Hamas denies IS-linked group attacked base in Gaza
A group in Gaza that says it supports Islamic State militants claimed responsibility for mortar attacks on Friday against Hamas's armed wing in the Gaza Strip.
“Supporters of the Islamic State in Beit al-Maqdis”, as the group refers to itself on social media, said it struck the Qassam Brigades' Qadisiyeh base in Khan Yunis, firing two 82mm mortar rounds in a pre-dawn attack.
But Iyad al-Bozum, spokesperson for the Hamas-run interior ministry in Gaza, denied that the attack took place and told AFP on Friday that the group's claims were "baseless".
The clashing accounts of the apparent attack are the latest episode in a recent flare-up between the Hamas government and militant groups in Gaza.
Earlier this week, the supporters of the Islamic State in Beit al-Maqdis accused Hamas of demolishing a mosque that its members frequented in Deir al-Balah, in northern Gaza.
“The gangs of the Hamas regime destroyed the Mutahabin Mosque in a way similar to what the Jewish and American occupation do,” the group said in a statement.
Hamas denied the allegation and said it demolished a tent structure next to the mosque which served as a meeting base for supporters of the Islamic State.
The demolition of the tent came after Hamas arrested dozens of the group’s members in recent weeks, including a leader who announced his support for the Islamic State.
On Monday, the pro-IS group threatened to attack top-ranking Hamas security officials if the government did not release group’s detained members within 72 hours.
Translation: Hamas, we have warned you with words but you did not listen, so we are warning you with fire. Release our brothers from prison or else
The threat was followed by an attack that targeted Hamas’s security headquarters in the Sheikh Radwan neighbourhood of Gaza City. No casualties were reported.
In public statements, Hamas officials have appeared to downplay the tension with the group.
"Residents can tour Gaza without need of a weapon from Rafah to Beit Hanoun," Iyad al-Bazam wrote on his Facebook page on Thursday.
Though individuals have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in Gaza, there has been no confirmation from the group itself that it has a presence in the coastal enclave.