Hamas Itself under Suicide Terror Threat from…. ISIS Sinai
What happens when a radical Islamist terrorist organization is threatened with suicide terror by a bigger fish of the same ilk? The unforeseen irony is that the Palestinian Hamas which rules the Gaza Strip is about to find out.
This development had its beginning four months ago, when Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas prime minister of the Gaza Strip, traveled to Doha, in a bid to win the organization’s top spot in place of former bureau chief, Khaled Meshaal, who was living in exile after fleeing his former headquarters in Damascus.
In January, when he saw that his bid was going nowhere, Haniyeh decided to return home to Gaza City. But on the way, he stopped over in Cairo to seek the patronage of Egypt’s El-Sisi administration.
The stopover lasted for most of this week, during which he held long talks with Maj. Gen. Khaled Fawzy, the Director of Egyptian General Intelligence. Most of their daily conversations focused on Ansar Beit al Maqdis (Supporters of Jerusalem), the Sinai terrorist group which has sworn allegiance to the Islamic State.
This group has got the Egyptian army on the run in the Peninsula and in some mainland cities as well, including even the capital, Cairo. The Egyptians allege that, without close Hamas support, ISIS would not have been able to expand its operations to this degree. They have accused Hamas’ armed wing, Ezz-e-din al-Qassam, of making itself Ansar’s main supplier of arms and intelligence in Sinai, treating its wounded in Gaza hospitals.
Last year, according to Egyptian intelligence sources, a senior ISIS commander in Sinai called Shadi al-Menei, one of the founders of Ansar, paid a secret visit to Gaza City for talks with Hamas leaders on expanding their cooperation and coordination for attacks on Egyptian and Israeli targets. They also discussed supplying the Palestinian Hamas with the weapons it was after for its own terror operations.
But in the last three weeks, since Haniyeh’s return home, Cairo has begun to turn Hamas around, rewarding the Palestinian group with perks, including eased restrictions for the exit of Gazans to Egypt on their way to the Gulf emirates, and the loosening up of the list of imports allowed to enter the Strip.
In return, Hamas security forces have begun cracking down on the Salafist extremists, who provide ISIS-Sinai with its ideological and operational support system in Gaza, as well as intelligence. Hundreds of ISIS collaborators have been arrested.
Hamas has also frozen its supplies of arms and explosives to the Sinai terrorist group.
It is not known whether the Palestinian group has pulled its own operatives, mostly explosives and engineering experts, from the various ISIS Sinai units to which they were loaned. Egypt did not buy Hamas’ pretext that they were defectors, and accused them of abetting the Islamists in their terror attacks on the Egyptian army.
DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence and counterterrorism sources disclose that Monday, Jan. 23, ISIS, sensing the new winds blowing in from Gaza, posted on their internal sites a warning to Hamas, demanding the release of Salafist detainees without delay or else to prepare for massive suicide attacks in the Gaza Strip.
The message under the heading: “What is Hamas waiting for?” ran to 10 points, in which the Sinai Islamists stated that they would not take lying down the “crimes” Hamas security services were perpetrating in the Strip.
“We can teach them a lesson they will never forget when everything around them goes up in flames” it said, and asked: “What does the hangman expect of his victims?”
And a final ISIS-style rhetorical question: “Do you really believe you can bear the consequences of your betrayal and your collaboration with the forces fighting Islam in Mosul and Syria?”
This warning jolted the Hamas armed wing onto its highest terror alert against suicide attacks, an area of expertise in which the Palestinian group, one of its progenitors, could ironically teach the younger Islamic State a thing or two.