The Hamas terrorists in control of the Gaza Strip now find themselves between a rock and a hard place, as the double game that they’ve played with the Islamic State affiliate in the Sinai has backfired.
Hundreds of Hamas’ trained Qassam Brigade fighters have reportedly defected to ISIS in the Sinai. Meanwhile, an attempted rapprochement with Egypt in recent weeks also appears to be breaking down, as the Islamic State is reportedly setting Hamas up for a war with Israel that Hamas is most likely not prepared to fight.
As I reported here at PJ Media back in June, Hamas — fashioned by some in the Washington, D.C. foreign policy “smart set” as supposedly “moderate” compared to ISIS — had in fact been actively cooperating with the Islamic State:
— PJ Media (@PJMedia_com) June 20, 2016
Among the Hamas/ISIS points of cooperation: smuggling arms through the tunnels controlled by Hamas from Gaza into the Sinai; assistance in weapons and explosives training; and treating injured Islamic State fighters:
A dangerous terror alliance: The 600-1,000 ISIS fighters in the Sinai are partnering with Hamas pic.twitter.com/NjFzoPOe9K
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) April 26, 2016
One of Isis "Sinai province" commanders,Abed A Rachman Barhame,is in Gaza now, coordinating with Hamass military wing their joint projects
— avi issacharoff (@issacharoff) September 8, 2016
— AJC Advocacy (@AJCadvocacy) December 20, 2016
Last year, Hamas operatives spent a month in Sinai teaching militants to fire antitank missiles – Israeli officials https://t.co/H3XeEJoQ8L
— Oren Kessler (@OrenKessler) June 6, 2016
IS fighters wounded in Sinai reportedly smuggled into Gaza via tunnels for Hamas medical treatment https://t.co/YHwGFGBCTe
— Jonathan Schanzer (@JSchanzer) August 2, 2016
Now, reports are emerging of widespread defections from Hamas to the Islamic State:
More proof that there's not much separating Hamas and ISIS: Elite Hamas fighters defecting to Islamic State https://t.co/rkLipVJE2z
— Andreas Fagerbakke (@afagerbakke) February 9, 2017
— Terror Events (@TerrorEvents) February 9, 2017
— MENAnalyst (@jacksanders1965) February 10, 2017
There is considerable evidence that these defections have been going on for a while. Martyrdom announcements published regularly by the Islamic State have named fighters who had previously been with the Hamas Qassam Brigades.
Perhaps even more troubling for Hamas is that many of these fighters are not low-level trainees. Senior leaders and seasoned operatives are defecting, draining Hamas of talent and experience:
— Anna Ahronheim (@AAhronheim) February 8, 2017
— Global News (@ofirzarfati) December 15, 2016
— Jihad Threat Monitor (@memrijttm) November 27, 2016
— Matthew Levitt (@Levitt_Matt) August 1, 2016
Pressured by these losses, Hamas has attempted to reach out to Egypt. Senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh made a trip to Cairo a few weeks ago:
— Arab News (@arabnews) January 28, 2017
However, Egyptians are mindful that Hamas has directly cooperated with the Islamic State in the killing of hundreds of military and police officials in the Sinai:
Hamas has no qualms about supporting ISIS' efforts against the Egyptian military in Sinai: https://t.co/42zzdB8Gaz
— Foreign Affairs (@ForeignAffairs) June 22, 2016
The Egyptians are now taking a hard line with Hamas:
— Björn Brenner (@BjornBrenner) January 31, 2017
During the administration of Mohamed Morsi, a former Muslim Brotherhood official, smuggling via the tunnels from Rafah into Gaza, controlled by Hamas, was bringing in millions of dollars each week to the terror group. But with Morsi’s ouster in July 2013, the Egyptian military cracked down on the tunnels, reportedly destroying more than 3,000 and crippling Hamas finances.
Over the weekend, Hamas threatened Egypt with retaliation after the death of three of their operatives. They had died from toxic gas while repairing a tunnel previously destroyed by the Egyptian military:
— The Jerusalem Post (@Jerusalem_Post) February 25, 2017
There is evidence that the attempted outreach to the Egyptian government by Hamas has alienated their Islamic State partners:
— Jihad Threat Monitor (@memrijttm) January 25, 2017
In response, the Islamic State appears to be trying to bait Hamas into a punishing war with Israel by launching rockets from Sinai and Gaza into Israel, hoping to prompt a military response by the Israelis:
— Eric Trager (@EricTrager18) February 22, 2017
Islamic State in Sinai claims Eilat rocket attack https://t.co/Q6Wb93dIDR
— The Times of Israel (@TimesofIsrael) February 9, 2017
It’s hard to see how Hamas extricates itself. Hamas has alienated its Islamic State allies, and it continues to make enemies of the Egyptian government that continues to throttle their smuggling tunnel trade. Meanwhile, the Israelis would love nothing more than to further weaken the group responsible for numerous terror attacks and rocket launches into Israel.
As the saying goes, it couldn’t happen to nicer people.