Abdullah Jihad al Ashqar (Abu al Muhtasib al Maqdisi), seated next to an al Qaeda flag. Image from the SITE Intelligence Group.
On Nov. 21, an audio speech from Abdullah Jihad al Ashqar (Abu al Muhtasib al Maqdisi), a media official for Tawhid and Jihad Group in Jerusalem, was released to jihadist forums. The speech, titled “A Message of Greetings to the Defiant Hands,” was obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.
The Tawhid and Jihad Group in Jerusalem is one of at least two groups that make up the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC). On Oct. 13, the Israeli Air Force 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 men were said to be leaders of the MSC.
In the speech, al Ashqar praised the Salafi jihadist groups operating in the Gaza Strip and Sinai for their recent efforts fighting Israel during Operation Pillar of Defense. He specifically directed his praise toward the MSC, Ansar Jerusalem, the Army of Islam, and the Army of the Ummah. “They spared no effort in directing the strikes against the Jews despite the primitive equipment and lack of capability,” al Ashqar said.
On Nov. 14, in response to incessant rocket fire from Palestinian terror groups in Gaza, including Hamas, Israel launched Operation Pillar of Defense. The operation began with the targeted killing of Ahmed Jabari, the leader of the Ezzedine al Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing.
Following the killing of Jabari, the Israeli Air Force carried out over 1,000 airstrikes throughout the Gaza Strip targeting rocket launch sites, including Fajr 5 missiles; weapons caches; and Hamas’s drone program. Meanwhile, terror groups in the Gaza Strip, including Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the MSC, launched over 1,000 rockets and mortars from Gaza into Israel.
In addition to praising the various Salafi jihadist groups, al Ashqar argued that there was no alternative to fighting Israel. “[T]here is no choice before us to deal with this enemy other than the mouths of cannons and guns in the battlefields. Negotiations and concessions will only lead to more of our blood and body parts on the threshold of unprecedented hatred,” he said.
Al Ashqar then called for unity among the various Salafi jihadist groups in the Gaza Strip. “More and more steadfastness and unity and meeting for the brothers in tawhid [monotheism]. Organize your ranks and prepare your equipment.” Addressing the eventuality of an Israeli ground invasion, he told the various groups to “[p]repare your devices, save your cannons, wear your explosive belts, and show Allah good from you… have highness and not lowliness… They will not enter Gaza – Allah permitting – except over our dead bodies.”
On Wednesday, prior to the institution of a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian terror groups, the MSC and the Army of Islam (Jaysh al Islam) announced that they had carried out joint rocket attacks against Israel between Nov. 19 and Nov. 21.