TEL AVIV – Hamas arrested six jihadi fighters this week shortly after their return to their native Gaza after fighting for the Islamic State in Egypt. They planned to establish an IS cell in Gaza, a top Hamas official told Breitbart Jerusalem.
The six, who returned to Gaza separately, were arrested following an intelligence operation conducted by Hamas, which has since interrogated them in a bid to accumulate data about Waliyat Sinai, IS’s affiliate in Egypt, including about its forces and arsenal, the official said.
A great deal of the interrogators’ attention was paid to the whereabouts of dozens of Gazans who have enlisted with Waliyat Sinai, as well as the militia’s logistical, recruitment, and communications infrastructure – namely, the methods by which fighters are smuggled out of the Strip under Hamas’ nose.
In recent months, in the wake of relentless Egyptian pressure, Hamas has tried to tap into the jihadists’ cross-border communication networks. Hamas was alarmed to realize that some of the recruits were former loyalists, including several high-ranking operatives.
The six detainees allegedly said that they had been asked to set up an IS cell in Gaza. The official said that one of the options under review was to unite the different jihadi organizations in the Strip under IS’s flag, after some of them, including the Army of Islam, submitted official requests to IS headquarters in Raqqa to become their representatives in Gaza.
“The operatives weren’t asked to set up a military infrastructure, but rather to review the feasibility of merging the multiple existing infrastructures into one,” he said.
The Sinai has become one of the region’s top IS zones. Breitbart Jerusalem reported that in the month of April alone, 12 jihadists departed Gaza to join the Islamic State in the Sinai.
The recruitment of Gazan jihadists by IS in Sinai comes after a top jihadist official threatened in a recent exclusive interview on “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio” that it is only a matter of time before the Islamic State’s branch in the Sinai carries out a “big operation” in the Israeli resort town of Eilat and other parts of southern Israel.
IS has also set its sights on countering Hamas in Gaza. Last year, Hamas engaged in deadly clashes with IS supporters who challenged Hamas rule.
Last July, the Information Bureau of the Aleppo Province, affiliated with IS, 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, IS member and Gaza native Abu Azzam Al-Ghazzawim delivered a strongly-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 IS 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.”