Middle East

ISIS threatens to topple Hamas in Gaza Strip

An Egyptian army tank is seen as members of Palestinian security forces loyal to Hamas patrol the border area of southern Gaza Strip with Egypt July 1, 2015. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

CAIRO: ISIS insurgents threatened Tuesday to turn the Gaza Strip into another of their Middle East fiefdoms, accusing Hamas, the organization that rules the Palestinian territory, of being insufficiently stringent about religious enforcement.

The video statement, issued from an ISIS stronghold in Syria, was a rare public challenge to Hamas, which has been cracking down on militants in Gaza who oppose its truces with Israel and reconciliation with the U.S.-backed rival Palestinian faction Fatah.

“We will uproot the state of the Jews [Israel] and you and Fatah, and all of the secularists are nothing and you will be overrun by our creeping multitudes,” said a masked ISIS member in the message addressed to the “tyrants of Hamas.”

“The rule of Shariah [Islamic law] will be implemented in Gaza, in spite of you. We swear that what is happening in the Levant today, and in particular the Yarmouk camp, will happen in Gaza,” he said, referring to ISIS advances in Syria, including in a Damascus district founded by Palestinian refugees.

ISIS has also taken over swaths of Iraq and has claimed attacks in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen.

Hamas is an Islamist movement that shares the militants’ hostility to Israel but not their quest for a global religious war, defining itself more within the framework of Palestinian nationalism.

Deemed a terrorist group by Israel, the United States and the European Union, and viewed by the neighboring Arab power Egypt as a regional security threat, Hamas’ struggle against ISIS-linked militants has not won sympathy abroad.

Israel’s intelligence minister, Israel Katz, accused Hamas Tuesday of partnering with ISIS affiliates in the Egyptian Sinai – a charge long denied by the Palestinian group.

“There is cooperation between them in the realm of weapons smuggling and terrorist attacks. The Egyptians know this, and the Saudis,” the intelligence minister told a Tel Aviv conference organized by the Israel Defense journal.

“At the same time, within Gaza, ISIS has been flouting Hamas. But they have common cause against the Jews, in Israel or abroad,” Katz added.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 02, 2015, on page 9.

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