Hamas is treating Islamic State fighters in the Gaza Strip and helping the fellow terrorist group transfer weapons to the Sinai Peninsula, where heavy fighting continues between the ISIS-affiliated Sinai Province and the Egyptian army, Avi Issacharoff reported Sunday in The Times of Israel.
“It has recently become clear to the Egyptians that one of the main smuggling tunnels being used by Islamic State is operating under the protection of Hamas and belongs to a smuggler who works with the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing,” Issacharoff reported, citing Arab sources.
The armaments being smuggled to Sinai Province with Hamas’ permission include anti-tank weapons and improvised explosive devices. The IEDs are regularly used as roadside bombs against vehicles operated by the Egyptian army, which has yet to devise foolproof countermeasures. “Some of these roadside bombs come from Gaza; others are assembled in the Sinai. Explosives experts from Hamas’s military wing have arrived in the Sinai to assist with the assembly of the devices,” Issacharoff reported.
He noted that the deadly bombing of a Coptic church in Cairo last week, which was claimed by ISIS, did not affect how many of the terrorist group’s wounded fighters were being smuggled into Gaza for treatment.
Egyptian authorities have claimed that Hamas has been crucial to the rise of Sinai Province, transforming it from, in the words of one Egyptian official, “a gang of Bedouin with light weapons into a well-trained, well-armed group of 800 militants.” These close links have enraged Egyptian officials, who recently confronted the Palestinian terrorist group over its collaboration with the Sinai-based jihadists.
Issacharoff reported in August that when Hamas officials initially traveled to the Sinai to help ISIS set up its local infrastructure, they taught the jihadists how to plant explosives and launch missiles at tanks. Some of the Hamas men — including Muhammad Abu Shawish and Abed Al Wahad — even went on to join the group. ISIS leaders are now said to regularly visit Gaza, where they are hosted by Hamas commanders. (A disgruntled ISIS fighter complained in an open letter published in March that ISIS officials attend “lavish banquets” at the homes of Hamas leaders.)
IDF Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai told the Arabic news site Elaph in February that the same tunnel network that Hamas uses to smuggle arms and explosives into Gaza also serves as a crossing for wounded Sinai Province fighters, which Hamas is treating in exchange for money and weapons. Israeli sources familiar with the situation told Elaph that Israel is keeping Egypt informed of Sinai Province’s movements in the Sinai and of the group’s relationship with Hamas. They also said that Israel provided the Egyptian military with aerial photographs of tunnel openings along the Sinai-Gaza border, which serve as a nexus for facilitation and cooperation between the two jihadist groups.
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