Daesh under pressure after Hamas attack on Israel

Daesh under pressure after Hamas attack on Israel

PARIS (AFP): The deadly Hamas attack on Israel may have taken the limelight from Daesh, but the terrorists are seeking to capitalize on anger over the bombardment of Gaza to rally followers, analysts say.

Israel has vowed to defeat Hamas after an attack on its soil by the Palestinian group on Oct. 7 that killed around 1,140 people, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.

Militants also took around 250 hostages, 132 of whom Israel says remain in Gaza, including at least 25 believed to have been killed.

The war has put the spotlight on Hamas. “Without the Gaza war, Daesh would get the headlines,” said Hans-Jakob Schindler, director of the Counter Extremism Project think tank.

“It puts considerable pressure on IS to remain relevant.”

Hamas presents itself as defending the Palestinian people against the Israeli occupation since 1948.

Daesh is against Iran and is focused on trying to revive its project of a global Islamic caliphate after losing the territory it held in Syria and Iraq between 2014 and 2019.

But its supporters are also against Israel and any “global Jewish project,” said Laurence Bindner, co-founder of the JOS Project, which analyzes extremist propaganda.

“In the Middle East, the enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend,” she said.

Daesh “has positioned itself simultaneously on several fronts: one against Jews and those who support Israel and another against Iran and their allies.”

Earlier this month, Daesh claimed an attack in Iran that killed 89 people gathered to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the killing of storied Revolutionary Guards general Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike.

Since the start of the war in Gaza, Daesh has sought to tap into sympathy for Palestinians.

In late October, Daesh, in its Al-Naba propaganda magazine, published a text on “Practical Ways to Support Muslims in Palestine,” urging followers to attack Israel, its Western backers, and all Jews worldwide.

Earlier this month, the terrorist group’s spokesperson, Abu Hudhayfah Al-Ansari, posted a recording titled “And kill them wherever you find them.”

Daesh has “identified an opportunity to leverage the hostile anti-Israel sentiments throughout the Muslim world over the aerial bombardment and military invasion of Gaza,” said Lucas Webber, co-founder of the Militant Wire website.

“It’s an opening for increased relevance and success,” he said.

“Even as Daesh continues to have a particular disdain for Hamas, it does not mean that the extremists will forgo taking advantage of the fighting for their purpose — pushing supporters to strike in the West, nudging fence-sitters toward action, and aiming to radicalize a growing pool of angry individuals.”

There has been some Daesh-related activity in Europe in recent months, although only at a low level.

In France, a French national born to Iranian parents who had sworn allegiance to Daesh stabbed a German-Filipino tourist to death in Paris in early December.

Italian police said in November they had arrested an Algerian man in the Milan subway, later discovering he was wanted by Algeria since 2015 for alleged ties to Daesh.

A more extensive operation “would be necessary” for the terrorist group in Europe for more people to talk about them, said Schindler.

“They have put networks in place for a long time already. Now they need to do something to put themselves back on the agenda.”

Eva Koulouriotis, an independent Middle East expert, said Daesh focused on building support in the Middle East and Central Africa.

They want to “achieve greater popularity within Islamic societies and, consequently, attract more members,” she said.