Is Hamas collaborating with IS in Sinai?
Is Hamas collaborating with IS in Sinai?
Analysis: Israeli military figures have accused Hamas of aiding IS in Sinai. How likely is this, and what might these accusations mean for Gaza?
Egyptian media and sources have reported that weapons used by the militants in Sinai were smuggled into Egypt through tunnels from Gaza, and that Islamic State group affiliates are carrying out attacks with the aid of Hamas.
The reports come after a series of attacks by the IS-affiliated group Bayt al-Maqdis in Sinai on Wednesday.
On Thursday Yoav Mordechai, an Israeli general, told al-Jazeera that Hamas had aided Bayt al-Maqdis with weapons and other support.
These accusations are also echoed by parts of the Egyptian media, with well-known Egyptian TV host Ahmed Moussa on Wednesday night saying: "Close the [Rafah] crossing for good. Never open it again," and accusing militants entering Sinai from Gaza.
Haraatz newspaper quoted unnamed Israeli intelligence sources that Hamas was allied with Bayt al-Maqdis. The Israeli sources added that Gaza treats wounded militants in Sinai in its hospitals.
Arms from Gaza to Sinai... or from Sinai to Gaza?
However, there are other known arms routes to Sinai, as previously reported by Israeli and Egyptian officials.
The Israeli security agency Shin Bet says on its website that weapons reach Sinai through the Egypt-Sudanese border and are consequently smuggled into Gaza.
Previous reports citing Egyptian military officials and arms traders say that weapons, such as surface-to-air missiles, arrive in Sinai through via Libya, then find their way to Palestinian militant groups.
Egypt's borders with its neighbours are unstable, with a Palestinian refugee from Syria relating to al-Araby al-Jadeed that he was trafficked through Egypt via both the Sudanese and Libyan borders last year.
It is questionable therefore that smugglers would move weapons into Gaza only for them to be returned to Egypt via Rafah - the only outlet to the outside world from the blockaded coastal strip.
Husam Badran, a spokesman for Hamas, said on Thursday that Israel was "practising incitement... intended to influence Hamas relations with various countries and parties supporting the Palestinian cause."
IS in Gaza
Hamas has been in conflict with Salafist militants and a number of self-proclaimed IS affiliates in Gaza, with attacks carried out on Hamas security institutions in June.
On the eve of the Sinai attacks, IS fighters in Syria issued a video threatening to overthrow the Hamas government in Gaza due to their alleged nationalism, "secularism" and collaboration with Shia groups such as Hizballah.
Sources in Gaza told al-Araby that the video included Gazans from Rafah, and that such individuals are smuggled out of Gaza through tunnels with the help of militant groups and Bedouins in Sinai. There is no evidence that Hamas is sending these fighters out of Gaza.
Analysts point out that recruitment to IS from Palestine is small compared to surrounding countries. In Gaza, most of the individuals who join extreme Salafist groups or travel to take part in IS activities outside Gaza are young former members of the Qassam Brigades, Hamas military wing, who have become disillusioned and have various grievances with the organisation, such as its enforcement of a "hudna", or truce, with Israel.
Sinai between Hamas and Egypt
The accusations that Hamas is collaborating with IS in Sinai comes as Hamas political wing attempts to better its relationship with Egypt, which temporally improved the situation at Rafah crossing which is now closed in the wake of the Sinai attacks.
Reports say that this month Hamas was also in "indirect talks" to come to a long term truce in Israel.
Israeli and Egyptian officials and media have frequently accused Hamas of involvement in Sinai attacks, for example in the notable attacks on an Egyptian security base in 2012, after which Palestinians from Gaza staying in Egypt at the time had their visas revoked.
According to Sinai Bedouins and security officials, the suspects were Yemenis who had travelled from Sudan.
Israel has also previously used attacks in Sinai as a pretext for strikes in Gaza, for example, the 2011 cross-border attacks in Israel, where the attackers turned out to be Egyptian, believed to be affiliated with al-Qaeda.