Hamas denies claims of commander's death in Sinai

GAZA CITY – Palestinian faction Hamas on Wednesday denied reports that a commander of its armed wing, the Ezzeddin al-Qassam Brigades, had been killed in an Egyptian airstrike in the northern Sinai Peninsula.

In a statement, Hamas reiterated its policy of non-interference in Egypt's internal affairs.

Earlier Wednesday, some Egyptian and international media outlets had reported that a Qassam Brigades commander – Abdel-Elah Qeshteh – had been killed in an Egyptian airstrike in northern Sinai's Sheikh Zuweid city.

The reports said Qeshteh had been killed during a meeting with members of Egypt's Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, a militant group that is active in Sinai.

The body of the slain Qassam commander, media reports claimed, had been secretly taken to the blockaded Gaza Strip via a network of cross-border tunnels.

According to Hamas, however, Qeshteh had not been a member of the group or its armed wing.

"Hamas reaffirms its fixed policy of not interfering in Egypt's internal affairs," the group asserted. "And it rejects attempts to implicate it in such."

For more than one year, Egypt has been actively cracking down on Ansar Beit al-Maqdis strongholds in Sinai.   

Ansar Beit al-Maqdis recently changed its name to "Welayet Sinai" ("the State of Sinai") after reportedly swearing allegiance to the militant Islamic State of Iraq and Levant group.

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