This according to sources in Hamas and the Salafist groups with knowledge of the mediation efforts.
Abu Ayna Al-Ansari, a senior Salafist militant in the Gaza Strip, confirmed to Breitbart Jerusalem that the talks are ongoing. He said most of the Salafi factions in Gaza are willing to cooperate with the initiative on condition that Hamas halts its policy of arresting Salafists and releases those in custody. Ansari said that the talks have not yet resulted in a complete agreement and further negotiations are needed.
An ISIS-affiliated group calling itself the Omar Hadid Brigades has been behind recent sporadic rocket fire from Gaza, including a projectile launched on December 13. The Israel Defense Forces retaliated against two Hamas targets and said it holds Gaza’s Islamist rulers responsible regardless of which group actually fired the rockets. The IDF retaliation causes financial damage to Hamas, which has been losing valuable equipment in the air raids.
Hamas sources told Breitbart Jerusalem that a number of Gazan clerics who have good relationships with both Hamas and the Salafi organizations recently began the mediation efforts.
The same sources said that the Islamic State in Sinai’s military leader, Shadi al-Menai, was one of the mediators in the Hamas-Salafi negotiations. Israel’s Channel 2 television network reported earlier this month that Menai had traveled to Gaza to meet with Hamas leaders.
Palestinian sources said Menai intervened with the heads of Hamas regarding the Salafi prisoners at the beginning of the year, as part of cooperation between the parties regarding weapons smuggling from Sinai to Gaza.
Hamas spokesmen refused to comment to Breitbart Jerusalem on the report of Hamas-Salafist negotiations.
Hamas spokesperson Mushir Al Masri blamed the media for what he claimed was an attempt to “make up an affinity between the Islamic State organizations and Hamas and between the Islamic State and the Gaza Strip.”
A Middle East think tank charged last week that there is information Hamas has been paying off the Islamic State’s Sinai branch to smuggle weapons into Gaza. “Over the past two years, IS Sinai helped Hamas move weapons from Iran and Libya through the peninsula, taking a generous cut from each shipment,” stated a report by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
The report continues:
Hamas relies on Bedouin guides to avoid detection by the Egyptian army and reach the few tunnels that have survived Cairo’s aggressive flooding and closure campaign. In this manner, IS Sinai acquired the advanced Kornet anti-tank missiles it has used to sink an Egyptian patrol boat off the coast of al-Arish and destroy several tanks and armored carriers stationed in the peninsula’s northeastern sector. Hamas has also provided training to some IS Sinai fighters and assisted with the group’s media campaign and online postings.
Last month, Breitbart Jerusalem published images of what jihadists say is an ISIS training camp in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. According to the Gazan jihadist who provided the photos, scores of Gazan militants received training at the ISIS camp, which he said was run by the Sinai-based ISIS-affiliated Al-Wilayat group.
One of the most significant aspects of the camp is its Gaza-centric imagery. One image shows a sign bearing the name of Sheikh Imam Abu Noor al-Maqdisi, aka Sheikh Abdul Latif Musa. Maqdisi was the leader of a Salafist group in Gaza that proclaimed the formation of an “Islamic Emirate of Gaza” on August 14, 2009. One day later he was killed by Hamas forces.
Hamas and the Islamic State maintain a significant ideological and military rivalry.
In May, Hamas engaged in deadly clashes with ISIS supporters who challenged Hamas rule.
In July, the Information Bureau of the Aleppo Province, affiliated with ISIS, released a video entitled “A message to our folks in Jerusalem,” in which ISIS members originally from Gaza declared war on Israel and Hamas.
In the video, ISIS member and Gaza native Abu Azzam Al-Ghazzawim delivered a strongly-worded warning to what he called the “tyrants of Hamas”:
“You are nothing in our reckoning. You, Fatah, and all the secularists, we count you as nothing. Allah willing, we shall uproot the state of the Jews. You are nothing but froth that will be gone as we move in. Allah willing, Gaza will be governed by Shariah despite you.”
Abu Qatadah Al-Filistini, an ISIS member who leads a faction in Aleppo, Syria, made an appearance in the video and called on all “monotheists in Gaza to join the convoy of the Muhajidin and to join the State of the Caliphate.”
Abu Qatadah accused Hamas of “sliding gradually into apostasy, a slide that started with the demolition of the Ibn Taymiyah Mosque.”
“It is a movement that does not seek to govern according to Shariah but seeks to appease Iran and America, the heads of apostasy.”