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After Israeli Air Strike, Attention on Hamas Role in Sinai Jihadist Infrastructure

The Israeli Air Force carried out an air strike in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday against a terrorist who was affiliated with a range of jihadi groups, and who had been involved in an April 17 rocket attack from the Sinai Peninsula on the Israeli city of Eilat. Hithem Ziad Ibrahim Masshal had reportedly once worked in Hamas’s national security forces, but he was claimed after his death by Al Qaeda-linked Salafist jihadists operating in the Sinai Peninsula:

The terrorist, Hithem Ziad Ibrahim Masshal, was said to have “acted in different Jihad Salafi terror organizations and over the past few years has been a key terror figure, specializing in weapons and working with all of the terror organizations in the Gaza Strip.” Reuters reported that Masshal “was believed to be a member of Hamas’s national security force, but relatives said he also belonged to a militant Jihadist Salafi organization.” Palestinian media reports suggested that Masshal had worked as a “security officer at Shifa hospital in Gaza.”

According to the IDF, Masshal, who “manufactured, improved and traded different types of ammunition,” was involved in the April 17 rocket attack on Eilat from the Sinai, for which the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC) had taken responsibility.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had noted in the aftermath of the Eilat rocket attack that Israel would “exact a price” for the bombing. After documenting Masshal’s background, the Israeli army’s blog was terse on the upshot of the air strike:

On April 17, 2013, Masshal was involved in the Shura Council organization’s firing of rockets at the southern Israeli city of Eilat. This demonstrates the IDF’s commitment to preventing terror attacks against the State of Israel.

The movement of materials and personel between the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and the Egyptian-controlled Sinai Peninsula has become an increasingly pressing security issue. Hamas’s facilitation of the back-and-forth has generated significant tension between the Iran-backed terror organization and Egyptian security forces, as those forces attempt to uproot the half-dozen or so distinct jihadist groups which have taken root in the Sinai Peninsula. The result has been a kind of cold war between Hamas and the Egyptian army.

Palestinian media recently reported on a string of arrests conducted by Egyptian security forces against Palestinian operators of the tunnels that run between the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt also this month seized shipments of fuel that smugglers were attempting to bring into into Gaza.

[Photo: JewishNewsOne / Youtube