The Associated Press reported Tuesday that Salafi-jihadists in Gaza issued the threat via Middle East media, though they did not specify what would happen if Hamas refused to comply. Tensions between the two groups have been on the rise since Hamas destroyed a mosque associated with a group called “Supporters of the Islamic State in Jerusalem” May 3, in response to a series of unclaimed bombings in the Strip.
In a statement reported by the Egyptian daily newspaper Al-Masry al-Youm, the Salafists accused Hamas of demolishing the structure “in a manner that even the Jewish and American occupation has not done.”
“In the light of Hamas’ new crackdown, we renew our loyalty to [ISIS Caliph Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi and call on him to strengthen his influence and to launch a campaign in Palestine,” read the statement from Supporters of the Islamic State in Jerusalem. The group went on to threaten the lives of Hamas members – even publishing some of their names and photos – unless Hamas releases several men, including a local Salafi sheikh.
The ISIS supporters also claimed responsibility for a rocket fired at Israel, which a Hamas source said was “against the interests of the Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip and against our national interests.” The source told Ynet, “We consider the rocket fire to be a dangerous thing.” The source said the parties responsible had been arrested.
The IDF said the rocket, which was fired last Tuesday evening, landed near Gan Yavne in southern Israel.
Dozens of the Salafists have been arrested, with one local leader, Younis al-Honnor, 27, being killed in a shootout as security forces tried to apprehend him. Ynet cited the Gaza Interior Ministry, who said al-Honnor had booby-trapped his house, and that “explosive belts, explosive devices and rifle-propelled grenades were found inside”.
A statement made on a pro-Salafist website disputed the official account. “The Hamas leadership bears responsibility for this deplorable crime,” the statement said.
ISIS and its supporters consider Hamas too liberal. They want to enforce stricter adherence to Islamic law and believe Hamas is soft on Israel.