Jerusalem — The extremist Islamic State group’s branch in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula has taken a simmering dispute with the Palestinian Hamas group based in nearby Gaza to new levels, releasing a 22-minute video in which it calls on its followers to attack the group and shows the execution of a man it said was a collaborator.
Analysts say the escalation has the potential to destabilize an already fragile security situation in Gaza, the Palestinian enclave that Hamas has controlled for the past decade.
“Never surrender to them. Use explosives, silenced pistols, and sticky bombs. Bomb their courts and their security locations, for these are the pillars of tyranny that prop up its throne,” says the knife-wielding narrator of the video, according to a translation distributed by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist websites.
[Egypt’s long, bloody fight against the Islamic State in Sinai is going nowhere]
The video cites Hamas’s crackdown on Islamist militant groups in Gaza and their failure to prevent the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as reasons for attacking the group. It begins with a video clip of President Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem last month.
The confrontation between the two militant groups has been building for more than a year, as Hamas has cracked down on Islamic State supporters in Gaza and hardened its border with the Sinai region in an attempt to repair relations with Egypt.
Although it is considered a terrorist group by Israel and the United States, Hamas has been trying to mend ties with neighboring Egypt and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and analysts say it has tried to avoid direct confrontation with Israel in recent years. The Islamic State in Sinai has an altogether more radical approach and carried out a recent attack on an Egyptian mosque that killed more than 300 people. In the video, it criticized Hamas for “following in the footsteps of the disbelieving West.”
The Islamic State probably lacks the reach into Gaza it would need to launch a large-scale attack, but it could encourage its supporters to launch more rockets into Israel, knowing that Israel’s military will respond against Hamas, which it holds responsible for all military aggression from Gaza, according to Mohannad Sabry, the author of “Sinai: Egypt’s Linchpin, Gaza’s Lifeline, Israel’s Nightmare.”
“It achieves the same goal,” he said.
In the video, the man accused of collaborating with Hamas’s military wing is executed by another who is described as a former member who has repented.
“A small spark may force one or both parties to engage in military confrontation,” said Hani Habib, a Gaza-based political analyst.