GAZA STRIP (Christian Examiner) – Hamas forces in the Gaza Strip opened fire yesterday (June 1) on Islamic State terrorists, killing at least one as the group was attempting to arrest him, according to FARS, the semi-official Iranian news agency.
If the report, which originated from Palestinian news sources, is accurate, it provides more evidence of the Islamic State's effort to infiltrate territory close to Israel as it seeks to dominate its rivals.
Islamic State forces have also been located in Lebanon and have fought Hezbollah militants there.
Hezbollah is a Shiite group backed by Iran's Revolutionary Guard. Hamas, a Sunni terror group, once received funding from Iran but has fallen out with Tehran over its support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the current Syrian civil war. It rejects ISIS as "too violent," making it a target for the terror group.
On its face, the FARS report seems accurate because it also included specific information about the death of one Hamas leader, Saber Siam. According to FARS, ISIS militants, who have been targeting senior Hamas leaders, placed a bomb under Siam's car and detonated it.
Hamas has arrested several ISIS supporters in recent weeks as they have filtered into Gaza from the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp near Damascus. ISIS captured the camp and is now using identification cards and other papers of refugees to enter the Gaza Strip.
The ISIS supporter killed, Youssef al-Hatar, 27, was the only member of the group killed since Hamas launched its crackdown a month ago, Ynet, an Israeli news source, said. Several others have reportedly been detained for recruiting activities and placing bombs targeting Hamas.
Ynet also reported that ISIS militants were under so much pressure that they sent a statement to local media demanding an end to the crackdown.
Gan Yavne, an Israeli Defense Force spokesman, said the threat issued to the media also claimed ISIS-backed militants had fired the most recent rockets in Gaza last week. Though the claim could not be verified, Yavne said, it seems likely that the group is stepping up its game close to Israel's borders and will likely have further clashes with Hamas.
Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, has been criticized by ISIS for "being soft on Israel and failing to impose religious law," Ynet said.
Local news sources said the conflict between ISIS and Hamas began May 3, when Hamas ransacked a mosque belonging to an ISIS-affiliated group, the "Supporters of the Islamic State in Jerusalem."
According to one report in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry al Youm, ISIS said Hamas had damaged the mosque "in a manner that even the Jewish and American occupation has not done."
The ISIS-affiliated group reportedly then threatened Hamas' hold on power.
"In the light of Hamas's new behavior, we renew our loyalty to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi [leader of the Islamic state] and call on him to strengthen his influence and to launch a campaign in Palestine and to unite in the fight against the Jews and their accomplices," the statement from the group said.
The fact that ISIS may, in fact, be at Israel's borders may leave many wondering why it has yet to attack the Jewish state in a large scale operation. ISIS, however, has made it clear in the past that the destruction of Israel is not yet its priority.
It must first clear away Shiite Muslims and all Sunnis who do not follow strict Sharia law, resulting in the kind of barbarism the world has come to know from ISIS.
In 2014, the group issued a statement on its Twitter account claiming, "We haven't given orders to kill the Israelis and the Jews. The war against the nearer enemy, those who rebel against the faith, is more important. Allah commands us in the Koran to fight the hypocrites, because they are much more dangerous than those who are fundamentally heretics."