On January 4, 2018, ISIS declared war on Hamas via a propaganda video showing the execution of a man who ISIS claims worked with Hamas. They seem like similar groups and share core beliefs, but because of a few differences there are extreme tensions between the two. Hamas, along with Fatah, are Palestinian groups that are both Sunnis, a denomination of Islam. While Fatah is secular politically, Hamas is more influenced by religion. Like Hamas, the members of ISIS are Sunnis and they are both extremist Islamic groups. However, they have differing views on various issues that ultimately led ISIS to declare war on Hamas earlier this month.
The key party in Palestine impacted by ISIS today is Hamas. ISIS can attack them through terrorist acts as well as by convincing members of Hamas to defect to ISIS. However, there are potentially other people in Palestine who could be impacted. If ISIS interrupts a potential compromise between Fatah and Hamas, Fatah could be affected as well. Iran, a Shiite nation that is the main benefactor for Hamas, could also be afflicted. Furthermore, ISIS could disrupt Israeli negotiations with Palestine if there was an unity agreement. When ISIS declared war on Hamas, they had two ways to attack them, through violence and the conversion of Hamas to ISIS.
The best way to alleviate this issue would be to sign a peace treaty for an in independent Palestine and ensure that countries continue to fight ISIS.There are three key issues that have led ISIS to declare war. First of all, Hamas is in favor of a ceasefire with Israel; however, ISIS does not want to compromise with them, as they believe Israelis have taken over Muslim land. While Hamas has agreed to several ceasefires, they have not agreed to peace with Israel, as their Charter calls for the destruction if Israel: “Israel will rise and will remain erect until Islam eliminates it as it had eliminated its predecessors”.
ISIS views a ceasefire as a compromise, which is unacceptable to them. ISIS said part of the reason for declaring war on Hamas was to crackdown on small Salafi groups in Gaza, who were not honoring the ceasefire. ISIS also cited Hamas’s failure to stop U.S. President Donald Trump from stating that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, a flashpoint issue for all supporters of the Palestinian cause.
ISIS believes that Palestinians and Muslims more broadly have been given a “second-class status” and “that only through violence will Muslims regain their dignity”. Another issue is that ISIS is not in favor of close ties with the broader Muslim population. They are in favor of all Muslims following their ultraconservative version of Islam.
Hamas has negotiated with Fatah to achieve a united Palestinian group, but ISIS does not like this because it would be a political union, instead of one based on ancient Islamic Law. The negotiations between Fatah and Hamas on Palestinian unity have stalled, as criticism from ISIS has been a factor. Hamas has strong ties with Iran which has provided them with funds and weapons to fight Israel.
But, ISIS doesn’t approve of any ties to Iran because they are Shiites, who are viewed as heretics by ISIS. Iran has backed Hamas by arming its missile stocks and funding its tunnel network that stretches from its coastal enclave into Israeli territory. Finally, Hamas is in favor of a more political government than ISIS, who wants a very religious government. In July 2015, ISIS released a video saying, “We will uproot the state of the Jews (Israel) and you (Hamas) and Fatah, and all of the secularists are nothing and you will be overrun by our creeping multitudes,” said a masked Islamic State member in the message addressed to the ‘tyrants of Hamas'”. ISIS is suggesting that they would overthrow Hamas for not being conservative enough and lacking religious rulings. There are two tactics that have been presented to deal with ISIS: improve the lives of the people in Gaza and work with Fatah to create a Palestinian state.
ISIS targets unhappy, hopeless people in Gaza, which is the main place defactions have taken place in Palestine. Hamas attempts to deal with this issue by arresting or punishing ISIS as well as people sympathetic to ISIS, who violate the terms of the ceasefire with Israel or rebel against Hamas in other ways. ISIS criticizes this because they want Hamas to be tougher on Israel. However, there are others who feel the issue would be better handled if Palestine focused on further compromise with Israel. A compromise would alleviate the tension in the region and make the people of Gaza happier, which would likely deter them from wanting to join ISIS. The people of Gaza have become dejected after years of sieges, wars and corrupt government, which has resulted in a high rate of unemployment and a large portion of the population living below the poverty line. Hamas has worked with Fatah for a Palestinian state and appealed for international support to pressure Israel and get back land.
ISIS does not like this approach because they do not want a political solution; they want a holy war. ISIS would attack Hamas with greater force if they unify closer with Fatah. On the flip side of this, a united Islamic group in Palestine could ultimately get support as it would promote peace. This would put pressure on Israel to compromise and make concessions that would result in a shared Jerusalem.There is a growing consensus that Bashar al-Assad will prevail in the Syrian Civil War.
Hamas has shown willingness to work with Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, after fighting ceases in Syria. Hamas’s relations with Syria deteriorated when it supported the Syrian people against Bashar al-Assad when the Syrian Civil War broke out. The current leader of Hamas, Yahya Sinwar, has looked to strengthen ties with Syria, Iran and Egypt. All of these countries have an enemy in common, ISIS. This creates the possibility of a Sunni-Shiite coalition of forces to eliminate ISIS’s actions and influence in the Middle East. Many countries are already being forced to deal with ISIS including “moderate” Sunni states like Turkey and Egypt. Egypt is dealing with its own ISIS affiliate, Sinai Province Group, who ISIS operates in the Sinai Peninsula, the region that borders Israel and the Gaza Strip.
ISIS is suspected of terrorist attacks on Turkish soil. Turkey’s border with Syria has been how many of ISIS’s volunteers have joined the Caliphate. All moderate Arab states are either dealing with an ISIS problem or are threatened by ISIS.
Therefore, all of these countries must work cooperatively to address this problem. However, the opinion on what should happen to captured ISIS fighters is also very mixed. While Sweden feels they should be rehabilitated, Hamas is a radical group and does not want to convert ISIS fighters; instead, they feel as though they should be punished via imprisonment or a more severe action. As part of Hamas’s crackdown on ISIS in 2015, Hamas “rounded up and imprisoned dozens of people”. Previously, Hamas had killed the Salafis for their actions. Hamas’s goal is to remain strong and not let ISIS gain control of its people or express disagreement with its views. To resolve the ISIS conflict, the ideal solution is to ensure people are not sympathetic to their cause so they do not gain power in their current territoires. This would be best achieved with a peace treaty for an independent Palestine so that the people would no longer be at war, which would likely benefit them with more international trade and general support from other countries.
This would improve the economic situation and lead to peace within the region, ultimately leading Palestinians to be happier and less desperate, which would make them less likely to join the ISIS cause. Additionally, countries that are currently fighting ISIS need to continue to do so to prevent them from gaining strength. This can be accomplished because we’ve seen it elsewhere in the world. For over 100 years, there was on-again, off-again war between the Protestants and Catholics in England and Ireland.
This was another very long-standing conflict for which resolution seemed unlikely. Then in 1998, they reached the Good Friday Agreement. It didn’t solve all the problems, but it ended the war via a peace treaty. If the issue in Palestine is not resolved, there is a risk that ISIS could gain a greater hold on Hamas, which would cause the expansion of this terrorist group to occur.
ISIS targets people that are unhappy and so bereft of hope that they can be swayed to become terrorists. These discouraged people see becoming a terrorist as a way to improve their lives and those of their families because they have nothing to lose. If we can solve the issues that make people so hopeless, we will weaken ISIS’s influence.