Senior intelligence officials told the Wall Street Journal the Islamic State’s Egyptian affiliate has developed ties with Hamas’s terrorist government in the Gaza strip threatening both Israel and Egypt.
Israeli officials said the cooperation between ISIS and Hamas extended as far as military training, though Hamas officials have denied any involvement with ISIS in the Sinai peninsula. ISIS’s Egyptian affiliate was likely responsible for downing a Russian jet with 224 people on board in October 2015.
Both Egypt’s defense and interior ministries have said Hamas and ISIS have coordinated attacks in the northern Sinai peninsula near the Israeli border. In late 2015, Hamas fighters reportedly spent a month in the Sinai peninsula teaching Islamic State militants how to fire anti-tank missiles.
This military cooperation precedes reports that wounded ISIS fighters were being treated by Hamas within the Palestinian territories. In February 2016, Israeli General Yoav Mordechai warned that ISIS fighters had entered the Gaza strip through underground smuggling tunnels seeking medical treatment.
Mordechai confirmed May 13 to the Saudi Arabian media outlet Elaph that ISIS activists had snuck into the Gaza strip to offer monetary assistance and weapons to Hamas. Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad denied any allegations of cooperation with ISIS, telling the Wall Street Journal, “We have nothing to do with Egypt.”
Israeli officials warn Hamas is only outwardly rejecting ties with Iran and other radical jihadist elements in a bid to appear less radical. Hamas’s leaders are reportedly embarrassed by public revelations of their ties with Jihadists as they continue to try and strengthen their relationship with Egypt. Egypt continues to keep a border crossing between Gaza and the Sinai peninsula closed as it works to defeat ISIS.
Egyptians ISIS affiliate is composed of battle hardened jihadist veterans of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Al Qaeda. Western and Israeli intelligence officials warn that ISIS’s Egyptian affiliate is in constant communication with ISIS’s headquarters in Iraq and Syria. The group receives both funding and social media promotion from headquarters according to Egyptian security officials.
Hamas relies heavily on smuggling tunnels to the Sinai peninsula, which ISIS has come to control. Egypts military is reportedly cooperating with Israel to shut down as many tunnels as possible to degrade both terrorist organizations. These military operations have strengthened Hamas’s ties to ISIS as both rely on each other for medical care and weapons smuggling.
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