A Palestinian from the Gaza Strip who fled a jail sentence for murdering an Italian peace activist has been killed fighting for Islamic State in Iraq, websites linked to the extremist group said Saturday.
Mahmoud Al-Salfiti was killed in the Anbar province in western Iraq. He is the fourth Gazan to die this month fighting for the jihadist organization in Syria and Iraq, the Hebrew-language website Walla reported.
Al-Salfiti fled Gaza in June while on furlough from prison, where he was serving a 15-year sentence for the 2011 kidnap and murder of Vittorio Arrigoni, an International Solidarity Movement activist.
Iraqi forces have been battling Islamic State fighters in Anbar for months, as the country’s military ramped up operations to retake the province’s capital Ramadi.
The Baghdad government had resisted for more than a year in Ramadi until IS forces blitzed them out with dozens of massive suicide truck bombs in mid-May.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly warned in June that Islamic State extremists had established a presence in Gaza. IS released a statement at the end of June claiming its intention to topple Abbas’ Fatah party and Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas.
In December, Hamas denied IS had a foothold in the coastal strip after fliers signed by the jihadist organization emerged there, threatening women and intellectuals.
Israel has previously accused Hamas of working together with IS. The Israel Defense Forces said at the beginning of July that Hamas was providing weaponry and other support to the Islamic State’s Sinai affiliate, Wilayat Sinai. The coordinator of government activities in the territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, said that along with military support, Hamas has also been providing medical assistance to injured IS operatives.
AFP contributed to this report