The Hamas-run government in Gaza arrested ten individuals for involvement in Tuesday’s attacks on two police checkpoints. Senior Hamas official Moussa Mohammed Abu Marzouk made the announcement but declined to offer further details.
Hamas’s interior ministry had said two suicide bombers hit police checkpoints night near Gaza City, killing three policemen. Both attackers used motorbikes to reach their targets before detonating explosive devices.
Hamas initially blamed Israel for the attack, but a spokesperson for the Israeli military rejected the claim. The government in Gaza declared a state of emergency and opened an investigation into the blast. Hamas’s al-Qassam military brigade deployed to the streets, blocking streets and setting up its own checkpoints.
Israeli news media reported after the arrests on Thursday that the suspects were Islamic State-inspired Salafists. Channel 13 also cites Palestinians sources that says the accused individuals had been physically abused while in custody.
Islamic State and their Salafi sympathizers have long clashed with Hamas in Gaza. While both groups are strongly Islamist, Islamic State see itself as part of a global jihadist movement, while Hamas is part of the Palestinian nationalist movement aimed at destroying Israel. Hamas used to cooperate with the IS affiliate in Sinai openly, but the Egyptian government’s willingness to close the Gaza’s Rafah border crossing and isolate the enclave has curbed Hamas’s behavior. Islamic State in Sinai even declared war on Hamas last year, calling its supporters apostates.
Salafist groups in Gaza pose a dilemma for Hamas. While the group can rely on them to fight any war with Israel, they also provoke Israel with arbitrary rocket attacks against the Jewish State. Israel holds Hamas liable for rocket attacks originating from Gaza, so Hamas often bears the cost of retaliatory strikes that target its military infrastructure.