Homeland Security

ISIS Joins with 'Moderate' Hamas for Terror in Sinai

Earlier this month I reported here at PJ Media on growing incidents of terrorism by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. I noted the arrest of an IED terror cell composed of Muslim Brotherhood members in Alexandria who had been attacking government and military targets since January.

Now, Egypt is facing escalating threats in the Sinai from the Brotherhood’s affiliate in Gaza — Hamas. Multiple reports in recent weeks place Islamic State (ISIS) figures with Hamas officials in Gaza, and claim Hamas is training ISIS troops with heavy anti-tank weaponry.

The Washington, D.C. foreign policy “smart set” continues to describe Hamas/Muslim Brotherhood as “moderate” jihadists who serve as a firewall between “violent extremist” groups like ISIS.

News reports placed ISIS-Sinai leaders in Gaza meeting with Hamas officials on June 2nd:

The Times of Israel reports:

Top Islamic State commander in Sinai Shadi al-Menii met with Hamas officials in Gaza Thursday in order to discuss cooperation between the two terrorist groups, according to a Channel 2 report.

Al-Menii, who belongs to one of the Bedouin tribes in the north of the Sinai Peninsula, fled to the Gaza Strip in May of 2015 after his organization attacked a military base and killed an Egyptian soldier, Haaretz reported. A bounty worth one million Egyptian pounds was placed on his head.

According to Channel 2, al-Menii’s branch of IS in Sinai were to help Hamas operatives smuggle arms into the strip via tunnels in return for sophisticated weapons.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that heavy weapons training and the free flow of weapons between the groups was documented back to 2015:

Egypt shared intelligence with Israel last year about cooperation between Sinai Province and members of Hamas’s armed wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, according to a Western official. Israel was surprised to learn of the ties given previous clashes in Gaza between Hamas and Islamic State sympathizers, the official said.

Israeli officials said they learned in April of 2015 that Hamas was allowing Sinai Province fighters to be treated in Gaza’s Al Shifa hospital. The hospital declined to comment.

Later last year, Hamas operatives spent a month in the Sinai region teaching the militants how to fire antitank missiles, Israeli officials said. The officials declined to provide more details. Hamas subsequently received Russian-made antitank missiles via the smuggling network Sinai Province controls, an Israeli defense official said.

Some analysts were noting the cooperation between the two groups last year:

Israel military officials are taking the ISIS threat from Sinai seriously:

With the borders of Gaza locked down by both Israel and Hamas, the only way for ISIS fighters and officials to enter the area is through the Hamas-controlled smuggling tunnels:

Islamic State fighters have recently arrived in the Gaza Strip to train with their Hamas counterparts, a senior IDF official said in an Arabic interview published Friday.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai told the Saudi news website Elaph that IS members entered the Gaza Strip from the Sinai Peninsula through smuggling tunnels maintained and controlled by Hamas.

The fighters entered the Hamas-controlled territory in coordination with Sa’id Abed al-A’al, a resident of the Gaza Strip city of Rafah connected to Hamas, he said.

Mordechai, the head of the Defense Ministry body responsible for the Israeli border crossings with the Gaza Strip and Civil Administration in the West Bank, said the military cooperation between the Islamic State and Hamas is unfolding with the full knowledge and consent of Hamas’s leaders.

Reports of Hamas fighters jointing up with ISIS have circulated all year.

Remarkably, a letter from one ISIS fighter in Sinai to ISIS caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi published on social media earlier this year — helpfully translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) — details the cooperation between the two groups:

“Allow me, Caliph of Muslims, to inform you of some aspects of the suspect ties between Sinai province and Hamas:

“1. Sinai province is smuggling weapons for Hamas in Gaza, because of the province’s fighters’ expert knowledge of the [smuggling] routes from Libya, Sudan, and Egypt.

“2. Sinai province depends very much on Hamas and Al-Qassam for weapons and for explosives and ammunition. There are direct and continuous supply routes from Hamas to Sinai province. The Al-Qassam factories operate assembly lines for manufacturing explosive devices and bombs for the Sinai province, but do not stamp the Al-Qassam logo on them, as they usually do.

“3. Sinai province leaders are regularly visiting the Gaza Strip, and holding cordial meetings with Hamas and Al-Qassam leaders, even [Hamas] government [representatives]. Animals are slaughtered for them, feasts are held, and they are embraced in Gaza.

“4. Hamas and Al-Qassam are accepting all wounded Sinai province [fighters], and they are treated in Gaza Strip hospitals under Al-Qassam’s direct protection.

“5. Hamas is providing wireless communication hubs for Sinai province, because of the difficulty of operating them in Sinai and because they are vulnerable to swift destruction by the Egyptian army.

The ties between the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and militants in the Sinai now operating as the official ISIS affiliate go back to the beginnings of the Arab Spring.

Sheikh Nabil Naeem — one of the founders of Egyptian Islamic Jihad who I interviewed exclusively at his office in Cairo for PJ Media — reported that jihadists in Sinai were funded by a deal with Khairat al-Shater (deputy supreme guide for the Muslim Brotherhood), Hamas, and Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, the previous incarnation of the ISIS Sinai affiliate.

Immediately prior to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi’s election as president, reports surfaced that Hamas ordered rocket attacks from Sinai by militants there targeting Israel at the request of the Muslim Brotherhood to bolster his election prospects.

Once elected, attacks in Sinai under the one-year Morsi administration subsided somewhat, particularly the targeting of the gas pipeline from Sinai to Israel and Jordan that came to a halt:

While the low level attacks continued in Sinai under Morsi, they spiked drastically after he was ousted from the presidency in July 2013, following mass protests demanding his resignation on the anniversary of his first year in power.

The gas pipeline from Egypt to Israel and Jordan, has been attacked often since 2011. There were more than 17 attacks on the pipeline between February 2011 and June 2012 and between July 2013 and February 2014. Morsi’s time in office was the only period in which the gas pipe attacks halted.

As soon as Morsi was deposed by the military after massive protests against his administration, Egyptian authorities were killing and arresting large numbers of Hamas fighters operating in Sinai.

The mounting evidence about the direct cooperation between ISIS in Sinai and Hamas comes as Republican congressional leaders continue to obstruct companion bills — S. 2230 and H.R. 3892 — calling for the State Department to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, as many U.S. allies in the region, most notably Israel last November, already have.