In a statement released to jihadist forums on Nov. 29, the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC), a Gaza-based Salafi jihadist group, issued a eulogy for three Salafi jihadists killed during clashes with Israeli forces near Hebron on Nov. 26.
Despite the efforts of the Palestinian Authority security forces to pursue “the good mujahideen,” the MSC boasted that “a group of mujahideen arose to declare it clearly that jihad is ongoing in the West Bank.” This group will bring “a new distinguishing factor that will make the Jews taste death with the flavor of Salafi Jihad,” the MSC claimed, in a statement translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.
While media reports have suggested that the MSC claimed the three Salafi jihadists as members of the group, the communiqué is much vaguer. Moussa Abdelmajid Fanasheh, Mahmud Khaled Najjar, and Mohamed Neirukh, the slain jihadists, were lauded as “pure people” and “good brothers” by the MSC.
On Nov. 26, Israeli military sources told The Long War Journal that they were not yet aware of any direct links between the three Salafi jihadists in the West Bank and Gaza-based jihadist groups, such as the MSC.
In its new statement, the MSC claimed that “jihad is ongoing until the Day of Judgment” and that jihad against the “criminal tyrants of the [Palestinian] Authority is legitimate.”
“[T]he method of Salafi Jihad has spread to the West Bank,” the statement warned. According to the MSC, the three slain jihadists were “only a small part” of the Salafi jihadist structure in the West Bank, and “what was hidden was greater.” The communiqué further called for Muslims in the West Bank to unite and carry out a strike so as to show that “the Salafi Jihad has come to them with men who love death as you love life.”
“Let the ranks line up, let the bodies come together, and let us plan well … to land painful strikes on the criminals,” the MSC’s statement concluded.
A Palestinian Authority official told AFP today that in recent days some 20 Salafists in the West Bank had been arrested. Like Mohamed Neirukh, those arrested are said to be former members of Hamas.
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, 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 release of the posters came about two weeks after the MSC claimed responsibility for the Aug. 13 rocket attack on Eilat. That attack, the Salafi jihadist group said, was in response to the Aug. 9 killing of four members of the Sinai-based jihadist group Ansar Jerusalem (Ansar Bayt al Maqdis).
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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