by Dr. Reuven Berko
In light of al-Habash's speech, Hamas believes that the PA will continue its attempts to forcibly regain power in Gaza. There are rumors flying about that Mohammed Dahlan, aided by Egypt, is organizing forces in Sinai to move against Hamas.
Former Palestinian Authority Religious Affairs Minister Sheikh Mahmoud al-Habash is serving as adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas on matters of religion and Islam. Last March, al-Habash issued a call to Arab nations from the Muqataa in Ramallah to attack Hamas as they were attacking the Houthis [in Yemen], arguing that Hamas had also rebelled against the PA's legal government.
At the beginning of June, senior Hamas official Salah al-Bardawil accused the PA of reducing the funds it budgeted to the Gaza Strip and stealing the money to stir up popular sentiment against Hamas and push it out of power. A few days ago, a spokesman from Hamas' Interior Ministry reported that a representative of the PA had been caught in Gaza in possession of a booby-trapped car and admitted that he had been sent by al-Habash and Maj. Gen. Sami Nasman of the PA intelligence apparatus to detonate the car in Shujaiyya, targeting Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.
In light of al-Habash's speech, Hamas believes that the PA will continue its attempts to forcibly regain power in Gaza. There are rumors flying about that Mohammed Dahlan, aided by Egypt, is organizing forces in Sinai to move against Hamas. Palestinian sources claim that even before the "reconciliation" failed, Hamas had dug a terror tunnel beneath Abbas' presidential residence in Gaza and prepared an ambush for him. Recently, the homes of people with ties to the Fatah movement in Gaza were blown up in mysterious circumstances. Back in 2006, senior PA officials were shot in Gaza and their bodies were thrown from the roofs, and since then Abbas and his people haven't dared to enter the Strip.
Egypt eliminating Hamas' smuggling tunnels has caused the group to lose revenue. Given the heavy taxation in the Strip and at the border crossings and the widespread destruction and hunger, the organization is losing its reputation for fighting corruption. The disaster Hamas brought down on Gaza during Operation Protective Edge has resulted in a sense of a humanitarian crisis among the population and a collapse of morale. The collective despair, the Egyptian stranglehold, and the PA's budgetary sanctions have caused Hamas' will to fight to crumble. This change has lead to a willingness to listen to international players and messages of a "hudna" [truce] with Israel, but sparked criticism from bloodthirsty Salafist groups.
In a series of threats and shooting attacks using heavy arms fire against the homes and vehicles of senior Hamas officials in Gaza, the Islamic State group is condemning the Hamas' monopoly on power, calling it "tahiyat," or an "evil regime." This code word, from the lexicon of Islamist thinker Ibn Taymiyyah, grants legitimacy to war on any Islamic regime defined as "exploitative." The rocket fire on Israel was intended to draw it into serving IS in Gaza by striking against Hamas.
In response, Hamas has demolished a mosque belonging to the movement, confiscated various materials, arrested dozens of senior IS officials and assassinated Sheikh Abdel Latif Moussa, a senior figure in the group.
This was a hard-core group based on long-standing Salafist movements that in the past worked with Hamas against Israel and Egypt. Islamic State in Gaza is in possession of some missiles it stole from Hamas and is getting help from volunteers, as well as donations, and manufacturing its own weapons.
Dr. Reuven Berko
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