Hamas, the Iran-sponsored terror organization that rules the Gaza Strip, has been funding the ISIS affiliate in the Sinai region of Egypt with tens of thousands of dollars per month in weapons sales, Ynet reported Monday.
Hamas is paying the Islamic State militants in Egypt to secure weapons shipments being smuggled through the Sinai to Gaza.
The shipments primarily consist of explosive propellant material that Hamas needs in order to make rockets. As such the money is going towards smuggling both military equipment and material needed to build Hamas’ military infrastructure.
According to Egyptian authorities, Hamas’ logistical support and training has been responsible for transforming “a gang of Bedouin with light weapons into a well-trained, well-armed group of 800 militants.” Hamas also brought ISIS terrorists into Gaza for medical treatment when they were wounded.
In return for their support, ISIS has helped Hamas smuggle goods and arms into the Gaza Strip, as Egypt has been destroying the smuggling tunnels that run between Gaza and the Sinai.
Ties between the two groups’ leaderships are also strengthening: Since 2015, Shadi al-Mani’i, the commander of ISIS’s Sinai branch, who is wanted by the Egyptian authorities, has been staying in Gaza. He previously led another Islamist group in the Sinai, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, that was affiliated to Al-Qaeda and carried out several operations against Israel. Al-Mani’i was also responsible for transferring the group’s allegiance from Al-Qaeda to ISIS.
Al-Menei reportedly met with top Hamas leaders in Gaza earlier this month in an effort to bolster coordination between the groups. In July, al-Menei’s group carried out a major attack against Egyptian security forces in northern Sinai, killing dozens. That same month, the group also claimed responsibility for striking an Egyptian naval vessel off of northern Sinai, as well as for rockets fired into Israel’s southern region. At the time, an Israeli general confirmed that Hamas was assisting ISIS in the Sinai through arms smuggling and other means, while Times of Israel journalist Avi Issacharoff characterized the relationship between the groups as one of “close cooperation.”
Earlier this year, Issacharoff reported that Hamas launched surveillance drones to spy on Egyptian troop movements 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.”
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.”
Monday’s report is the latest confirmation that Iran is aiding ISIS. Iran remains one of Hamas’ top sponsors, meaning that some of the funds paid by Hamas to ISIS come from Tehran. Iran also gives billions in aid to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, who is the largest buyer of oil from ISIS, the U.S. Treasury Department reported last week.
[Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash90 ]