GAZA CITY — Islamic State supporters in the Gaza Strip have given the ruling Hamas movement a 48-hour deadline to halt its crackdown on them.
A statement sent to media on Monday did not say what the IS supporters would do if the crackdown continued. It included a claim of responsibility for a rocket fired at Israel from Gaza last week. The claim could not be independently verified.
Hamas, itself a terror group openly committed to destroying Israel, has launched a crackdown on radical Islamists following a series of unclaimed bombings.
Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, sees more radical groups as a threat. The extremists accuse Hamas of being soft on Israel and failing to impose religious law.
It’s unclear how many IS supporters are in Gaza, or if any have operational links to the extremist group.
Wednesday’s rocket, which hit near the town of Gan Yavne, outside Ashdod, has been attributed to members of the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad terror group and was believed to be fired as a result of an internal dispute.
Germany’s foreign minister paid a rare visit Monday to Hamas-ruled Gaza, calling on Israel to ease a blockade on the territory when it was safe to do so, and urging Hamas to make sure no more rockets are fired into Israel.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier is the latest in a series of Western diplomats to tour Gaza since a 50-day war with Israel last summer. While international donors have pledged billions of dollars in aid, little reconstruction has taken place on the estimated 18,000 homes destroyed in the fighting.
Steinmeier said that more efforts are needed to rebuild and to improve the economy. He said, “This requires the opening of crossing points by Israel.” But he said it would be difficult to do this without an end to rocket fire. Steinmeier did not meet Hamas officials.
On Sunday Steinmeier met with Israeli and Palestinian officials and raised his concerns about the situation in Gaza.
Steinmeier told President Reuven Rivlin that Gaza’s rehabilitation would build confidence between both sides, and added that resumed peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians should focus on Gaza as well as on the West Bank.