Egypt's Minister of the Interior Magdi Abdel Ghaffar holds a press conference where he accuses Hamas of involvement in the assassination of the Egyptian attorney general (YouTube, March 6, 2016).
1. At the end of February 2016, Abu Abdallah al-Muhajer, a jihadist operative fighting in the ranks of ISIS in Syria, sent an open letter to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The letter, which in ITIC assessment is authentic, strongly criticized the collaboration between Hamas and ISIS's Sinai Province (the Sinai Province of the Islamic State). According to the letter, while the collaboration did in fact support the Sinai Province's campaign against the Egyptian regime, there was neither religious nor practical justification for it, because Hamas was an "infidel" movement that oppressed ISIS supporters in the Gaza Strip.
2. The letter describes the military collaboration between ISIS' Sinai Province and Hamas' military-terrorist wing, the Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades, as follows: ISIS's Sinai Province operatives smuggle weapons from Libya and Sudan into the Gaza Strip, and Hamas manufactures weapons (explosives and ammunition) for the Sinai Province, treats wounded ISIS operatives in hospitals in the Gaza Strip, provides ISIS's Sinai Province with communications equipment and uniforms, and hosts senior ISIS operatives in the Gaza Strip (See Appendix A). Those elements of the collaboration have been exposed in the past by the Israeli, Arab and Western media.
3. Since it was formally established (November 10, 2014), ISIS's Sinai Province has been waging a determined guerilla and terrorist campaign against the Egyptian regime. The Egyptian security forces have not managed to uproot its strongholds in the northern Sinai Peninsula (the areas of Rafah, Sheikh Zuweid and El Arish). In addition, ISIS's Sinai Province initiates terrorist attacks inside Egypt itself and aspires to carry out more. The Egyptian regime is well aware of the collaboration between ISIS's Sinai Province and Hamas. That has been the main cause of the deterioration in the relations between Egypt and Hamas during the past year and for the measures taken by the Egyptian security forces on the ground against Hamas. The measures have included closing, flooding and destroying tunnels, establishing a buffer zone along the Egyptian-Gaza Strip border, closing the Rafah crossing and the "abduction" of four operatives of Hamas' naval commando after they left the Gaza Strip. Egypt also conducts a political-media-legal campaign against Hamas, including designating Hamas military wing, the Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades, as a terrorist organization. Egypt is still considering designating the entire Hamas movement as a terrorist organization (See Appendix C).
4. On March 6, 2016, tensions between Egypt and Hamas increased when Magdi Abdel Ghaffar, Egypt's minister of the interior, held a press conference where he accused Hamas of involvement in the assassination of Hisham Barakat, the Egyptian attorney general. The assassination, carried out in June 2015, was attributed to operatives of the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas vigorously denied the accusations but Egyptian sources have repeatedly claimed that Hamas provides military support for Muslim Brotherhood terrorists, including training them in the Gaza Strip. Hamas recently sent a delegation of its senior figures to meet with Egyptian General Intelligence in a effort to defuse the situation. The fact that Egyptian General Intelligence received the delegation was a sign that Egypt was ready to enter into a dialogue with Hamas. However, in practical terms Hamas apparently achieved nothing at the meeting (See Appendix B).
|5. In summary, Hamas, which collaborates with ISIS's Sinai Province, is subject to strong pressures from Egypt, increasing the movement's current strategic distress. The Egyptians perceive Hamas as a threat to their national security because it supports radical Islamist organizations waging a campaign against the country (ISIS's Sinai Province and the Muslim Brotherhood). Their perception is probably based on reliable information concerning the collaboration between ISIS's Sinai Province and Hamas. In addition, there are Egyptian accusations, probably based on the interrogation of detainees, that Hamas supports the Muslim Brotherhood's terrorist attacks in Egypt. That is because they share a common ideology and hostility to the Egyptian regime (Hamas is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood). The Egyptian perception will probably make it difficult for Hamas to significantly improve its relations with Egypt|
On August 19, 2015, four terrorist operatives of the Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades' naval commando unit were "abducted" in the northern Sinai Peninsula. They had left the Gaza Strip, probably for training. They crossed the border at the Rafah crossing and boarded a bus on their way to the Cairo airport. After a short distance the bus was stopped by armed, masked men and the four were taken. Sources within Hamas claimed they had information that the Egyptian security forces were behind the abduction. Egypt denied the claims. The fate of the four remains unknown.