Elite Hamas soldiers defecting to Isis from Gaza-based group in increasing numbers

Increasing numbers of highly-trained Palestinian commandos from the Gaza Strip are fleeing to pledge allegiance to Isis, report says

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The Independent Online

An increasing number of elite Hamas soldiers are defecting from the Gaza-based group to join Isis, it has emerged.

Dozens of members of the Iz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, and Nukhba, Hamas’ commando wing, have deserted their positions and fled to nearby Sinai in Egypt - which has a heavy Isis presence - the Times of Israel reports. 

Over the last year, well-trained defectors including those skilled at operating anti-tank missiles and bomb-making have helped sustain Isis’ fight against Egyptian security forces, the paper, quoting Palestinian sources, says. Isis has carried out a series of bloody attacks targeting both civilians and the Egyptian army over the last few years. 

Hamas seeks to mend relations with Egypt

The lawless Sinai peninsula, which borders Israel and the Gaza Strip, has become the home of several extremist groups which have taken advantage of unrest in the country since the Arab Spring protests of 2011. 

Several groups have close ties to Gaza, with supplies and arms routinely smuggled back and forth across the border as well as fighters in need of training or medical care. 

However, the recent arrest of defector Abed al-Wahad - a 20-year-old who trained with Hamas’ naval commando unit - on his re-entry into Gaza has inflamed tensions between the Palestinian militant organisation and Isis.

Isis slowed the flow of goods from the Sinai into besieged Gaza as a means of pressuring Hamas to release Al-Wahad and other operatives suspected of ties to Isis. Al-Wahad has since been freed. 

Egypt’s government vehemently opposes co-operation between Isis and Hamas, but has shown some willing to reconcile with the Palestinian group, which has vowed the destruction of Israel.

In January, Hamas security officials met with the Egyptian authorities in Cairo for security talks.