Two rockets believed to have been fired from the Sinai Peninsula struck open areas in the Israeli city of Eilat this morning. The Iron Dome battery that was recently moved to the city failed to intercept the rockets, according to an IDF spokesperson, “for operational reasons.”
The Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC) took responsibility for the attack in a statement released by the Ibn Taymiyyah Media Center (ITMC). The statement, which was posted to jihadist forums and the ITMC’s Tumblr page, said the group fired a series of grad missiles at Eilat before they “were able to withdraw
According to the statement, which was obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, the MSC “decided to strike a suitable blow to the enemy in the language they understand well and in the place they didn’t expect or were ready for.” With regard to Hamas’ recent campaign against Salafi jihadists in the Gaza Strip, the MSC called on Hamas “to stop pursuing and detaining the mujahideen and the Salafist preachers in the Gaza Strip.”
Prior to the MSC’s claim of responsibility, Amos Gilad, a senior Israeli defense official, declared that those firing rockets at Israel seek to kill Israelis and harm relations between Israel and Egypt. According to Gilad, these terror groups “aim to destroy and drown in blood everything possible, and we have to deal with them.”
Meanwhile, Egyptian officials have not yet confirmed Israeli claims that the rockets originated in the Sinai. One military source told Agence France Presse that “[w]e are still investigating to see if they were delivered from Egyptian territories but nothing is confirmed yet.” In addition, Jordan has denied press reports that suggested that additional rockets struck the city of Aqaba today.
The city of Eilat is not normally a target of rocket fire for terror groups in the region. Most recently, on Nov. 20, 2012, Ansar Jerusalem, a Salafi jihadist group based in the Sinai, claimed to have fired rockets at Eilat “in the past few days,” according to a statement that was obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group. The same group took responsibility for a rocket attack on Eilat in mid-August 2012.
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 that 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 they were not truly a party to the ceasefire.
In 2012, the Israeli Air Force targeted a number of MSC members. On Oct. 7, the IDF killed Tala’at Halil Muhammad Jarbi, a “global jihad operative,” and Abdullah Muhammad Hassan Maqawai, a member of the MSC. Maqawai was likely a former member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. 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.