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Hamas has long had a complicated relationship with Salafi-jihadi groups operating in Gaza.Salafi movements are hardly a new phenomenon in Gaza, with nonviolent social and political groups – including Hizb al-Tahrir – operating in Gaza since at least the 1980s. Hamas has taken different approaches to Salafi-jihadi groups over time, from turning a blind eye to local Salafi-jihadi activism to actively cracking down on them. Since then, the relationship between Hamas and Salafi groups has not substantially improved, even though – following the ousting of Mohammad Morsi's government in Egypt in summer 2013 – Hamas reportedly sought to freeze the conflict with the Salafi-jihadi camp by trying to reach a detente and partially adopting a more lenient posture. In response, ISIS supporters in Gaza launched attacks against Hamas, including a mortar attack against a Qassam Brigades base in southern Gaza, and issued more threats against Hamas and the Qassam Brigades specifically.At the same time, the rise of the latest manifestation of the Salafi-jihadi camp is politically worrying for Hamas.Finally, in an effort to weaken Hamas and undermine its grip over Gaza, the Salafi-jihadi camp could step up its rocket attacks against Israel, which in turn could lead to its much-desired escalation.
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