And critics have disparaged the idea vehemently, pointing out that Hamas was acting against extremist jihadist groups in Gaza.
Egyptian sources have been warning about Hamas for years, and the nation declared Hamas to be a terrorist group last year. Again, Hamas' defenders dismissed the idea, pointing out that Hamas has denied any ties and wants to maintain a close relationship with Egypt.
Recent events have shown that not only are Hamas and ISIS two sides of the same coin - they are actively cooperating.
The Egyptian soldiers stationed on the border of the Gaza Strip have encountered this sight more than once in the past few weeks: Hamas-owned bulldozers and tractors appear and begin excavations on the border with the Sinai Peninsula.Last week came confirmation of the relationship between Hamas and ISIS from a leaked internal ISIS letter, reported by MEMRI;
Despite promises to Cairo that Hamas is not engaged in the smuggling trade with the Islamic State’s Sinai affiliate, the bulldozers are digging tunnels in broad daylight, to the astonishment of the Egyptians, to boost the smuggling from and to Sinai that has recently been compromised.
These bulldozers approach the border, and then abruptly disappear underground, according to sources in the Gaza Strip. Several seconds later, they exit the tunnels, loaded with dirt, and unload it not far from the excavation site.
And even if Cairo gave the workers the benefit of the doubt and thought they could be working without the knowledge of Hamas, the sight of them taking “coffee breaks” at Hamas security positions, right in front of the Egyptian soldiers’ eyes, dispels any notion that the Strip’s rulers aren’t behind what’s going on.
The heavy digging shows the cooperation between the terror group and the IS group is seemingly only getting stronger. Hamas continues to dig tunnels into Sinai, using its heavy machinery. At the same time, the Sinai branch of the Islamic State and Hamas are trying to build a permanent and organized channel to evacuate the wounded IS fighters into Gaza. This is on top of sending Gazan fighters to Sinai, as was recently reported by The Times of Israel.
Sources in the Gaza Strip said that last week, one of the Islamic State’s primary smugglers in Sinai, Ibrahim Abu al-Kariya, a Bedouin resident of Sinai, visited the Strip. His goal was to meet with senior officials in Hamas’ armed wing to facilitate the evacuations of the wounded, through the tunnels, in a more orderly fashion.
The IS fighters do not have access to medical care in the peninsula, since the Egyptian government and security forces control the hospitals, hence their need for hospitalization in Gaza.
Hamas’s military wing, under the leadership of Muhammed Deif and Yahya Sinwar, accompany them from the moment they enter the Strip, hospitalize them under assumed identities, and take care of their every need. Moreover, al-Kariya coordinates the transfer of fighters – most of whom identify with Salafists, but at least some of whom were Hamas fighters until recently.
In the past month, two former Hamas members went from the Strip to Sinai, Mohammed Sami and Mahmoud Zinet. The two are allegedly aligned with the Salafists, such that Hamas can renounce them if need be. Yet they went to Sinai with their former commanders’ knowledge.
Al-Kariya is responsible for smuggling weapons into the Gaza Strip, and in exchange, he receives money, weapons manufactured in Gaza, and the military know-how of those former Hamas fighters who went to fight in Sinai. Hamas is fully aware of this phenomenon, according to the sources in Gaza, and they view the cooperation with the jihadists as critical to their interests.
This is in stark contrast to the view of the political wing, which opposes it and demanded that they end this collaboration.
On February 24, 2016, a letter from an Islamic State (ISIS) fighter to ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi was posted on social media. In it, the fighter strongly protests the close ties and cooperation between ISIS's Sinai province and Hamas, particularly Hamas's military wing.The Washington Institute reported on specific cooperation between the groups last December:
This letter is the first confirmation of ties between the two organizations that comes from ISIS itself, and a unique firsthand account of the nature of these ties. It appears that the document was not meant for circulation outside ISIS, and to have been leaked by Al-Qaeda supporters.
The letter ... explains the areas in which the groups collaborate: ISIS fighters in Sinai are smuggling weapons into Gaza for Hamas; Hamas is producing weapons and explosive devices for ISIS Sinai; Hamas is providing logistical assistance to ISIS Sinai, including communications systems and hospitalization for its wounded fighters in Gaza; and ISIS Sinai officials are visiting Gaza and dining at the homes of Hamas government and military wing officials.
Over the past two years, IS Sinai helped Hamas move weapons from Iran and Libya through the peninsula, taking a generous cut from each shipment. Hamas relies on Bedouin guides to avoid detection by the Egyptian army and reach the few tunnels that have survived Cairo's aggressive flooding and closure campaign. In this manner, IS Sinai acquired the advanced Kornet antitank missiles it has used to sink an Egyptian patrol boat off the coast of al-Arish and destroy several tanks and armored carriers stationed in the peninsula's northeastern sector. Hamas has also provided training to some IS Sinai fighters and assisted with the group's media campaign and online postings.All these reports make clear that it is the military wing of Hamas that is actively working with ISIS, and it is the political wing that is issuing statements denying any such cooperation.
One of the main Hamas officials involved in this activity is Ayman Nofal, former commander of the IDQB's Central District Brigade. Prior to his 2008 arrest by Egyptian authorities, he was in charge of developing Hamas's system of safe houses and collaborators among the Bedouins. He managed to escape from a Cairo prison in 2011 during the riots accompanying the Arab Spring and soon resumed his work in Sinai.
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