TEL AVIV – As Palestinian Salafists allied with ISIS rapidly gain influence in the Gaza Strip, the coastal enclave is becoming an international exporter of jihadists who fight under the ISIS banner in other countries, primarily Syria.
Middle Eastern security officials tell WND of a growing phenomenon of Palestinian militants, some from within Hamas, who are abandoning their posts in Gaza and traveling to Syria to join the Islamic rebels there.
The officials say the Gazans usually travel from Gaza to Egypt to Libya, where they join up with locally based extremists and make their way to Syria.
According to jihadist sources in Gaza, just last week eight members of Hamas’s so-called military wing, the Al Qassam Brigades, left their families in Gaza to fight in Syria under ISIS. The sources said the ex-Brigades forces complained that Hamas is not Islamic enough.
Last month, when ISIS militants took over Turkmen villages in Aleppo, the second largest city of Syria, the terrorist group installed a new “governor” there who is a Palestinian from the Gaza Strip.
In recent weeks, Hamas has been facing perhaps the biggest challenge to its rule in the form of rival Salafist groups allied with ISIS. The groups have accused Hamas of “selling out” their Islamic faith and have been openly challenging Hamas, including with firefight clashes and attempted bombings.
Last week, Salafists in Gaza under the banner of the Omar Brigades claimed responsibility for a rocket launched from Gaza toward southern Israel, at least the fifth such rocket fired from Gaza in recent weeks.
The rocket attack violates a truce between Israel and Hamas. The Salafists apparently want to draw Israeli retaliation targeting the Hamas infrastructure. Israel holds Gaza’s Hamas rulers responsible for rockets fired by Gazan groups.
Hamas has arrested dozens of ISIS-allied gunmen and imams, and a Salafist mosque was destroyed.
Earlier this month, a ISIS-tied jihadist, 27-year-old Younis Hunnar, was killed during a raid by Hamas security forces on his Gaza City home.
Things have gotten so bad that Hamas has been using Egypt as a middle man to pass to Israel information on rival Salafist jihadists in the Gaza Strip, hoping the Jewish state will target the militants, an Egyptian security source told WND last week.
The source said the intelligence-sharing development does not mark any change in Hamas’ attitude toward Israel. Nor does the development represent any rapprochement between Israel and Hamas, the source added.
The source further stated the information from Hamas only flows one way and that Israel does not in turn share any intelligence via Egypt with Hamas.
Asked to comment on the Egyptian security source’s claims, Mushir al Masri, a spokesman for Hamas, told WND, “This is a sick joke.
“Israel is our enemy,” al-Masri said. “Our conversations with Egypt has nothing to do with Israel.”