What Effect ISIS' Declaration Of War Against Hamas Could Have In The Middle East
KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
In the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt, ISIS has declared war on another extremist group, Hamas. In a video, ISIS militants called on their followers to bomb Hamas locations. And then the video ends with the execution of an alleged Hamas operator. To help us understand what's happening and why, we are joined by Tareq Baconi. He is a visiting scholar at Columbia University's Middle East Institute and the author of the forthcoming book "Hamas Contained." Welcome.
TAREQ BACONI: Thank you for having me.
MCEVERS: So the United States considers both ISIS and Hamas to be terrorist groups, but these two are obviously not allies. How do you explain the animosity between them?
BACONI: Well, you're absolutely right. The two are not allies in the least. And actually, both ISIS and Hamas are vastly different organizations, that to even put them together as extremist organizations might overlook a lot of the differences that the two movements have. So for ISIS, ISIS is a transnational terror network that has this vision of recreating the Islamic caliphate, of imposing Sharia law. And it has an ideology that's based on fighting what it views as Western hegemony by carrying out sensationalist terrorist attacks all over the world. Hamas, on the other hand, is a national liberation movement that is...
BACONI: ...Tethered to a very specific geographic context and that is focused on a very clear political goal, which is ending an occupation that's deemed illegal by international law.
MCEVERS: Well, what is it that they're competing for?
BACONI: So it's not necessarily that they are competing. They're working towards different goals entirely. ISIS is looking to, as I said, recreate an Islamic caliphate. So it looks that Hamas as an apostate movement. It doesn't view Hamas even as an Islamic movement. There are specific reasons that ISIS has for this particular attack.
First, it's said that it's fighting Hamas because Hamas is imprisoning its own members within the Gaza Strip. It says that it's fighting Hamas because Hamas has failed to stop President Trump from declaring Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. And it's fighting Hamas because it says Hamas is being supported by Iran, which is obviously a Shia power and seen by ISIS as an apostate government, not as Muslims.
MCEVERS: Right. So how far could this escalate? I mean, could these two groups actually go to war with each other? And if they did, what would that mean for the region?
BACONI: Well, I think that would be unlikely. I think it's important to know that even though this is a declaration of war that happened recently, the relationship between ISIS and Hamas has been very complex since 2007 when Hamas came to power in the Gaza Strip. So this is just the latest of quite a violent relationship that the two organizations have had. Hamas has since 2009 had a very repressive approach towards any form of Salafi jihadist movements in Gaza. So even as recently as last summer, there was a suicide bombing attack by ISIS against Hamas' military wing in the Gaza Strip. So what we're seeing now isn't much of a new development.
One thing I would say is that Hamas militarily isn't necessarily that threatened by ISIS in Gaza. There's maybe a handful of people, maybe tens of individuals in Gaza that declared themselves to be Salafis jihadists. The situation is slightly different in the Sinai Peninsula where ISIS is a very volatile, very violent presence. And it's going to continue focusing on Egyptian targets. It's going to carry out violent attacks of the likes of the horrific attack that happened against a Sufi mosque in November. And it's going to try to carry out large-scale attacks to shift the defeat it's facing in Syria and Iraq.
MCEVERS: Tareq Baconi is a visiting scholar at Columbia University's Middle East Institute. Thank you very much.
BACONI: Thank you for having me.
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