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Israeli official says IS-affiliated fighters treated in Gaza

Feb. 8, 2016 9:00 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 8, 2016 9:00 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- A senior Israel official said Monday that Gaza's de facto leaders Hamas have been providing medical treatment to Islamic State-affiliated fighters from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, in claims Hamas rejected as "baseless."

Yoav Mordechai, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), made the allegations in an interview with Saudi newspaper Elaph.

"We have confirmed information that some fighters from the IS-affiliated Sinai Province group were being moved to Gaza through smuggling tunnels to receive medical treatment," Mordechai reportedly said.

He alleged that the Hamas movement was receiving weapons, money and other goods from IS in return.

A COGAT spokesperson confirmed Mordechai's statement to Ma'an.

However, Iyad al-Buzm, a spokesperson for Hamas' Ministry of the Interior in the Gaza Strip, rejected the claims as "baseless and false."

Buzm said Mordechai's statements were only meant to incite against the Gaza Strip and to worsen relations between Hamas and Egypt so as to intensify a military blockade imposed on the coastal enclave.

A spokesperson for the Hamas-run Ministry of Health in Gaza, Ashraf al-Qidra, also denied that any IS fighter had ever received treatment in Gaza's hospitals.

Al-Qidra said in a Facebook post "Gaza hospitals receive patients and wounded people from the Gaza Strip only," adding that Mordechai's remarks were "inciting, and completely false."

Hamas has suffered poor relations with the Egyptian government ever since the democratically-elected Muslim Brotherhood, with whom they were closely allied, was thrown out of power in July 2013.

Attacks by militants, including the IS-affiliated Sinai Province group, initially began to increase after Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi took power. Hamas has repeatedly denied giving support to the militants.
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