Hamas declares state of alert in Gaza, wages campaign of mass arrests against ISIS extremists

Hamas launched on Sunday a wide campaign in the Gaza Strip to arrest extremists, who are influenced by ISIS, in the wake of last week’s terrorist attack in Sinai, which claimed the lives of 23 Egyptian soldiers.

Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that Hamas-led security forces went on the highest state of alert and arrested a number of extremists, including those who were recently released by the movement.

The sources added that the crackdown will target anyone who is suspected of supporting or sympathizing with ISIS, or who spreads terrorist ideas, or had any relation with those who allegedly perpetrated the Sinai attack.

ISIS-supporters in the Gaza Strip claimed that three of their members had participated in the attack. Security forces however did not verify the accuracy of the information.

Hamas deployed a large number of its members along the borders with Egypt and set up several inspection points in Gaza’s main streets and inside cities.

Meanwhile, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh presided over urgent security meetings, noting that the authorities would adopt further measures along the borders to prevent any disruption of security.

He stressed that Gaza would always seek to promote Arab and Egyptian national security.

In this regard, Hamas-led security bodies have held extensive meetings over the past two days to discuss the current developments.

Major General Tawfiq Abu Naim, head of the security affairs branch, announced that security measures were tightened with the aim to prevent any infiltration or escape of wanted persons.

While Gaza residents complained of the unprecedented number of roadblocks that caused heavy traffic, Hamas’ Interior Ministry said its security services were carrying out meticulous and continuous work to improve the security situation in the Strip.

Hamas wants to prove to Egypt that it is leading an uncompromising war against extremists as part of the agreement between the two parties to revive bilateral relations.

The movement’s relations with Egypt saw major improvement in recent weeks, as Hamas authorities launched the building of a buffer zone on the borders with Egypt to improve security. They also received Egyptian promises to support the area with a modern monitoring system.

Egypt has also provided Hamas with fuel and electricity, while talks are underway to conclude security and economic agreements aimed at easing the crises of the Gaza Strip and opening of the Rafah crossing.

However, the attack in Sinai has put a lot of pressure on Hamas authorities over border control.

At least 23 Egyptian soldiers were killed on Friday when suicide car bombs tore through two military checkpoints in North Sinai.

ISIS claimed the responsibility for the attack, which marked one of the bloodiest assaults on security forces in years.

Pro-ISIS social media accounts identified the bodies of three young men, who took part in the attack, as being from Rafah and former members of Hamas’ Qassam Brigades.

Source: Aawsat