IAF airstrike in Gaza
IAF airstrike in GazaReuters

Salafist groups in Gaza are intentionally provoking Israel in order to have the Israeli Air Force (IAF) finish off Hamas for them, a senior defense official theorized Sunday. 

"The purpose of the latest rocket fire from Gaza is to light a fire between Hamas and Israel," the defense official stated to Walla! News on condition of anonymity. "They expect Israel to attack Hamas for them." 

He spoke hours after the IAF eliminated terror targets, following a rocket strike just outside Ashkelon for which a Salafist organization later took responsibility. 

"The situation is quite complicated - on the one hand we want Hamas weakened - but, on the other hand, we it to be strong enough to prevent terror attacks [from other groups - ed.] such as rocket fire into Israel," stressed the official.

"Gaza may be cut off geographically from the rest of the events in the Middle East, but it is not ideologically detached," he added. 

The ideas behind Islamic State (ISIS) are gaining popularity in Gaza, he added, under the influence of Sinai branch Ansar Beyt Al-Maqdis. 

Meanwhile, Salafist groups are struggling to take over Gaza from Hamas, and Hamas's own inefficiency at combating the terror of groups even more extremist than itself is allowing the most radical of views to take hold under its nose. 

Last month, sources stated to Maariv that ISIS is threatening to declare war on Hamas and take over Gaza from within - likely through the aid of numerous Salafist groups.

At least eight cells are known to operate from inside Gaza and the Palestinian Authority (PA) is allegedly aware of their existence - and using their influence to further the Hamas-Fatah faction war. 

Hamas has stated since rocket fire resumed over the past two weeks that ISIS is behind the rocket fire and that at least one group, the Sheikh Amar Hadid Brigades, is attempting to draw Hamas into another war with Israel on its own terms.