GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — The Hamas run Gaza Ministry of Interior on Thursday denied the existence of the Islamic State group in the Gaza Strip.
Ministry spokesman Iyad al-Bizm said in a statement that there were no known IS members in Gaza, and denied that security forces had made any arrests connected to the group.
He added that “exaggerations” by media outlets were completely untrue.
The official said a man was arrested after refusing to respond to a subpoena twice. Al-Bizm said the man had already been released.
Earlier Thursday, supporters of IS in Gaza called for the release of several members they said had been detained by Hamas security services.
The group, which calls itself “Supporters of the Islamic Caliphate State,” demanded that security forces release the men in the next few days, adding that “threats and political arrests will not succeed in failing IS’s unification project.”
On Monday, Hamas-run security services arrested a radical Salafist sheikh, accusing him of membership in the Islamic State group, a source told AFP.
“Adnan Khader Mayat from the Bureij refugee camp (in central Gaza) was arrested as part of an investigation,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity and without giving further details.
Hamas forces have in the past cracked down hard on Salafist groups in the coastal enclave.
In a separate statement, sources close to Salafists who are currently being held behind bars accused Hamas of “continuing its raids among our brothers and sons,” denouncing the recent arrest of their two younger members.
“These actions will lead to an escalation which nobody wants,” it warned.
In recent months, there have been a number statements claiming minor attacks that were signed by “the Islamic State-Gaza governorate” but most were dismissed on jihadist forums.
So far, no Gaza-based movement has declared its allegiance with the IS movement, experts say, although they say such claims show a desire on the part of local factions to be included in the IS fold.
According to a recent survey conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, an overwhelming majority of Palestinians do not hold favorable views towards IS.
Survey results showed that 86 percent of Palestinians believe IS is a radical group that does not represent true Islam, versus 8 percent that believe it does represent true Islam and 6 percent that aren’t sure.
In the Gaza Strip specifically, the percentage is slightly higher with 13 percent believing IS is representative of their understanding of Islam.
A spokesman of the Palestinian Authority’s security services Adnan Dameiri announced in February 2015 that Palestine is free from any cells affiliated to the Islamic State militant group.
“We are obviously adamant not to have ISIS or umbrellas for them in Palestine. Those who have been trying to create the ISIS phenomenon are Israel and Hamas given that the Muslim Brotherhood movement is the incubator which created al-Qaeda, ISIS, the Nusra Front and other Jihadist and Takfiri organizations,” he said.
The PA security services, added the spokesman at the time, had interrogated several suspects over affiliation to ISIS, but they were all set free after they proved their innocence.