JERUSALEM – There is an attempt by jihadist organizations in the Gaza Strip to unite under the common banner of the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, according to informed Middle Eastern security officials.
Contacted by WND, Abu Saqer, one of the top leaders of Jihadiya Salafiya, which represents al-Qaida ideology in the Gaza Strip, confirmed the attempt to organize various jihad groups to fight Israel under the ISIS umbrella.
Saqer claimed there is also an effort to recruit jihadists to ISIS from inside the West Bank, particularly in the Hebron region.
While the exact nature of the ISIS presence in Gaza remains unclear, the group’s flags were seen flying at a funeral this past Sunday for two terrorists eliminated in an Israel Air Force strike last Friday, Israel’s daily Maariv newspaper reported. The terrorists’ coffins were reportedly also draped in ISIS flags.
The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement the two targeted terrorists, Osama Hassumi, 29, and Mohammad Fatzih, 24, were responsible for rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip aimed at Israeli civilian population zones.
The IDF said the two terrorists belonged to the Salah e-Din Brigades of the Popular Front group.
Further highlighting the possible presence of ISIS-aligned fighters in Gaza, Maariv reported Saturday that Egyptian special forces arrested a terrorist cell that had used tunnels to cross from Gaza into the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula.
The newspaper quoted sources saying that Egypt’s interrogation of cell revealed the group was planning to set up ISIS cells inside the Sinai to target the Egyptian government.
Hamas, however, denied the Egyptian claim of ISIS terrorists originating in Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas. Iyad Bazam, a Hamas spokesman, called the claims “blatant lies” that are “part of the ongoing Egyptian smear campaign against the Gaza Strip.”