In an Arabic interview with Saudi news website Elaph, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai said that fighters from the Egyptian ISIS-affiliated terror group Sinai Province have entered Hamas-controlled territory in Gaza with the knowledge and consent of Hamas leaders.
Mordechai, who is the head of the Defence Ministry body responsible for coordinating Israeli government activities in the Palestinian Territories (COGAT), said that military cooperation between the two groups is increasing. He also stated that Hamas provides medical treatment for wounded Sinai Province Islamic State militants.
The Sinai Province fighters smuggled into Gaza are due to take part in training exercises with Hamas fighters, according to the IDF official.
However, Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri denied these claims. Hamas had previously opposed ISIS’s influence in Gaza: a former Hamas fighter was shot dead in his home after pledging allegiance to the Islamic State.
Though both groups share Islamist ideology, ISIS propaganda chastises Hamas for negotiating ceasefires with Israel, and criticises its corruption and less devout religious practices.
The suggestion of cooperation between Hamas and the ISIS affiliate is likely to complicate Hamas’s efforts in repairing ties with Egypt. The Sinai Province terror group have frequently attacked the Egyptian military forces of President al-Sisi, with Hamas reportedly providing them with weapons and manpower.
Hamas political bureau member Mousa Abu Marzook recently went to Cairo in an attempt to normalise relations with Egypt. The Rafah crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt has been almost entirely closed since a terror attack in October 2014. Last week, it was re-opened for two days following reports that Hamas has committed itself not to interfere with Egyptian affairs and to stop extremists from entering the Sinai Peninsula.