MSC in Jerusalem video praises Palestinian fighter killed in Syria

Fahd Nizar al Habbash.jpgA posthumous video will of Fahd Nizar al Habbash was released yesterday by the Ibn Taymiyyah Media Center (ITMC), a jihadist media unit tied to the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC).

The SITE Intelligence Group, which translated the video, noted that reports have suggested that al Habbash, who previously worked in Hamas’ police force in Gaza, “was killed on July 24 after leaving Gaza three months prior and joining the al-Nusra Front.” The new video from the MSC said, however, that he had been killed on July 19.

In the beginning of the video, a narrator notes that “the marketplace of jihad opened in Syria, the youth of Islam rose from every direction to fight” against the Assad regime. The narrator boasts that “convoys of mujahideen” from Gaza went to Syria to fight and that some have died while there.

According to the narrator, al Habbash was born in the northern Gaza Strip in 1985 to a “good family.” After he completed his schooling in 2006, he got married and had two children. “He fought often alongside the Palestinian resistance against the criminal Jews,” the narrator says.

When the Assad regime targeted Sunnis in Syria, the narrator says, al Habbash “became determined” to fight in Syria. “As soon as he arrived, he carried out heroic acts with the mujahideen and did well,” the narrator claims.

In addition to the comments from the narrator, portions of a video will from al Habbash are seen. In one section, al Habbash, who was praised on Hamas forums following his death, declared that “jihad … is a Shariah duty for every Muslim.” Similarly, al Habbash said that “the low status of the religion and the humiliation of Muslims” can only be ended “through jihad in the cause of Allah and expelling the Crusaders and their sons from Muslim countries.”

To this family, al Habbash said that if they “hear news of my death … know that I attained what I have hoped for.”

The video concludes with an excerpt from a speech by al Qaeda’s Abu Yahya al Libi about martyrdom. Al Libi, a longtime al Qaeda leader from Libya, was killed in a US drone strike in Mir Ali in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan on June 4, 2012.

Al Habbash is not the first former Hamas member to have died in the ongoing Syrian civil war while fighting alongside jihadists. In mid-March, the ITMC released a video about Muhammad Ahmed Qanitah. Qanitah, who had previously trained fighters in Hamas’ Izz ad Din al Qassam Brigades, was said to have been killed in a rocket attack in December while fighting for the Al Nusrah Front during the siege of the airport in Aleppo.

Last year, another Palestinian jihadist was killed in similar circumstances. In July 2012, a Palestinian fighter from the al Qaeda-linked Jaish al Islam (Army of Islam) was killed while fighting in Aleppo.

A number of press reports over the past year and a half have indicated a rise in the number of Palestinians joining the fight against Assad in Syria. Many of those traveling to Syria have been Salafi jihadists who joined the Al Nusrah Front.

Salafi jihadists in the Gaza Strip have also expressed support for the fight in Syria and provided military tips in statements. For example, on Jan. 20, 2013, an audio speech from Abu Abdullah al Ghazi, a Jaish al Ummah (Army of the Nation) official, was released to jihadist forums. In the speech, which was obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, al Ghazi said that the Levant should be seen as an open “market of jihad.” In addition, he called on fighters to “[t]ake the initiative and rise to establish the Islamic State in the Levant and reestablish the rule of Allah over His land after you pluck out that criminal tyrant [Assad] and retaliate for the blood that was spelt and the honors that were violated.”

Nine days before this audio speech was released, a video from Jaish al Ummah was released to jihadist forums. In the video, which was dedicated to fighters in Syria, the group showed “how to manufacture a 107mm rocket,” according to SITE. The video also “provided recommendations about substitute materials and quantities depending on the size of the rocket.”

In related developments, in June jihadists in Syria called on Hamas members as well as members of other Palestinian factions in Gaza to join the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem. And on May 20, a video featuring Abu Talha al Libi, the Sharia official of the Muhajireen Brigade in the Levant, was released by the ITMC. In the video, titled “Fear Allah, O Hamas,” al Libi slammed Hamas’ campaign against Salafi jihadists in the Gaza Strip.

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.

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 this year, 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, 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).

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