While the ranks of the Islamic State (ISIS) continue to swell with foreign Sunni volunteers from Western countries, including the United Kingdom, Belgium and the Netherlands, a stream of jihadists has been silently flowing from a territory much closer to the self-styled Caliphate. Dozens of Palestinian militants from Rafah, Nuseirat, Jabalia and other cities within the Gaza Strip have joined Islamist fighters in Syria and Iraq, indicating increased support for the terrorist group from factions within the Hamas-dominated enclave. ISIS sympathizers have previously displayed the group’s trademark black flag on the Temple Mount, with one militant warning that “God will break all barriers” until the Islamic caliphate reaches Jerusalem.
ISIS flag on Temple Mount
As early as February 2nd, the Mujahedeen Shura Council of Jerusalem, an al-Qaeda affiliate active in the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip, released a statement praising ISIS and pledging its assistance. Just over a week later, a YouTube video emerged depicting dozens of armed Salafist jihadists meeting in Gaza and swearing allegiance to the Islamic State. The account associated with the video has since been removed.
On June 27th, black ISIS flags billowed above the heads of mourners during a funeral held for a Hamas operative. The funeral marked the first open display of support for ISIS within the Hamas dominated enclave.
The Gatestone Institute released a report soon thereafter, noting the concerns of Israeli security sources who claim that ISIS followers were behind a spate of rockets attacks on Israeli civilians. The report also detailed Hamas’ censorship of journalists covering local ISIS rallies.
Last month, Hamas sent its policemen and militias to disperse a rally organized by ISIS followers in the Gaza Strip to celebrate the recent “military victories” of the terrorist group in Iraq. Hamas prevented local journalists from covering the event as part of its attempt to deny the existence of ISIS in the Gaza Strip.
At the rally, attended by dozens of Islamists, the crowd chanted, “Khaybar, Khyabar, Ya Yahud, Jaish Mohamed Saya’ud!” (“O Jews, Mohamed’s army will return.”)
Hamas’ cross border smuggling tunnels, primarily those which penetrate into Egypt’s Sinai, were highlighted as the primary means by which thousands of Islamists were entering and exiting the Strip.