A jihadist organization calling itself the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC) has claimed responsibility for yesterday’s cross border attack in Israel, according to the SITE Intel Group.
The attack was launched near a security fence that Israel is constructing along its border with Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. One Israeli civilian was killed after the attackers detonated an improvised explosive device and then opened fire on two vehicles carrying construction workers. At least two terrorists were killed during the raid.
In videos released by the Ibn Taymiyyah Media Center, MSC members stand in front of al Qaeda-style flags. And, in a statement, the MSC dedicated the attack to slain al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. “We present this blessed invasion … to the soul of the lion of Islam, the reviver of jihad, and the raiser of the banner, Sheikh Mujahid Osama bin Muhammad bin Laden,” the MSC says, according to a translation by SITE.
The MSC also dedicates the attack to “the Syrian Muslim jihadi people,” to “all the mujahideen and their commanders and emirs in all the battlefields of jihad,” and to the “Salafi Jihadi oppressed lions in the land of the Gaza glory.”
The MSC repeats common jihadist talking points, saying it is waging jihad “to become a building block in the global project aiming for the return of the rightly-guided Caliphate and the institution of the pure Shariah.”
The MSC identified the two fighters who led the raid in Israel as an Egyptian named Khalid Salah Abdul Hadi Jadullah (a.k.a. Abu Salah al Masri) and a Saudi named Adi Saleh Abdullah al Fudhayli al Hadhli (a.k.a Abu Hudhayfa al Hudhali).
Al Qaeda presence in the Sinai
The Sinai has been an increasing cause of concern for Israeli officials since the onset of Egypt’s revolution. The MSC is not the first Sinai-based terrorist organization to claim ideological affinity for, if not organizational ties to, al Qaeda. Numerous jihadist groups, including others linked to al Qaeda, reportedly operate there.
In December 2011, a group named Ansar al Jihad in the Sinai Peninsula announced its formation and pledged to “fulfill the oath” of Osama bin Laden.
Then in January of this year, Ansar al Jihad swore allegiance to al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri.
“To our beloved emir and honorable sheikh, Abu Muhammad Ayman al Zawahiri … from your soldiers in the beloved Sinai in the Land of the Quiver [Egypt], we give you allegiance for obedience in good and bad, in difficulty and ease, and altruism,” Ansar al Jihad said in a statement that was also translated by SITE. “So, throw us wherever you wish…. We will never quit or surrender until the last drop of our blood [is spilled] in the Cause of Allah and until Islam rules by the help of Allah the Almighty.”
Ansar al Jihad is the military arm of al Qaeda in the Sinai Peninsula, which announced its existence in the summer of 2011 when it released pamphlets in the town of Al Arish in the northern Sinai. Al Qaeda in the Sinai Peninsula has been establishing ties with Gaza-based Salafist groups and is seeking to coordinate operations, a US intelligence official told The Long War Journal in late December 2011. There are at least four al Qaeda-linked organizations operating in Gaza. [See LWJ report, Israel kills ‘Global Jihad affiliated-terrorists’ in Gaza airstrikes.]
It is not clear how the newly-announced MSC fits into the matrix of al Qaeda-linked organizations operating in the Sinai and Gaza. Given its first successful raid, and open allegiance to Osama bin Laden’s jihad, this is likely not the last time the group will make itself known.
Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.