Ansar Jerusalem takes credit for latest Eilat rocket attack

Ansar Jerusalem Ansar Bayt al Maqdis Eilat Attack February 2014.jpgIn a statement released to jihadist forums today, the Sinai-based jihadist group Ansar Jerusalem (Ansar Bayt al Maqdis) claimed responsibility for a rocket attack yesterday evening on the southern Israeli city of Eilat. The rocket, fired from the Sinai, was intercepted over Eilat by an Iron Dome missile defense battery stationed near the city.

In its statement, Ansar Jerusalem accused the Egyptian military of working with “the Jews.” Egypt is allowing Israeli drones to fly over the Sinai and “spy on the mujahideen,” the jihadist group charged.

The communiqué concluded by warning: “Jews, you have to know that nothing will stop us from fighting you, even if the entire world’s armies move on your instructions. If they create a barrier between us and you, with God’s help and strength, we will get you and kill you.”

The latest attack came just over 10 days after Ansar Jerusalem had taken credit for a separate rocket attack on Eilat in January. With the two recent attacks, an Iron Dome missile defense battery is likely to stay in the Eilat area for the foreseeable future.

In August, the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC) took responsibility for a rocket attack on Eilat. The MSC said it fired the Grad rocket, which was intercepted by one of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense systems, in response to the killing of four members of Ansar Jerusalem.

Although Eilat has not normally been a target of rocket fire from terror groups in the region, it has increasingly come under fire during the past two years. On Nov. 20, 2012, Ansar Jerusalem claimed to have fired rockets at Eilat. The same group also took responsibility for a rocket attack on Eilat in mid-August 2012.

More recently, in early July last year, Ansar Jerusalem issued a statement claiming responsibility for the firing of two rockets toward Eilat. Prior to that, in April, the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on Eilat.

Ansar Jerusalem, which was founded by Egyptians, is the dominant jihadist group operating in the Sinai Peninsula today. The group, whose fighters are often seen with the al Qaeda flag, has claimed credit for a number of attacks against Israel and Egypt over the past two years.

In September 2013, Ansar Jerusalem, which releases material through the jihadist forums of Al Fajr Media Center, al Qaeda’s exclusive media distribution outlet, declared that “it is obligatory to repulse them [the Egyptian army] and fight them until the command of Allah is fulfilled.” Recent reports in the Egyptian media have suggested that Ansar Jerusalem may have links to Muhammad Jamal and the Muhammad Jamal Network [MJN], which were added to the US government’s list of designated terrorists and the UN’s sanctions list in October 2013.

Jamal, whose fighters have been linked to the Sept. 11, 2012 Benghazi terror attack, is said to have established “several terrorist training camps in Egypt and Libya” with funding from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. In late August, Ansar Jerusalem was lauded by an AQAP official as “our mujahideen brothers in Sinai.”

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