Islamic State (IS) militants threatened yesterday to launch an attack on Hamas and annex the Gaza Strip to the lands it is already claiming in Syria and Iraq, reported British newspaper The Guardian. This message comes a week after leaflets threatening to ‘cleanse’ Jerusalem of its Christian population were released in a north Jerusalem neighborhood.
In a video statement released from an IS stronghold in Syria yesterday, IS issued a challenge to Hamas, who has been fighting to control Salafi rebels in Gaza. The extremist rebels are opposed to the truce that Hamas conceded to Israel following the 2014 assault on Gaza which claimed the lives of around 2,200 Gaza residents. Hamas officials announced last week that this truce may be extended to a period of up to 5 years. The Salafi group also rejects a proposed reconciliation between Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas’ party in the West Bank, Fatah.
IS itself is reportedly dissatisfied with the way that Hamas has been running Gaza, and strongly believes that it does not implement Islamic law strictly enough. The video has since been taken down, but Reuters quotes a masked IS member in his address to the “tyrants of Hamas” as saying:
“We will uproot the state of the Jews and you and Fatah, and all of the secularists are nothing and you will be overrun by our creeping multitudes.
“The rule of Shari’a [Islamic Law] will be implemented in Gaza in spite of you. We swear that what is happening in the Levant today, and in particular the Yarmouk camp [the Palestinian settlement in Damascus], will happen in Gaza.”
Four terrorist attacks were carried out against Hamas in Gaza in May of this year by armed militia groups claiming allegiance to IS. One attack was the assassination of Hamas intelligence official, Saber Siyam.
In addition to this, these groups have also fired occasional rockets into Israel that Israel has promptly responded to by shelling various areas of the tiny Strip, including Hamas weaponry stores.
NY Times reports that although IS and Hamas share the same goal of ousting Israelis from historical Palestine, the two groups are not affiliated. Hamas is wary of waging another direct war on Israel after its support waned inside of Gaza in the aftermath of the 2014 aggressions.
Reports of negotiations on a 3 to 5 year truce between Israel and Hamas have prompted many to believe that another war could be held at bay for some time. If, however, IS-affiliated Salafi rebels continue this kind of provocative activity towards Israel, it may set off a larger Israeli aggression that could easily end very badly for Hamas and the already besieged residents of Gaza.
Relations between Egypt and Hamas have also been slowly easing, resulting in the reopening of the Rafah crossing for the first time in years. However, some political analysts believe that links between IS-affiliated groups within Gaza and those in Egypt’s Sinai Desert could threaten to derail this improvement.
“We will clean the country and Jerusalem”
Meanwhile, another group of IS supporters has been carrying out a campaign in Jerusalem to oust the Palestinian Christian population from their homes in the divided city, according to IB Times.
Thousands of flyers threatening to “clean” the country and the “Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem” have been anonymously distributed in a neighborhood of North Jerusalem since Thursday. IB Times reports that the message contained a deadline for the Christians to leave their homes- Eid al-Fitr, the festival at the end of Ramadan- before they would be hunted down and rooted out.
The leaflets allegedly carried the message:
“So we tell our Christians and the nonbelievers: Go away now or you will be killed when the Eid is near. You will be slaughtered like the sheep. One month is enough for them to go away.”
The flyers reportedly bear the IS logo, but their authenticity is yet to be verified. According to Israel Today, some Christian residents of Jerusalem cast aspersions on the authenticity, saying that it was just ‘intimidation’ tactics.
Eid al-Fitr is likely to be celebrated on July 17 this year.