Internal threats to Hamas in Gaza are increasing, with a pro-ISIS Salafist group challenging Hamas in recent weeks. This conflict escalated in the last few days. In an attempt to crack down on the pro-ISIS faction, known as the Supporters of the Islamic State in the Holy Land, Hamas destroyed a mosque on Sunday that was being used by the group as a hideout and followed this by arresting 30 to 40 Salafists. In response Hamas were told by the pro-ISIS group that they had 72 hours to release the prisoners before they would “open all fronts” against Hamas. There was also an explosion outside the Hamas headquarters. Although this explosion has not been claimed by any particular group and may, indeed, be unrelated, it is indicative of the current tension in Gaza.
Part of the reason for the escalation of conflict between Hamas and the Salafists may be the violence in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria, where the humanitarian situation for Palestinians is desperate and where several executions have been carried out; which perhaps shows the ease with which the conflict in Syria and Iraq can spread through the Middle East. The longer war in those countries continues, the more it will begin to affect its neighbours. The other thing that current tensions between Hamas and the ISIS supporters indicates is the level of simmering unrest in Gaza itself. The poor economic situation in Gaza and the widespread sense of dissatisfaction only serve to feed into the rhetoric that ISIS-affiliated groups produce. They thrive in areas where grievances are high and currently Gaza is proving a fertile hunting ground.
The ISIS supporters do not represent a group large enough or well organised enough to seriously oppose Hamas’s authority but they are continuing to ignite unrest and they do have the ability to violate any truce with Israel. Reports are that Hamas’s patrols on the border are being conducted with greater vigilance and in larger numbers, so there genuinely seems to be a fear that the current unrest may trigger renewed cross border violence between Gaza and Israel.