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 reportedly leaders of the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC), a consolidation of Salafi jihadist groups in Gaza.
Since their deaths, a number of statements and eulogies have been released by jihadist groups and media outlets such as the Global Islamic Media Front, Jaish al Ummah, Masada al Mujahideen, Islamic State of Iraq, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Abdullah Azzam Brigades, and Ansar Jerusalem, among others.
Today, a eulogy for al Maqdisi from al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri was released to jihadist forums. The message was obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.
Al Zawahiri praised al Maqdisi for his “martyrdom” and said that he hopes his death will act as “a motive and incitement to his brothers, his people, his loved ones and the rest of the mujahideen and the Muslims in the environs of Jerusalem and around the world, to give and sacrifice more.”
In addition, al Zawahri said that he hopes al Maqdisi’s death would be a catalyst for “the mujahideen in the environs of Jerusalem to unite around the words of tawhid [monotheism] and to stand up to the Zionist enemy while uniting and forming one line like a solid building that defends Islam and its creed, countries and sanctities.”
Near the end of the statement, al Zawahiri referenced a statement released by al Qaeda on Nov. 13 that outlined several goals for Muslims to strive toward, including the implementation of sharia, or Islamic law.
Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem
The Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC) 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. Sheikh Anas Abdul Rahman, one of the group’s leaders, has said that the group aims to “fight the Jews for the return of Islam’s rule, not only in Palestine, but throughout the world.”
The MSC 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 November 2012, the group carried out joint rocket attacks with the Army of Islam. Following the institution of a ceasefire that ended Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense, the MSC said that they were not truly a party to the ceasefire.
In July, the MSC 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 Israel Defense Forces has recently increased its targeting of MSC members. On Oct. 7, the IDF targeted Tala’at Halil Muhammad Jarbi, a “global jihad operative,” and Abdullah Muhammad Hassan Maqawai, a member of the MSC. Maqawai, likely a former member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, died of his wounds. 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 men were said to be leaders of the MSC.
Abu al Walid al Maqdisi
Al Maqdisi was a longtime jihadist who fought alongside al Qaeda in Iraq in the early days of the Iraq war in 2003 before returning to Gaza and establishing the Tawhid and Jihad Group. However, a biography released by the group claimed that al Maqdisi was arrested by Egyptian security forces while trying to travel to Iraq.
In early August this year, Al Maqdisi was freed by Hamas after being detained by Hamas security forces for 17 months. Masada al Mujahideen, another jihadist group in Gaza, released a statement at the time praising the release of al Maqdisi and claiming that he had been arrested “for nothing other than promoting virtue, prohibiting vice, and explaining the Sharia-based rulings [Islamic law] in issues about which Hamas doesn’t like to speak publicly or even believe in.”
Ashraf al Sabah
Ashraf al Sabah was the former emir of Ansar al Sunnah, one of a number of Salafi-Jihadist groups operating in the Gaza Strip. Prior to founding Ansar al Sunnah, al Sabah was a member of Hamas.
The decision to create Ansar al Sunnah reportedly occurred when al Sabah had concluded that Hamas had “deviated from the path [of jihad],” according to a statement released by Ansar Jerusalem. Al Sabah was said to be “a target for Hamas security just as he was a target for the Jews.”