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Egypt claims killing of Hamas 'militant' in North Sinai

Egyptian authorities claim that they have killed a Palestinian man in Sinai believed to be a commander of Hamas' armed wing
Image of Abdel-Elah Qeshteh courtesy of Palestinian local news PALDF NET

Conflicting reports have surfaced regarding the fate of a 25-year-old man from Rafah, south of the Gaza strip.

Abdel-Elah Qeshtah was first conveyed as a Palestinian who left Gaza in September last year through the tunnels that lead into the Egyptian Rafah border town. He then allegedly joined the Islamic State (IS) group in Libya and fought alongside them, before his death was reported on 6 February near the port city of Dernah, eastern Libya. His family confirmed the news, but did not disclose further information regarding the nature of his death.

On Tuesday, Egyptian media cited security sources saying that the army had killed Qeshteh, whom they described as a leader of Hamas’ armed wing the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, in an air strike in the town of Sheikh Zuwayd in northern Sinai.

Egyptian security sources told Sky News Arabic that Qeshteh was responsible for violent actions targeted at the Egyptian army in Sinai. Reports circulated that Qeshteh was killed during a meeting with members of Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, an armed militant group in Sinai who changed their names to Welayet Sinai after recently proclaiming their allegiance to IS.

Hamas for their part denied any connections to Qeshteh. Salah Bardawil, a leading figure in Hamas said in a statement that Qeshteh was never a member of Hamas, let alone a commander of its armed wing.

“Hamas reaffirms its fixed policy of not interfering in Egypt’s internal affairs,” the statement said, “and it rejects attempts to implicate it in such.”

Hamas called on media outlets to “stop promoting false news” that not only has the objective of distorting “the resistance movement, especially the al-Qassam Brigades,” but also to “justify the blockade and aggression on the Gaza strip.”

After the media reports confirming his death was in Sinai, Qeshteh’s wife told the local news website al-Resalah that her husband was still very much alive and called her today after hearing news of his own demise. Qeshteh’s wife informed the website that her husband had no idea about the reports claiming his death.

Welayet Sinai are known for targeting Egyptian army personnel in the desert.

Egyptian media reports of Qeshteh's connection with the Sinai armed group and Hamas has led to the latter condemning Cairo as attempting to demonise their government in Gaza. It comes after Egyptian authorities recently labelled Hamas a terror organisation.

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