Spoiling the Gaza Ceasefire

Outside Hamas's control, jihadi groups in Gaza and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula may cause the greatest threat to stability in the region.

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Hamas militants celebrate after the eight-day conflict in Gaza. (Suhaib Salem/Reuters)

In negotiating a ceasefire to end the current conflict in Gaza, most of the focus has been on Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), who have launched hundreds of rockets into Israel. But in order for the ceasefire to be sustainable, it must address the role of other, non-Hamas-aligned militants from Gaza and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula who have been involved in the attacks as well.

The jihadis of Majlis Shura Fi Aknaf Bayt al-Maqdis (MSM for short), Jama'at Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (JABM), Jaysh al-Ummah (JU), and Jaysh al-Islam (JI) claimed responsibility for 99 rocket attacks from Nov. 11 to Nov. 21 once the conflict escalated. MSM and JABM have cells in both the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula. MSM was responsible for the majority of these rocket attacks, having conducted 72 of them --14 of which were in a joint operation with JI on November 20. Five of MSM's rocket attacks originated from northern Sinai. Additionally, JU announced the launch of 26 rockets, while JABM accounted for the final one having targeted the Israeli port city of Eilat from the Sinai.

In the four groups' statements, they mention that they targeted "Jewish settlements" (actually Israeli cities) Eshkol, Sderot, Netivot, Ashkelon, Kissufim, and Karmia, each location on a number of occasions. Further, MSM released four videos and JI published one video both showing members of their organizations launching rockets from Gaza and the Sinai toward Israel. In addition to Gaza-based jihadis, there were also unconfirmed though likely reports from al-Qaeda's forums that members of al-Salafiyya al-Jihadiyya in the Sinai infiltrated Gaza and joined in the fight with MSM as well as JABM.

As such, these jihadis might attempt to derail the ceasefire.

This thoroughfare between the Sinai and Gaza amongst jihadis highlights the growing nexus of terror emanating from the two locations. The destabilization of the Sinai after the 2011 Egyptian uprising has helped Gazan jihadis regroup after suppression at the hands of Hamas when jihadis in the past attempted to challenge Hamas' power in the Gaza Strip.

Therefore, it is possible that if Hamas attempts to implement the new ceasefire, Gaza-based jihadis will further embed themselves in the Northern Sinai safe haven. And while tensions have flared between Hamas and the various jihadi factions in Gaza since Hamas took power, Hamas has also looked the other way following the 2008-2009 war when different jihadis launched rockets into Israel. Both possibilities do not bode well for the sustainability of the ceasefire. Further, a recent analysis by a popular jihadi essayist suggests Gazan jihadis feel slighted by Hamas and PIJ's lack of recognition in their recent efforts in the conflict. As such, these jihadis might attempt to derail the ceasefire.

Presented by

Aaron Zelin

Aaron Y. Zelin is the Richard Borow fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the Rena and Sami David fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence. He is the founder of the website Jihadology.net.

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