On May 20, the Ibn Taymiyyah Media Center (ITMC), a jihadist media unit tied to the Gaza-based Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC), released a video from Abu Talha al Libi, the sharia official of the Muhajireen Brigade in the Levant, to jihadist forums and their Facebook and Tumblr pages.
In the video, titled “Fear Allah, O Hamas,” al Libi slams Hamas’ recent campaign against Salafi jihadists in the Gaza Strip, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which obtained and translated the video. Al Libi claims that Hamas has engaged in the torture and imprisonment of Salafi jihadists.
Al Libi asks what the purpose of the campaign is. “Is it service to your interests, or is it service to Islam and Muslims? By Allah, it is not service to Islam and Muslims by arresting the mujahideen and torturing them to protect the Israeli enemy,” he says. He goes on to say that Hamas’ current actions are “not the way” of Hamas founders Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Abdul Aziz al Rantisi, both of whom were killed by Israel in 2004.
While al Libi laments that Hamas has “deviated from the way [of jihad],” he urges the group to “come back to your original path … and don’t abandon your rifles.” Later in the video, al Libi calls on Hamas members to “[p]ut your hands in the hands of the mujahideen and become one hand against Israel.”
The new video comes at an interesting moment, as public complaints from Salafi jihadists in the Gaza Strip against Hamas had appeared to dissipate to a certain extent over the past 10 days.
Earlier in May, Salafi jihadists were openly complaining about the Hamas-run Field Control Force, which has reportedly increased deployment in the Gaza Strip to prevent the firing of rockets into Israel from Gaza.
Tensions between Hamas and the Salafi jihadists in the Gaza Strip increased significantly after the targeted killing by Israel of Hithem Ziad Ibrahim Masshal, a well known jihadist, on April 30. On May 1, the ITMC released a statement to jihadist forums which seemed to suggest that the Salafi jihadists believe Masshal was set up by elements within Hamas. This matches the claim of an April 30 statement from a Facebook page for supporters of Salafi jihadists in Gaza suggesting that it appeared Masshal had been offered “on a golden platter” to Israel by Hamas.
On the same day as Masshal’s death, Asharq al Awsat reported that Hamas was increasing its efforts to stop rocket fire from the Gaza Strip toward Israel. Members of Hamas’ al Qassam Brigades have been “deployed in the border areas of the Gaza Strip replacing policemen with the aim of preventing the firing of rockets from Gaza,” the report stated. In addition, al Qassam Brigades members have reportedly “set up fixed and mobile roadblocks” to search cars and find those firing the rockets. Another report from Al Ayyam similarly stated that Hamas has warned Salafi jihadist groups in the Gaza Strip that those who fire rockets at the current time will be arrested and that the firing rockets should not occur “without a general national consensus” on the issue.
On May 2, Hamas’ Interior Ministry announced the arrest of six Salafists, four of whom were accused of stealing rockets from other terror groups in the Gaza Strip. The ITMC condemned the announcement and said those detained had been arrested only because of their beliefs. Five days later, the ITMC accused members of the Field Control Force of firing on and injuring at least one Salafi jihadist in the northern Gaza Strip.
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.”
Chechen jihadist holds leadership position in the Muhajireen Brigade
The Muhajireen Brigade, or Emigrants’ Brigade, is a unit made up of foreign jihadists who fight in Syria, and is closely allied with the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s affiliate in the country.
The Muhajireen Brigade is commanded by Abu Omar al Chechen, a jihadist from Russia’s Caucasus region who is linked to the Islamic Caucasus Emirate. The group is known to fight alongside the Al Nusrah Front and has participated in overrunning several Syrian military bases.
The Muhajireen Brigade has succeeded in absorbing Syrian Islamist groups under its command. At the end of March, Abu Omar al Chechen announced that the Muhajireen Brigade had merged with several Syrian jihadist groups and formed the Muhajireen Army. Abu Omar al Chechen took command of the newly formed army.
The group has “more than 1,000 Mujahideen, Muslim volunteers from different countries, including the Caucasus Emirate,” stated Kavkaz Center, a propaganda arm of the al Qaeda-linked Islamic Caucasus Emirate. Fighters from Europe are known to have been killed while serving with the Muhajireen Brigade.