Gaza jihadist group praises Ansar Jerusalem fighters, calls for more attacks
In a statement released to jihadist forums on March 16, the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC) issued a eulogy for Tawfiq Mohammed Freij and Mohamed al Sayed Mansour al Toukhi. Al Toukhi and Freij were members of the Sinai-based jihadist group Ansar Jerusalem (Ansar Bayt al Maqdis) who were killed on March 11 in two separate incidents.
In the statement, the MSC called on Allah to have mercy on the two jihadists "and accept them among the ranks of the martyrs," according to a translation by Oren Adaki, a Research Associate at Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Freij was praised as an "intrepid man" who played a key role in the jihad in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. "He was among the pioneers" and "made the Jews weep and the apostates fear," the MSC's statement said.
As for al Toukhi, the MSC praised him for "making the tyrants" suffer. In addition, the jihadist group lauded al Toukhi for firing on Egyptian security forces when they came to arrest him last week.
The MSC's statement concluded by urging "our brothers in Ansar Bayt al Maqdis to have more patience and endurance." "Continue your journey and aim your strikes to hit the economy and tourism, for by striking these two the tyrants will wither and recede," the Gaza-based jihadist group declared.
Ansar Jerusalem, which has primarily targeted security-related sites, has previously said that it is waging an economic war against the current regime in Cairo. At least three South Korean tourists and an Egyptian civilian were killed when an Ansar Jerusalem suicide bomber targeted a tourist bus in the South Sinai city of Taba on Feb. 16. On Jan. 19, the Sinai-based jihadist group took credit for a gas pipeline bombing in the Sinai and warned the Egyptian army and those cooperating with it that the group's fighters would continue to target their economic interests in response to army operations in the Sinai that have destroyed homes as well as farms, among other offenses.
The March 16 statement marks at least the second time that the MSC, which has operated out of Gaza and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, has commented on the death of Ansar Jerusalem fighters. In August 2013, the group issued a statement in support of Ansar Jerusalem following the death of four of the group's fighters. The MSC followed this with a rocket attack from the Sinai toward Eilat.
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. The group said the attack was "a gift to our brothers in Qaedat al Jihad and Sheikh Zawahiri" and retaliation for the death of Osama bin Laden. In early February 2013, the MSC released a martyrdom video branding one of the terrorists killed in the June 2012 attack as an al Qaeda "martyr."
On Oct. 22, 2012, 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." 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 it was not truly a party to the ceasefire.
Although the MSC's media unit, the Ibn Taymiyyah Media Center (ITMC), has called for attacks against Egyptian security forces and released three videos denouncing the destruction caused by Egyptian operations in the Sinai, the MSC has not yet claimed responsibility for any attacks in Egypt. In fact, it explicitly denied any connection to the Aug. 5, 2012 attack on an Egyptian military outpost in Rafah that killed 16 Egyptian soldiers. In late August 2013, the ITMC released a series of posters in Hebrew and Arabic threatening attacks against the southern Israeli city of Eilat.
The ITMC has also promoted jihadist activities in Syria as well as in the West Bank. In February 2014, the media unit promoted a banner honoring Abu Khalid al Suri, who served as one of al Qaeda's top representatives in Syria prior to his death. A couple weeks prior, the MSC had issued a statement in support of the Islamist State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS), the primary suspect in al Suri's death. In early February 2014, ISIS was disowned by al Qaeda's general command.
Over the past two years, the Israeli Air Force has targeted a number of MSC members. On Oct. 7, 2012, 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, 2012, 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. Numerous jihadist groups and media units as well as al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri issued statements following the death of the two jihadists.
More recently, in April 2013, the IAF targeted and killed Hithem Ziad Ibrahim Masshal, a well-known jihadist in the Gaza Strip, who was said to be a member of the MSC. On May 7, Masshal was eulogized by a senior member of the MSC who claimed that he never visited Masshal "without finding his room full with materials for manufacturing and preparing rockets, and the materials of jihad." On Aug. 7, 2013, the MSC released a video to jihadist forums praising Masshal for having "always rolled up his sleeves and used up his time in training the mujahideen to fight and shoot in the Cause of Allah."
Since its formation, the group has released a couple of eulogies for slain al Qaeda leaders. For example, in September 2012 the group released a eulogy to jihadist forums for Abu Yahya al Libi, a longtime al Qaeda leader from Libya, who was killed in a US drone strike in Mir Ali in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan on June 4, 2012. More recently, in mid-July last year, the group released a statement of condolence to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) after it confirmed the death of its deputy leader, Said al Shihri (a.k.a. Abu Sufyan al-Azdi).
In February 2014, the MSC also issued a joint eulogy for Majid bin Muhammad al Majid, a Saudi jihadist who headed the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, as well as Dokku Umarov, the leader of the Islamic Caucasus Emirate. The death of Umarov, who has been reported killed numerous times, has yet to be confirmed by the ICU, though a number of jihadist groups, including AQAP, and jihadist media units, such as the Global Islamic Media Front, have issued eulogies.