Hamas struck by suicide attack in Gaza for the first time

A suicide bomber killed a Hamas security guard in the Gaza Strip near the border with Egypt on Thursday, the first such attack to hit the Palestinian militant group.

Four other Hamas men were wounded in the bombing at the Rafah crossing, said Eyad al-Bozom, a spokesman for Gaza’s Interior Ministry. He said the attacker was not affiliated with the Islamic State and was “ideologically deviant.”

Hamas, which has regularly used suicide bomb attacks against Israel in the past, denies that Islamic State militants have a presence in the area. Bozom also said Hamas was not the intended target, and insisted the bomber was bound for Egypt.

The bomber and another man were stopped by Hamas and refused to surrender before the one wearing a suicide belt detonated it. The second man was seriously injured in the attack, he said. 

The bombing came as Hamas shifts its allegiances, distancing itself from Islamic State-affiliated fighters in Sinai and bolstering ties with Egypt. Cairo had accused Hamas of assisting Islamic State militants and using them to smuggle arms into Gaza.

Earlier this year, Hamas agreed to a number of Egyptian demands, including better border security, in attempts to keep Gaza from being used as a refuge by the Islamic State militants. 

In exchange, Egypt has sent fuel for Gaza’s power station and made assurances it will open the border more regularly. The crossing was opened for the first time in three months this week to allow residents to go on pilgrimage to Mecca.

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Hamas has been driven to improve relations with Egypt since the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank cut funding and electricity to Gaza in an attempt to force Hamas to cede control. 

Morris reported from Jerusalem.