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Analysis

Hamas adopts revolving-door policy on IS members in Gaza jails

The Strip’s ruling body releases Islamic State operatives from its prisons — only to arrest them again later

Avi Issacharoff

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

Illustrative undated image posted on a militant website on January 14, 2014, shows Islamic State fighters marching in Raqqa, Syria. (AP, File)
Illustrative undated image posted on a militant website on January 14, 2014, shows Islamic State fighters marching in Raqqa, Syria. (AP, File)

In a never-ending cycle, Hamas is catching and releasing Islamic State operatives in the Gaza Strip who fire rockets at Israel, Palestinian sources say.

Just two weeks after being let out of prison, some IS terrorists were already back to their old habits, shooting Kassams at Israel’s southern communities. Mahmoud Talb, Muhammad Baras and Ahmad Musallam, all known supporters of the Islamic State and global jihad movement in the Gaza Strip, were among those released by Hamas only to later take part in attacks.

Talb has been arrested by Hamas, the ruling party in the Gaza Strip, more than ten times for his actions, according to Palestinian sources.

This only continues Hamas’s unspoken and contradictory policy towards the Islamic State and the global jihadi movement. On one hand, Hamas must work against these operatives and prevent their actions, while on the other hand, they often work side-by-side and even assist one another.

For instance, high-ranking members of Hamas’s military wing make a point of bringing injured IS fighters from Sinai into the Gaza Strip for medical treatment. Meanwhile, the Islamic State in Egypt helps Hamas smuggle weaponry and vast sums of money into the Strip.

The commander of IS forces in the Sinai met with Hamas leaders in Gaza during what was intended to be a secret trip last week, in order to widen their cooperation and coordinate attacks on Egyptian and Israeli targets, Israeli television reported Thursday.

Shadi al-Menei has also been responsible for occasional incidences of rocket fire from the Sinai on the Israeli southern resort town of Eilat, the TV report said.

The deepening cooperation between Hamas and al-Menei’s Islamic State hierarchy is infuriating to Egypt and “worrying for Israel,” the report added. It said that al-Menei was behind a 2011 terrorist attack in southern Israel in which four groups of terrorists targeted a bus and several Israeli army vehicles, killing six Israeli civilians, two members of the Israeli security forces and several Egyptian soldiers. Ten terrorists were killed.

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