Hamas officials in Gaza believe the Islamic State jihadist group is behind the attempted assassination of their security chief on Friday, reports Saturday in Hebrew-language media said.
Tawfiq Abu Naim was moderately injured when his jeep exploded near the Nusseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip in what the Hamas interior ministry called “a failed assassination attempt.”
Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh had initially blamed Israel for the attack, but top Gaza officials say that a preliminary investigation of the incident points to Islamic State, according to Channel 2.
Egyptian authorities are helping Hamas with the investigation into the explosion.
The incident comes at a time of tension within Gaza as its Hamas rulers are to start handing over power to the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority of Fatah leader and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
As part of the Palestinian unity deal that was brokered by Egypt, Hamas has had to crackdown on the IS gunmen who have been active on both sides of Gaza’s border with Egypt. For the last several years, Egypt has been fighting a bitter insurgency in the Sinai that has killed hundreds of Egyptian soldiers.
Abu Naim has been leading the recent Hamas efforts against IS.
However, the Popular Resistance Committees, an umbrella of smaller terror groups in the Strip, blamed Israel, saying “the fingerprints of the Zionists are clear.”
Abu Naim was a former prisoner that Israel freed with hundreds of others in exchange for IDF soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011.
Rival Palestinian movements Hamas and Fatah signed a landmark unity deal this month aimed at ending their decade-long split.
The PA is due to resume control of the Gaza Strip by December 1 under the deal. However, previous such attempts at reconciliation have repeatedly failed. A major sticking point is expected to be Hamas’s refusal to disarm its 25,000-strong armed wing.
The Hamas terror group seized Gaza in 2007 in a near civil war with Fatah that followed an electoral dispute after polls were won by Hamas. After Hamas’s victory, it faced demands from the international community that it renounce violence and recognize Israel, which it refused to do.
Hamas has faced increasing isolation and deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip in recent months, including a severe electricity shortage.