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ISIS Commander Visits Gaza to Boost Ties with Hamas

Shadi al-Menei, the commander of ISIS in the Sinai, is meeting with Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip to discuss ways that the terrorist groups can increase cooperation and coordinate attacks, The Times of Israel reported on Thursday, citing Israel’s Channel 2.

Al-Menei was one of the founders of the Sinai-based terrorist group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which in 2014 declared its allegiance to ISIS. He is reputed to have been the mastermind behind a 2011 cross-border terror attack that left eight Israelis and several Egyptians dead, and his forces are responsible for occasional rocket fire against southern Israel. Last year, Egypt claimed to have killed al-Menei in an ambush, but that turned out to be false.

The Times noted that the terrorist groups were also reportedly discussing their arms smuggling operations. Hamas has previously transferred Cornet anti-tank missiles to the Sinai, allowing ISIS to carry out strikes against Egyptian tanks, armored personnel carriers, and even one navy ship.

The widening coordination between the terrorist organizations is concerning to both Egypt and Israel, and echoes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s observation in his 2014 speech to the United Nations General Assembly “that ISIS and Hamas are branches of the same poisonous tree.”

Hamas actively trains ISIS’ Sinai operatives, some of whom have been treated in Gaza hospitals. Al-Menei himself, at one point, hid out in Gaza under Hamas’ protection. In July, al-Menei’s group put its training to use and carried out a coordinated attack against Egyptian security forces in northern Sinai, killing dozens. That same month, the group also claimed responsibility for launching a missile at an Egyptian naval vessel off the coast of northern Sinai, as well as the firing of rockets into Israel’s Eshkol region. At the time, an Israeli general confirmed that Hamas was assisting ISIS in the Sinai, including through logistical support and arms smuggling, while Times of Israel journalist Avi Issacharoff called the relationship between the groups as one of “close cooperation.”

Earlier this year, Issacharoff reported, Hamas launched drones to spy on Egyptian troop movements in Sinai along the Gaza border, in order to “keep smuggling routes open between Sinai and Gaza. These routes are vital to Hamas on one side of the border, and Islamic State on the other.”

Some analysts have referred to the terror wave in Israel as the “ISIS uprising,” and ISIS has issued videos praising the attacks and calling for more violence against Israelis and Jews. ISIS released a video called “Project Behead the Jews“; in another video, the speaker says “we will not enjoy our lives or take pleasure with a lavish abode until we liberate Al-Aqsa from the defilement of the sons of apes and pigs.” A Palestinian who attacked the Beersheba bus station, killing an IDF soldier, in October said that he was inspired by ISIS. That month, a Hebrew-speaking ISIS militant vowed that “soon there will not be one Jew left in Jerusalem” and declared, “We will enter al-Aksa mosque as conquerors, using our cars as bombs to strike the Jewish ramparts.”

[Photo: CNN / YouTube ]