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Gazan Islamic State fighter blasts group’s close Hamas ties

In letter to ‘caliph,’ jihadist in Syria complains of joint military efforts with Hamas in Sinai even as group tortures IS supporters

Islamic State's affiliate Sinai Province at weapons training, February 6, 2016 (illustrative image: Telegram.me/HaiAlaElJehad5 via MEMRI)
Islamic State's affiliate Sinai Province at weapons training, February 6, 2016 (illustrative image: Telegram.me/HaiAlaElJehad5 via MEMRI)

A bitter outcry over Hamas’s oppression of Islamic State supporters in Gaza, and its close ties to the IS affiliate in Sinai, has caused a stir among members of the self-declared caliphate, shedding new light on the tacit cooperation between Hamas and IS.

In a letter written by a Gazan, Abu Abdallah Al-Muhajir, who now fights in the ranks of IS in Syria, the jihadist group’s Egyptian affiliate, Sinai Province, is castigated for cooperating with the “apostate” Hamas even as Hamas actively pursues IS’s Gazan loyalists.

These “suspect and illegitimate ties,” writes Abu Abdallah in the latter, which was posted to social media on February 24, “are hidden from no one.”

The letter, which the writer calls “a complaint by a soldier in the [Islamic] State to the Caliph of the Muslims, against the actions of the brothers in Sinai Province,” is addressed to Islamic State’s leader, the self-styled caliph, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

According to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which translated the document after it surfaced on social media, Abu Abdallah “writes that he decided to appeal to Al-Baghdadi in order to fulfill his duty as a Muslim to give loyal advice to the leader of the Muslims.”

A still from a propaganda video released on July 5, 2014, allegedly shows the leader of the Islamic State jihadist group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, addressing Muslim worshipers at a mosque in the IS-held northern Iraqi city of Mosul. (AFP/HO/al-Furqan Media)
A still from a propaganda video released on July 5, 2014, allegedly shows the leader of the Islamic State jihadist group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, addressing Muslim worshipers at a mosque in the IS-held northern Iraqi city of Mosul. (AFP/HO/al-Furqan Media)

Embittered by Sinai Province’s “betrayal,” Abu Abdallah offers one of the most detailed descriptions yet published of the cooperation between Sinai Province and Hamas, ties that include weapons smuggling by each group for the other; Hamas’s manufacture in Gaza of Sinai Province’s uniforms, explosives and communications equipment; Hamas’s provision of medical care in Gaza hospitals for wounded IS fighters, who are kept under the direct protection of Hamas’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades; and even “feasts” held for IS leaders at the homes of senior Hamas officials in Gaza.

“After a period of being in Syria, I have learned that the Islamic State considers Hamas, with all its branches and wings, to be an apostate movement, and that it treats it as an apostate cult, including Al-Qassam [Brigades],” Abu Abdallah notes. “If these things continue and persist, we will all regret the disaster [that will befall] us in the beloved land of Sinai, which is the most important and powerful [Islamic] State province outside Iraq and Syria,” he warns, according to a translation provided by MEMRI.

Sinai Province, founded by Bedouin tribes indigenous to the Sinai, has been providing Hamas with major weapons, Abu Abdallah writes, “because of the province’s fighters’ expert knowledge of the [smuggling] routes from Libya, Sudan, and Egypt.”

In return, Hamas provides its own manufacturing services: “Sinai Province depends very much on Hamas and Al-Qassam for weapons and for explosives and ammunition. There are direct and continuous supply routes from Hamas to Sinai province. The Al-Qassam factories operate assembly lines for manufacturing explosive devices and bombs for the Sinai province, but do not stamp the Al-Qassam logo on them, as they usually do,” he writes.

Palestinian members of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement during the funeral of group member Ahmed al-Zahar in the village of Al-Moghraga near the Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, February 3, 2016. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)
Palestinian members of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement during the funeral of group member Ahmed al-Zahar in the village of Al-Moghraga near the Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, February 3, 2016. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

Regular visits to Gaza and “cordial meetings” between Hamas and IS leaders where “animals are slaughtered” and “feasts are held” show that these ties are not merely tactical, according to Abu Abdallah. Sinai Province is “embraced” by Hamas in Gaza.

Hamas also treats wounded fighters from Sinai and provides “wireless communication hubs for Sinai Province, because of the difficulty of operating them in Sinai and because they are vulnerable to swift destruction by the Egyptian army,” he says.

Abu Abdallah protests these ties on the grounds of “the religious dimension,” Al-Walaa Wal-Baraa, the requirement to be loyal to fellow Muslims and reject non-Muslims — Hamas being the non-Muslims.

It is also a betrayal of IS’s supporters in Gaza, who are oppressed by Hamas, he says.

“…We find that for the sake of worldly honor which Hamas gives it, the Sinai province has sold its religion,” Abu Abdallah writes. “This is embodied by Sinai Province’s disregard of the cruel war that Hamas is waging against the supporters of the Islamic State. Sinai province does not even [dare] threaten or warn Hamas over its ongoing abuse of Islamic State supporters.”

One fighter in Syria who hailed from Gaza “told me, on behalf of brothers in Gaza, that one senior official in the apostate Hamas internal security would torture and ridicule Salafi jihad fighters, saying: ‘Our relations, in Hamas, with Sinai Province are stronger and better than yours with Sinai Province.’

“This is true and very real. Hamas and Sinai province are maintaining warm relations and direct lines of communication around the clock… I know that Sinai province has severed ties with all the Salafi jihad fighters in the Gaza Strip, and is attempting to cut anything connecting it to them, so as not to sour the relations with Hamas and ruin the relationship between them.”

Illustrative photo of an Egyptian member of the armed forces in northern Sinai. (AFP/Mohamed el-Shahed)
Illustrative photo of an Egyptian member of the armed forces in northern Sinai. (AFP/Mohamed el-Shahed)

In the end, he warns, it is Hamas that is using the IS affiliate, and not the other way around.

“Oh sheikh of ours: Hamas is clever and is giving Sinai province everything it wants, so that it [Hamas] can gain a foothold in [Sinai], and so that it will have ‘stock’ in the province, and so that it will be able to protect itself against anything the province might do against it. They [Hamas’s leaders] are clever, oh sheikh – they give table scraps to the province…. Hamas knows that no one but Sinai Province can help the Salafis in Gaza, and has therefore taken possession of it, and has thus kept it away from the crimes being carried out in Gaza against the supporters of the Islamic State,” he writes.

According to Abu Abdallah, that betrayal has led to deep rage among Gaza’s IS supporters.

“One of the brothers who recently came from Gaza to Syria said that the hearts of Islamic State supporters in Gaza are filled with rage and shock at the actions of Sinai Province. For example, how can they accept that one of the province leaders is in the lap of Hamas luxury in Gaza, doing as he pleases and travelling to the homes of Hamas and Al-Qassam leaders, and enjoying their food at lavish banquets, while a few hundred meters away, Islamic State supporters are tortured in Hamas prisons, and their faces spat in, and are humiliated in the worst way because of their loyalty and support for the Islamic State – of which Sinai is one of its most important provinces?” he says.

One Gazan pro-IS group specifically named in Abu Abdallah’s letter published a scathing criticism of the letter, declaring that “the Caliph does not accept letters and complaints from his soldiers via the Internet!”

It did not, however, deny Abu Abdallah’s claims about Hamas-Sinai Province ties, and only seemed to confirm his description of their “difficulties.”

“All arrests and difficulties faced by supporters of the Caliphate in Gaza,” it writes, “are a duty that they met willingly and freely, for worship of Allah and for the sacred caliphate enterprise. These supporters did not bear this as a favor to the Caliphate…. We call upon supporters of the Caliphate in Gaza to continue focusing on supporting the Caliphate as they have been doing, and not to deal with rumors.”

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