Abu Abdul Muhajir, a leading Salafi-Jihadist in Gaza, has told Asharq al-Awsat that Salafi-Jihadists in Gaza are determined to establish an Islamic Emirate in the coastal enclave despite being targeted by Israel and Hamas.
“We always are planning to establish God’s Sharia on earth. This is the duty of every Muslim. Our project, God willing, exists, and the day will come when the mujahidin will fulfill their project,” Abdul Muhajir said.
Abdul Muhajir also slammed Hamas, which he said continues to carry out arrests of Salafi-Jihadists and confiscate some of their weapons. “They [Hamas] are storming our houses, detaining some, and summoning the brothers of some of our brethren in an attempt to exert pressure on them to surrender,” he told Asharq al-Awsat.
Last month, Hamas reportedly arrested 20 Salafi-Jihadists, some of whom were believed to be tied to the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC). At the time, Abdul Muhajir said that “Hamas’s war on the Salafists is unjustified” and that the Salafi-Jihadists “do not throw stones at Hamas or Egypt or any other party…our battle is solely with the Zionist occupation.”
If a group or groups of Salafi-Jihadists decide to declare an Islamic Emirate in Gaza, it would not be the first such declaration for Gaza. In August 2009, Jund Ansar Allah battled Hamas after its leader, Latif Moussa (Abu al Nour al Maqdissi), declared an Islamic emirate in Rafah and the Palestinian territories and said Hamas was not sufficiently Islamic.
However, the recent formation of the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem, which is reminiscent of the MSC in Iraq (the precursor to the Islamic State of Iraq), might suggest that such a declaration may not be far away. In January 2006, six Islamist terror groups operating in Iraq formed the Mujahideen Shura Council, which served as a military council to coordinate attacks against US and Iraqi forces. In October 2006, the Mujahideen Shura Council was disbanded and replaced by the Islamic State of Iraq, which served as the political front for al Qaeda in Iraq.
The exact size of the Salafi-Jihadist groups in Gaza is unknown. Some observers have said that some parts of Gaza “are almost completely under the control of the Jihadists,” while others have suggested that they only have a “modest structure.” According to Yossi Kuperwasser, the director-general of Israel’s Strategic Affairs Ministry, there are “many dozens of activists” in the Salafi-Jihadist groups.
Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem
The Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem is a consolidation of a number of Salafi-Jihadist groups operating in the Gaza Strip including, but not limited to: Tawhid and Jihad Group in Jerusalem, and Ansar al Sunnah. The group has taken responsibility for a number of rocket attacks against Israel as well as the June 18, 2012 attack that killed one Israeli civilian.
In July, it released a 38-minute-long video in which it said that the June attack was “a gift to our brothers in Qaedat al Jihad and Sheikh Zawahiri” and retaliation for the death of Osama bin Laden. On Oct. 22, the MSC released a 32-minute-long video detailing some of its rocket attacks against Israel and threatening to “fight you [Israel] as long as we hold…weapons in our hands.”
The Israeli Defense Forces has recently increased its targeting of MSC members. On Oct. 7, the IDF killed Tala’at Halil Muhammad Jarbi, a “global jihad operative,” and Abdullah Muhammad Hassan Maqawai, a member of the MSC. Maqawai was likely a former member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. On Oct. 13, Israel killed Abu al Walid al Maqdisi, the former emir of the Tawhid and Jihad Group in Jerusalem, and Ashraf al Sabah, the former emir of Ansar al Sunnah, in an airstrike. The two were said to be leaders of the MSC.