That’s not all that new, as it turns out, although it’s a new sign that ISIS remains a transnational threat. The BBC reported today that Hamas has begun rounding up ISIS sympathizers after two bombings killed three police officers in Gaza. It’s part of an ongoing turf war between Islamist factions that extends far beyond Gaza (via Twitchy):
Hamas is arresting suspected jihadist activists in Gaza, which the militant Islamist movement controls, after what a security source said were suicide bomb attacks on two police posts.
Three police officers were killed in the attacks, which are thought to have been carried out by extremists with links to the Islamic State (IS) group.
Gaza’s interior ministry declared a state of emergency after the bombings.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniya vowed to hold those responsible to account. The bombings would “not be able to undermine the stability and steadfastness of our people”, he added.
AFP had earlier reported that the attacks were suicide bombings on motorcycles. At that time, Hamas suspected their rival Islamic Jihad network was involved:
Hamas said Wednesday that two overnight bomb attacks killed three police officers in the Gaza Strip as the Palestinian enclave was placed under a state of alert.
Witnesses told AFP that both bombings were suicide attacks by assailants on motorbikes, but there was no official confirmation.
A source familiar with the investigation said a Salafist movement in Gaza that sympathises with Islamic State group jihadists was suspected.
The war between Hamas and ISIS goes back a few years, although it has been relatively low-level and somewhat one-sided. ISIS has occasionally conducted attacks in Gaza, including this 2015 car bombing series on leaders of both Hamas and Islamic Jihad, as part of its claim to have supremacy over the Muslim world. After declaring a caliphate, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi demanded the loyalty and fealty of all Muslims but especially Islamist terror networks — and has been willing to make war on rivals, even when their immediate goals coincide and there is no fear of overlap.
ISIS has been doing the same thing in Afghanistan in targeting both the government and the Taliban. The Afghan government insists that it has isolated ISIS, and the Taliban want to kill it just as badly on the eve of what might be a US withdrawal. Neither is fully succeeding, however:
The United States and the Taliban have been holding talks on an initial agreement for months. The top U.S. negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, was expected to arrive in Qatar on Wednesday to prepare for the final round of negotiations after receiving President Trump’s blessing. In the current draft, the deal outlines the initial withdrawal of about 5,000 U.S. troops in exchange for a Taliban pledge to sever ties with al-Qaeda. It also calls for the beginning of Taliban talks with the Afghan government and planning for a cease-fire.
But the agreement does not mention the Islamic State, a sworn enemy of the Taliban that is considered by far the bigger terrorist threat. In a report to Congress last month, the Defense Department said that even if a settlement is reached, al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and some Taliban hard-liners will constitute a “substantial threat” to Afghanistan and the United States, requiring a “robust” counterterrorism capability for the “foreseeable future.” …
The Islamic State in Afghanistan is estimated to number between 2,500 and 5,000 fighters, according to figures from the U.S. military and the United Nations. The U.S. military estimated that the total was around 1,000 active fighters in 2017. But there is widespread concern here that those numbers could rise even more if the Islamic State uses a U.S.-Taliban agreement to siphon off hard-line Taliban fighters who are opposed to the deal and ramp up its terror war.
This shows why it was dangerous for the US to declare a premature victory over ISIS in Syria. As long as its leadership remains intact, it still has a powerful claim in Islamist circles to loyalty to its so-called caliph. Both Hamas and the Taliban have to make concessions at some point to governance, but ISIS can remain the pure jihadist movement in contrast and recruit murderous super-malcontents from the ranks of ordinary murderous malcontents.
Until their leadership is neutralized, that risk remains. Their willingness to target other Islamist networks suggest that they’re more ready for wider conflict than we might believe — even if we care less about internecine wars between radical Islamist terror networks.