Four Palestinians kidnapped at gunpoint in Egypt’s Sinai late Wednesday are members of Hamas, Egyptian security officials said, and are being held hostage by the Sinai Province militant group.
Egyptian officials told Ma’an that the four Hamas members were taken hostage by the IS-affiliated group as a bargaining chip to force Hamas to release some 50 Salafists currently imprisoned in Gaza.
The members were identified as Abd al-Basit Abd al-Dayim, Abdullah Said Abdullah Abu Jibbeen, Yasir Fathi Misbah Zanoun and Hussein Khamis al-Thabda.
Negotiations have reportedly begun between Hamas and the militant group, with the involvement of both Palestinian and Egyptian mediators.
Initial investigations suggest the Hamas members were taken to the al-Tuma village south of the city of Sheikh Zuweid.
Sources close to the Sinai Province group — which pledged allegiance to IS in November — have said the four kidnapped Hamas members would be killed if Hamas did not comply with the group’s demands.
The group has claimed responsibility for attacks on Egypt’s army which have killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers since 2013.
The attacks are allegedly in response to the bloody repression launched by the authorities under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s control, which has seen at least 1,400 killed and thousands more jailed.
Since last summer’s devastating war between Hamas and Israel in the Gaza Strip, there have been growing signs of internal unrest between Hamas security forces and other militant groups in the strip, with a string of small-scale explosions.
In June, video footage alleged to be from an IS stronghold in Syria showcased a public challenge by the group against Hamas’ power in Gaza, accusing the Gazan leadership of failing to enforce stringent religious law in the strip.
Prior to the threat, Hamas had reportedly been increasingly challenged by Salafist militant groups in Gaza, with some taking credit for rocket fire into Israel. MAANNEWS