas”:
“You are nothing in our reckoning. You, Fatah, and all the secularists, we count you as nothing. Allah willing, we shall uproot the state of the Jews. You are nothing but froth that will be gone as we move in. Allah willing, Gaza will be governed by Shariah despite you.”
Abu Qatadah Al-Filistini, an ISIS member who leads a faction in Aleppo, Syria, made an appearance in the video and called on all “monotheists in Gaza to join the convoy of the Muhajidin and to join the State of the Caliphate.”
Abu Qatadah accused Hamas of “sliding gradually into apostasy, a slide that started with the demolition of the Ibn Taymiyah Mosque.”
“It is a movement that does not seek to govern according to Shariah but seeks to appease Iran and America, the heads of apostasy.”