The Hamas terror group is allowing Islamic State fighters from Sinai to be treated in Gaza Strip hospitals in exchange for weapons and money, an Israeli general told a Saudi-owned news outlet on Monday.
The IS operatives enter the Gaza Strip through tunnels from Egypt and receive medical treatment at Nasser Hospital in the southern city of Khan Younis, according to Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the head of Israel’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories unit.
In exchange, the Islamic State supplies Gaza’s terrorist rulers with money and weapons, both of which the terrorist group has been lacking since Egypt began cracking down on the tunnels Hamas had been using for its lucrative commercial trade, the Elaph news site said.
Though Israeli officials have noted the growing relationship between terror groups in the Gaza Strip and terror groups in the Sinai Peninsula, most have been reticent about the exact nature of the relationship.
Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry denied the allegation, in a statement posted on Facebook, calling Mordechai’s claim “completely baseless.”
“Palestinian government hospitals only receive the sick and wounded residents of the Gaza Strip,” Dr. Ashraf al-Qudra, spokesman for the ministry, said.
The relatively small Islamic State contingent in Sinai — approximately 500 fighters in all — has nevertheless put up a considerable fight against Egyptian forces, with regular shooting and car bombing attacks on military bases and police stations.
Israel has not taken a role in the fight, but the IDF has provided intelligence to Egyptian forces, according to military sources.
Egpyt, meanwhile, has reportedly helped Israel in the fight against Hamas by flooding the tunnels used by the terror group for both commercial and military purposes. According to Energy Minster Yuval Steinitz, speaking on Saturday, this was done at Israel’s request.
However, Egypt has denied this. A senior official in the Egyptian foreign ministry called the Israeli ambassador in Cairo, Haim Koren, to voice his objection to Steinitz’s remarks, the London-based news site al-Araby al-Jadeed reported.
On Monday, a Palestinian man died when a tunnel collapsed on him in the latest in a series of fatal Gaza tunnel collapses. The 24-year-old man had been repairing the tunnel, which had been damaged by the Egyptian military, according to local reports.
Since September last year, the Egyptian military has periodically pumped sea water into the underground cross-border tunnels dug between its Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip in a campaign to stamp out smuggling.
Lee Gancman contributed to this report.