Islamic State fighters have recently arrived in the Gaza Strip to train with their Hamas counterparts, a senior IDF official said in an Arabic interview published Friday.
The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai told the Saudi news website Elaph that IS members entered the Gaza Strip from the Sinai Peninsula through smuggling tunnels maintained and controlled by Hamas.
The fighters entered the Hamas-controlled territory in coordination with Sa’id Abed al-A’al, a resident of the Gaza Strip city of Rafah connected to Hamas, he said.
Mordechai, the head of the Defense Ministry body responsible for the Israeli border crossings with the Gaza Strip and Civil Administration in the West Bank, said the military cooperation between the Islamic State and Hamas is unfolding with the full knowledge and consent of Hamas’s leaders.
According to the report, Hamas members have also treated wounded IS terrorists who entered the Strip from the Sinai Peninsula.
An Islamic State-affiliate has waged a guerrilla war against the Egyptian military in the Sinai for several years, carrying out dozens of attacks targeting soldiers and police in the northern part of the restive peninsula.
In an effort to help combat the Islamic State in Egypt, the US Embassy in Cairo said Friday that Egypt has received its first shipment of armored vehicles designed to protect soldiers from roadside bombs.
The embassy said in a statement that the first batch of 762 MRAP (Mine Resistance Ambush Protected) vehicles was delivered Thursday, and is aimed at helping to “combat terrorism and promote stability in the region.”
While Hamas “tries to draw closer to Egypt, it’s connecting with the Islamic State and with the Muslim Brotherhood,” Mordechai said, referring to the outlawed Islamic party whose president Mohammed Morsi briefly ruled Egypt before being deposed in 2013.
Hamas has apparently tried to distance itself from the Islamic State and Iran with the hope that Cairo would loosen its blockade on the Gaza Strip. But according to Haaretz, reports pointing to ties between Hamas leaders and terrorist groups operating against Egypt in the Sinai are causing the group embarrassment.
Palestinian sources quoted by the paper say that while Hamas leaders have adopted a policy of increasing ties with Egypt, there are still senior officials who are unwilling to break free of Iran and Salafi groups that can also serve as a source of income. Hamas is also under pressure from the Saudi royal family to cut all ties with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s enemy.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.