ISIS Worries about a Hamas-Egypt Detente

(Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs) Yoni Ben Menachem - Why did the Islamic State, which is fighting an all-out war against the Egyptian army in northern Sinai, decide to open an additional front with Israel with rocket fire on Eilat? In an effort to placate Egypt, Hamas has lately begun hunting down operatives of the Salafi jihadist, Islamic State-affiliated organizations in Gaza. So far Hamas security forces have arrested about 350 Salafi operatives in Gaza, including some wanted by Egypt for terror activity in Sinai. The Salafi groups apparently want to damage Hamas and goad Israel into attacking Hamas for violating the ceasefire agreement reached after the 2014 Gaza war. Recently, senior figures of the Islamic State branch in Sinai, Sinai Province (Wilayat Sina'a), have begun referring to Hamas operatives as "infidels." Last week, Sinai Province proclaimed that "Hamas is an ally of Iran that keeps a ceasefire with the Jews while it fights Islamic State warriors." Hamas has decided to prioritize relations with Egypt. The Hamas leadership has concluded that, in terms of its interests, it has much more to gain from cooperation with Egypt than from cooperation with Sinai Province. Improved relations with Egypt means the opening of the Rafah crossing and a significant easing of the blockade on Gaza, which in turn strengthens Hamas' rule there. According to Israeli security sources, the Egyptian leadership is concerned about the rocket fire from Sinai at Eilat because it does not want to be seen as losing control of the territory. These sources say Israel and Egypt are now discussing the most effective military measures for eliminating the Islamic State threat in Sinai. The writer, a veteran Arab affairs and diplomatic commentator for Israel Radio and Television, is a senior Middle East analyst for the Jerusalem Center.

2017-02-13 00:00:00

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