Abdullah Azzam Brigades offers condolences for top Salafi leaders killed in Gaza

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 reportedly leaders of the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC), which is 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, and Ansar Jerusalem, among others.

On Nov. 2, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades released a statement on jihadist forums, titled “A Statement of Condolence to the People of Palestine for the Two Martyred Sheikhs.” The statement was obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.

“What happened to the two Sheikhs is that which they had sought all their lives, and what they attained is that for which they did their best and had patience amidst imprisonment, hiding and hot pursuit,” the group said.

The statement concluded with a pledge “to our mujahideen brothers in Palestine that we will help them with what we can, and that we will continue with them the jihad and the striking of the enemies of Allah the Jews.” The terror group vowed: “There will always be a group from the Ummah of Muhammad, Allah’s peace and prayer be upon him, who will be victorious on the side of the truth. The Jews will never enjoy the land of Palestine, and the oppressors will know their end.”

Abdullah Azzam Brigades

The Abdullah Azzam Brigades was formed by Saleh al Qarawi sometime after 2004 as an offshoot of al Qaeda in Iraq, and was tasked with hitting targets in the Levant and throughout the Middle East. The Abdullah Azzam Brigades is named after al Qaeda’s co-founder and Osama bin Laden’s mentor. The group was added to the US’s list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists in May 2012. In June, the group announced that Majid bin Muhammad al Majid was its “emir.” Majid, a Saudi citizen, is on Saudi Arabia’s list of 85 most-wanted individuals for links to al Qaeda, which was released in 2009.

The US State Department has said that the group “is responsible for numerous indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israeli civilians.” In addition to the rocket fire from Lebanon noted by the State Dept., the group has also claimed responsibility for rockets fired from Gaza into Israel on multiple occasions.

The Abdullah Azzam Brigades releases propaganda on a routine basis. Over the past three years, the group has advocated for the overthrow of the Saudi government and called for an uprising in Lebanon, as well as voiced support for Syrian protesters. The terror group also released a statement immediately after the death of al Qaeda emir Osama bin Laden in May 2011.

“May Allah have mercy on Osama, the Sheikh of Jihad, the Imam of Piety, the example of asceticism and the model of patience, the pioneer of glory in this age, and the awakener of the Ummah from its slumber,” the group said, in a statement translated by the SITE Intelligence Group. The terror group also explained that it had been formed “after incitation” by bin Laden. “We in the Brigades of Abdullah Azzam bear witness that we only went out for jihad after incitation from Sheikh Osama bin Laden, by his words and his actions. He is the one enacted among the people of the time, the tradition to invade infidels in their homes, and created a front to fight the Jews and the Crusaders,” the statement said.

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. 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, 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.”

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