Hamas Security Forces in Gaza Kill ISIS Supporter

Said Khatib/AFP/Getty Images
Said Khatib/AFP/Getty Images
Washington, D.C.

An alleged Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) supporter was fatally shot Tuesday in the Gaza Strip by Hamas security forces who have launched a crackdown against radical jihadists in the disputed territory, according to various news reports.

“Hamas security forces have killed an ISIS supporter in the Gaza Strip, the first death since the party, which rules the enclave, initiated a crackdown on those aligned to the radical group,” reports Newsweek.

“The local leader of an extremist Islamic splinter group was fatally shot Tuesday in a clash with Hamas forces who had come to arrest him,” notes The New York Times. “The death raised tensions in Gaza at a time when Hamas, which controls the territory, has been cracking down on radical jihadists.”

Hamas, the ruling party in Gaza, is trying to impede the rise of ISIS’ ideology in the territory, notes Newsweek, adding that it arrested an ISIS supporter in April.

A day prior to the recent killing, an ISIS supporter in Gaza issued a statement and a 48-hour ultimatum warning Hamas to end its crackdown on Islamic extremists in the blockaded territory.

“In the light of Hamas’s new crackdown, we renew our loyalty to [ISIS Caliph Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi and call on him to strengthen his influence and to launch a campaign in Palestine,” said the statement, which was sent to reporters, according to Newsweek.

Iyad al-Buzom, a spokesman for the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry in Gaza, identified the man who was recently killed as Younis Hounor.

Buzom called him an outlaw who refused to surrender and opened fired on Hamas security troops, reports The New York Times.

The spokesman reportedly added the man had booby-trapped his residence and had a wide range of weapons inside, including explosive belts, bombs, rocket-propelled grenades, and various other weapons.

However, the brother of the killed man denied that the house contained weapons, describing the raid as terrorism and adding that Hounor had been killed because he supported ISIS and the imposition of Islamic law.

The dead man’s family confirmed his identity, noting that he was 27-years-old.

Muhammad Hounor, his brother, said the killed man spent four years as a fighter in Hamas’ military before linking up with the more radical Salafist stream of Islam about two years ago.

“Hamas, the largest and strongest Islamist militant group in Gaza, began a campaign about a month ago against Salafists, some of whom now adhere to the Islamic State, the extremist group that has seized control of large areas in Iraq and Syria and is also known as ISIS or ISIL,” reports The New York Times. “So far, the local Salafist groups appear to have no formal ties with the Islamic State.”

“Hamas has set up checkpoints around Gaza and is said to have arrested dozens of Salafists, fundamentalists who follow a strict interpretation of Islamic law, want it imposed on everyone and rail against what they view as Hamas’s restraint in fighting Israel,” it adds. “Hamas has been enforcing the informal cease-fire that ended the 50-day war last summer between Israel and Hamas.”

Salafists are Sunni muslims, who have made no secret of their disdain for Hamas’ support of the  ceasefire with Israel and its failure to implement strict Islamic law.

Citing a police statement, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports that Palestinians in the Gaza Strip fired three rockets into Israel late Wednesday, raising the likelihood of a response from the Israeli military.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

“Israeli public radio said the latest volley could be related to internal Gaza infighting between the strip’s Hamas rulers and its extremist opponents,” notes AFP.

“Yoram Schweitzer, an Israeli expert at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, said that the Salafist groups in Gaza had failed to secure the support of the Islamic State and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,” adds The New York Times. “The reasons for that, Mr. Schweitzer said, include factional splits among the groups in Gaza, their inability to carve out any territory where their interpretation of Islamic law can hold sway, and their ineffectiveness in fighting Hamas or Israel.”