ISIS supporters in Gaza
ISIS supporters in GazaReuters

Members of the Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group have recently entered Gaza through tunnels from Egypt to undergo military training in the Hamas-ruled enclave, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, said Friday.

Speaking to the Saudi news site Elaph and quoted by Haaretz, Mordechai said the ISIS members entered Gaza a few days ago with the support of a well-connected Hamas affiliate in the city of Rafah, adding that Hamas is helping the ISIS fighters receive medical care in Gaza's hospitals.

According to the Israeli general, the operatives used ties with Sayid Abed El Aal, who is close to Hamas and holds sway in the border town of Rafah. Mordechai explained that Hamas' field commanders were informed, and its top military and political leaders were updated on the issue.

Mordechai’s comments come just after Egypt reopened the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Sinai on Wednesday and Thursday for the first time in three months.

The crossing has been mostly closed since a terrorist attack in the Sinai Peninsula in October 2014, in which Egypt claimed Hamas played a role.

After that attack, Egypt began creating a wide buffer zone along the Gaza border, in a bid to destroy the hundreds of smuggling tunnels Cairo says are used by Palestinian Arabs to deliver weapons to jihadists in the Sinai.

As part of its attempt to mend ties with Egypt, noted Haaretz, Hamas is trying to create the semblance that it is distancing itself from Iran and ISIS, at least publically. Hamas hopes the Egyptian regime will alter its policy towards to Gaza and reopen the crossing in Rafah.

As part of the Gaza-based Hamas government’s efforts to make amends with Egypt, a delegation headed by Hamas political bureau member Mousa Abu Marzook recently held talks in Egypt  aimed at normalizing the relations.

Following the visit, reports emerged that Hamas agreed to Egypt’s demands, namely that it would not interfere in Egyptian affairs, and will supervise and control the borders with Gaza, while fighting all extremists in Gaza and stopping them from infiltrating Egypt.

Officials in the Israeli defense establishment quoted by Haaretz say that Hamas' efforts are mainly outwards and that de facto the group has not cut its ties with Iran and other radical Salafist groups, some of which are currently locked in an ongoing battle with Egyptians in Sinai.

Occasionally, reports linking the group to terrorists involved in attacks in Sinai are made public, causing much embarrassment to the group's leaders.

According to Palestinian sources in Gaza, though Hamas is actively courting Egypt, there are some, especially in it military leadership, that view Iran and Salafist groups as  their main source of funds and arms, and are reluctant to give up the ties. Nonetheless, Hamas is facing increasing pressure from the Saudi royal house to cut ties with Iran and respect Egyptian national security interests.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)