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The Killer of the Two Swedes in Belgium Shows ISIS Influence, No Ties to Hamas

Wesam Abo Marq Wesam Abo Marq
23rd October 2023
The Killer of the Two Swedes in Belgium Shows ISIS Influence, No Ties to Hamas
There was no evidence linking the attacker to Hamas (X)

Israel’s official X account which is run by the Israeli Foreign Ministry uploaded a short video from an interview featuring Idit Rosenzweig-Abu, Israel's Ambassador to Belgium. In the interview, she described Hamas as a threat within Belgium, linking it to ISIS. This interview coincided with a tragic incident in which two Swedish citizens were killed in northern Brussels.

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A screenshot of Israel’s Post (X)

The caption accompanying the ambassador’s post reads, “There are organisations is #Belgium that are calling for people to join the Palestinian armed resistance. The shout about blood in #Brussels streets. Hamas called for a WORLDWIDE day of rage. This is ISIS. If we don’t stop them, it will come to Europe.  #Hamas_is_ISIS.”

Gunman Kills Two Swedish Citizens in Brussels

Two Swedish nationals were tragically shot and killed, and a third person sustained injuries in central Brussels on October 16. Shortly after the incident, an individual who identified himself as a member of the Islamic State claimed responsibility in a video posted online.

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A screenshot of the Reuters’ article.

The person who claimed responsibility in the video, using the name Abdesalem Al Guilani, asserted that he was a fighter of the Islamic State. The federal prosecutor indicated that the third victim, a taxi driver, had been wounded but was not in life-threatening condition. 

On October 17, Belgian police shot dead the man suspected of killing the two Swedish nationals. The accused, a 45-year-old Tunisian national, later succumbed to his injuries in the hospital after being shot in the chest, as reported by Belgian media.

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A screenshot of Al Jazeera’s article.

The Attacker Shows ISIS Influence, No Ties to Hamas

The gunman's explicit statement in the video indicated his intention to target Swedish nationals and his affiliation with the Islamic State. These motivations and actions are unrelated to Hamas or Palestine.

As per a media transcript of the video message recorded by the attacker, he stated, "Islamic greeting Allahu Akbar. My name is Abdesalem Al Guilani and I am a fighter for Allah. I am from the Islamic State. We love who loves us and we hate who hates us. We live for our religion and we die for our religion. Alhamdulah. Your brother took revenge in the name of Muslims. I have killed 3 Swedes so far Al hamdoulelah. 3 Swedish, yes. Those to whom I have done something wrong, may they forgive me. And I forgive everyone. Salam Aleykoum."

According to the Belgian federal prosecutor, there was no evidence linking the attacker to the recent ongoing war between Israel and Palestinian resistance.

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A screenshot of the Reuters’ article.

On October 17, Belgium’s Crisis Center also confirmed that the attacker was affiliated with the Islamic State.

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A screenshot of the Belgium Crisis Center’s post.

In another post, the Ambassador confirmed that the perpetrator was associated with the Islamic State, without making any reference to Hamas or any other Palestinian resistance group, as previously stated.
The post reads, “I was shocked and saddened by the news of a vicious terrorist attack against innocent Swedish civilians, committed by an ISIS supporter in Brussels.”

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A screenshot of the Ambassador’s post.

A Stark Difference Between Hamas and the Islamic State

Hamas originated as a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and underwent a complete separation from the Brotherhood in 2007. In contrast, the Islamic State is recognized as a Salafi-jihadist organization. Despite both being Islamic movements, the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi ideologies have been in a state of disagreement for many decades.

The tension between Hamas and Salafi jihadis, from which the Islamic State emerged, has not abated over the years. Hamas has launched several attacks to curtail these factions. The most significant confrontation occurred in the summer of 2009 when Abdel Latif Musa, the leader of Ansar Allah and the imam of the Ibn Taymiyyah Mosque in Rafah, challenged the Hamas movement. 

He declared the establishment of the "Islamic Emirate" in Rafah, leading to a violent clash between his Salafi supporters and the Hamas movement, resulting in the death of the Islamic Emirate's leaders and its collapse.

Since then, relations between Hamas and Salafi Jihadis have not improved, and the disagreements flared up again following the 2014 summer war with Israel. The rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), its public separation from al-Qaeda, and the presence of jihadist groups based in Gaza contributed to a shift in their allegiance from Ayman al-Zawahiri to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Hamas has adopted a stricter stance towards these factions in an effort to suppress their influence. In early April 2015, they detained an individual suspected of having ties to the Islamic State. This led to a series of forceful arrests. These detentions resulted in several acts of retaliation, including the detonation of an explosive device near a UNRWA facility.

Tensions flared up in early May of the same year after the 72-hour ultimatum issued by Ansar al-Dawla, an affiliate of the Islamic State, demanding that Hamas release all detained Salafis and calling on Ansar al-Dawla supporters in Gaza to launch attacks against Hamas. This ultimatum led to a mortar attack on a Qassam Brigades-affiliated base in southern Gaza.

Israeli Propaganda Alleges Hamas-ISIS Link Without Evidence

Aside from the ideological and political disparities between Hamas and the Islamic State, there is a significant divergence in their actions. Hamas has never engaged in conflicts outside its own territories, and it has not challenged the sovereignty of other states beyond its borders. These distinctions between the two organizations cast doubt on the credibility of claims suggesting a concrete connection and raise questions about their validity.

Israeli officials continue to allege that there is a connection between Hamas and the Islamic State, while Hamas consistently denies these accusations. However, there is currently no concrete evidence that substantiates this alleged connection.

Pro-Palestine Supporters in London Did Not Wave ISIS Flags

Recently, social media users widely circulated photos and videos of pro-Palestine protesters in London waving ISIS flags.

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In response to these claims, the official X account of the London Metropolitan Police on the X issued a clarification, stating that the flags in the photos and videos were not ISIS flags but rather show "a declaration of faith in Islam." 

They further added, "We have specialist officers with knowledge of flags working on this operation to assist with these assessments."

Misbar's investigation of the photos and videos revealed that the flags raised by some protesters are not ISIS flags. Instead, they display the "Shahada," representing the declaration of faith in Islam and also known as the "Tawheed flag." This symbol has been employed by various Islamic movements and organizations. While it may bear a resemblance to ISIS flags, it is important to note that they are not the same.

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A screenshot of protesters waving the Shahada flag.
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A screenshot of the ISIS flag.

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