Israel

After Threats, Israeli Intelligence Intensifies Efforts Against ISIS Sinai Affiliate

The IDF has intensified efforts to collect information on ISIS-Sinai Province, the Islamic State’s affiliate in the Sinai Peninsula, after the group issued several threats against the Jewish state, Ynet reported on Sunday.

Military Intelligence has added ‘heavy’ and classified operative layers to its efforts to increase and improve the collection and monitoring of Islamic State’s Sinai Province, which accuses Israel of supporting and assisting the Egyptian army in its war against its militants – sufficient grounds for them to target the IDF.

The terror group, known as “the most effective ISIS branch in the Middle East,” recently published videos calling for attacks on Israeli targets. Those videos echo the recent audio recording by ISIS leader and “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi threatening that Israel “will be a graveyard” for Jews and warning that “Allah assembled you in Palestine so that the Muslims kill you.”

Israeli officials say they are operating under the assumption that any attack carried out by ISIS would take place with very little or no advance warning.

The majority of data the IDF is able to collect on the group is gathered through technological means, rather than human assets. This is largely due to the difficulties inherent in embedding agents deep within jihadist organizations, as well as ISIS-Sinai Province’s large zone of operation, which stretches across 10 to 12 square miles of mountainous terrain.

The group, which receives millions of dollars in aid from funders abroad, has thousands of jihadists in its ranks and the capacity to attack Egyptian targets on a daily basis. While it claims that Israel routinely assists Egyptian forces in their efforts to quell the Sinai insurgency, the IDF only admitted to helping its Egyptian counterpart once before, when it was trying to locate a downed Russian passenger jet in the Sinai this past October.

According to Ynet, IDF battalions and special-ops units are on alert near the Sinai border, with several recent drills taking place in recent months.

Two weeks ago, Ynet reported that Hamas, the Iran-sponsored terror organization that rules the Gaza Strip, has been funding ISIS-Sinai Province with tens of thousands of dollars per month in weapons sales. Hamas receives much of its own funding from Tehran.

Egyptian authorities say that Hamas’ logistical support and training was key in facilitating the rise of ISIS-Sinai Province. Hamas also brought jihadists from the group into Gaza for medical treatment when they were wounded.

Shadi al-Menei, who heads ISIS-Sinai Province, reportedly met with top Hamas leaders in Gaza earlier this month in an effort to bolster coordination between the groups. In July, ISIS-Sinai Province 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-Sinai Province 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.”

[Photo: Israel Defense Forces / Flickr]