Defections Challenge Hamas’ Cooperation With ISIS
Hamas continues to want it both ways when it comes to the Islamic State — trying to suppress ISIS-inspired jihadists in Gaza, while simultaneously cooperating with the terrorist group’s Sinai Peninsula affiliate, Wilayat Sinai.
Hamas’ engagement with Islamic State elements has resulted in tangible setbacks for the Palestinian terror group. Palestinian sources speaking with the Times of Israel recently revealed that dozens of Hamas operatives have defected to Wilayat Sinai, including highly trained terrorists from elite units.
Roughly two months ago, Hamas forces arrested Abed al-Wahad Abu Aadara, a Hamas naval commando who had defected to ISIS, after he re-entered Gaza. His brother also joined ISIS and died in clashes with the Egyptian military. Facing pressure from ISIS, Hamas recently released Abu Aadara from prison.
Other defectors include highly trained Hamas operatives with the ability to build bombs and use anti-tank missiles. Senior Hamas military wing members, including Abu Malek Abu Shwiesh, a key assistant to Hamas’ Rafah commander, have also reportedly joined Wilayat Sinai.
The ISIS affiliate has caused significant Egyptian casualties in recent years, particularly after acquiring and deploying sophisticated weaponry in the Sinai region.
Israeli officials have outlined aspects of Hamas-Islamic State cooperation in the past. Both organizations engage in smuggling terrorists and arms, including advanced weapons systems. For example, Hamas provided Wilayat Sinai with Kornet anti-tank missiles, which have destroyed Egyptian military vehicles. Hamas also provides military training and medical services for injured Wilayat Sinai fighters in Gaza, and reportedly transfers money directly to the terrorist organization.
In return, Hamas cultivates a safe haven for its leaders and fighters in case of a future confrontation with Israel, understanding that Israel’s military engagement on Egyptian territory will be limited.
Since the end of the 2014 summer war in Gaza, Hamas has invested significant resources into reconstructing its terrorist infrastructure. It also continues to rebuild its elite forces, including its naval commando unit, which is dedicated to infiltrating Israel and carrying out terrorist attacks. Reports of Hamas defections are a clear setback for the Palestinian terror organization, but are not likely to lead to a wider rift with the Islamic State.
Despite broader ideological differences, both groups remain committed to challenging the Egyptian military in Sinai and destroying the Jewish state.