The Ibn Taymiyyah Media Center (ITMC), a jihadist media unit tied to the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC), yesterday released the second episode in a series titled “Journey of Martyrdom.” The approximately 31-minute video focused on Hithem Ziad Ibrahim Masshal, a well-known jihadist in the Gaza Strip who was killed in an airstrike by the Israeli Air Force on April 30.
The first episode in the series was released in early February 2013 and focused on MSC member Khalid Salah Abdul Hadi Jadullah (a.k.a. Abu Salah al-Masri). Jadullah, who was portrayed as an al Qaeda martyr, was a member of the MSC cell responsible for carrying out a cross-border attack that killed an Israeli civilian on June 18, 2012.
In the new video, which was translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, a narrator provides background on Masshal, who reportedly partook in “confrontations against the Jewish enemy” during the al Aqsa Intifada. According to the narrator, “the spirit of jihad in the Cause of Allah burned in [Masshal’s] chest.”
The narrator praises Masshal for fighting alongside a number of Palestinian groups and performing “heroic acts,” noting that he “had an important role in manufacturing and military preparation, and didn’t leave one field without entering it to win one of the two good options [victory or martyrdom].” The narrator lauds 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.”
When “the door of democracy became wide open in Palestine,” the narrator says, Masshal left “the nationalistic and democratic organizations, and started the journey of searching for a clear way and a pure sect that helps him to carry out the obligatory duty of jihad in the Cause of Allah.” Masshal soon started to follow Khalid Banat (Abu Abdullah al Suri), a leader in Jund Ansar Allah who had claimed to have fought with leading al Qaeda figures, including Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al Zarqawi.
According to the International Crisis Group, Banat’s ability to recruit was pivotal in Jund Ansar Allah’s rapid growth. Banat, who originally trained Hamas members, used his connections to appeal to “low-level Qassam members, who upon joining [Jund Ansar Allah] would acquire new and important-sounding titles.”
After Hamas failed in an attempt to arrest Banat, Jund Ansar Allah declared Hamas to be impotent, and in early August 2009 Sheikh Abdel Latif Musa, another Jund Ansar Allah leader, declared an Islamic emirate in the Gaza Strip, a move that greatly upset Hamas. Shortly after the declaration, Hamas forces clashed with Jund Ansar Allah fighters at Rafah’s Ibn Taymiyyah Mosque. Numerous people from both Hamas and Jund Ansar Allah were killed in the fighting, including Musa and Banat.
According to the narrator in the MSC’s new video, Masshal followed the incident at the mosque “with pain and surprise.” The jihadist “saw the blood that was shed, the body parts that were scattered, and the homes that were blown up, and he saw that Allah’s house was vandalized and the green banner [of Hamas] raised on its sad minaret,” the narrator says.
After the incident and the demise of Jund Ansar Allah, the narrator explains, Masshal joined the Tawhid and Jihad Group in Jerusalem, which was headed by Abu al Walid al Maqdisi.
Al Maqdisi is a longtime jihadist who claimed to have fought alongside al Qaeda in Iraq in the early days of the Iraq war in 2003 before returning to Gaza and establishing the Tawhid and Jihad Group. A biography released by the group stated, however, that al Maqdisi was arrested by Egyptian security forces while trying to travel to Iraq. Al Maqdisi was killed by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza on Oct. 13, 2012, along with Ashraf al Sabah, the former emir of Ansar al Sunnah.
According to the narrator, while in the Tawhid and Jihad Group in Jerusalem, Masshal “continued his project in manufacturing rockets and he had started making the first local version of the international Katyusha rockets.” In addition, al Maqdisi viewed Masshal as “an example for the soldiers of tawhid of giving, sacrifice and courage,” the narrator claims.
Eventually, the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem, a consolidation of a number of Salafi jihadists groups in the Gaza Strip, was formed, the video continues. One of the groups included in the MSC was the Tawhid and Jihad Group in Jerusalem. According to the narrator, when the MSC was formed, Masshal “had his place and role in this new jihadi project.”
“He focused his efforts with his brothers in organizing the ranks and making preparations for confrontation with the enemies of Allah the Jews. He did very well in the rocket campaigns that the lions of the Council carried out, and he had a big share in manufacturing and firing, may Allah bless and reward him,” the narrator adds.
The video alleges that Israeli authorities tried to assassinate Masshal on a number of occasions. The narrator specifically notes an incident during Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012 in which an IAF airstrike killed “the mujahid Ahmad al-Nahhal.”
In addition to comments from the narrator, the video includes clips from Masshal’s mother, who says that “[w]hen he moved up to junior high he was changed from a student to a mujahid.” His mother also slams Hamas, the ruling power in Gaza, for detaining her son for a month “without accusation.” “Why would a mujahid be detained?,” she asks.
Along with these comments, the video includes posthumous clips from Masshal. In one, Masshal warns “the enemies of Allah the Jews.” He declares: “We will fight you with our weapons and all types of them. We will fight you with rockets and devices. We will fight you with rifles and bullets. We will fight you with the little and the many. We will fight you even if we have only sticks. We will shoot you with it, until we dedicate the whole religion to Allah.”
In another clip, Masshal says that “[o]ur sisters in prisons and our brothers in prisons … just want from us at every hour to fight the Jews and kill them all the time and everywhere.”
Background on Hithem Ziad Ibrahim Masshal
Hithem Ziad Ibrahim Masshal, a well-known jihadist in the Gaza Strip, was killed in an airstrike by the Israeli Air Force on April 30. According to the Israel Defense Forces, Masshal “manufactured, improved and traded different types of ammunition” for various jihadist groups in Gaza, and was involved in the April 17 rocket attack on Eilat from the Sinai that was claimed by the MSC.
Within hours of his death, the MSC released a statement through the Ibn Taymiyyah Media Center confirming that Masshal was a member of their organization. “He stepped everywhere there is jihad, wanting to die, so may Allah have mercy on you, Abu Ziad. The enemy sites will miss you, which you didn’t hesitate for one day to pound with rockets,” the group said.
The MSC statement, which was obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, also said Masshal had held a “high position” in Hamas’ Al Qassam Brigades, but he decided to leave the group after Hamas “entered the game of democracy and accepted the abandonment of the divine Shari’ah.”
In addition to the statement, the MSC released a video on April 30 of Masshal. In the video, Masshal called on Muslims to participate in jihad and “light fire to the ground beneath the feet of the disbelievers and the apostates.” He urged Muslims to take steps toward “returning to their religion and taking down all nationalist affiliations and stepping upon all secular and democratic banners.”
Masshal also warned that Muslims must not “listen to those who want to mix between jihad, politics and democracy, for they don’t mix at all. Jihad is a divine order and democracy is a disbelieving rule through something Allah didn’t reveal.” He stated: “Jihad is continuing until the Day of Judgment, and the justice or the injustice of anyone will not stop it.”
Speaking of Hamas’ al Qassam Brigades, to which he had formerly belonged, Masshal said: “He who looks at your state today will almost cry for you, for you have unfortunately become a tool in the hand of the government that governs in Gaza.”
About a week after Masshal was killed, MSC official Abdullah Jihad al Ashqar (Abu al Muhtasib al Maqdisi) released an audio statement praising the slain jihadist. Al Ashqar lauded Masshal and said that he had “never visited him [Masshal] without finding his room full with materials for manufacturing and preparing rockets, and the materials of jihad.”
He went on to say that Masshal “put most of his time in the folds of the jihadi work, such that even his family would miss seeing him due to his absence from him. He was not stingy with his money, so he would provide what he and his brothers required of equipment.”
Al Ashqar also alleged that Masshal “was the first to have manufactured what is known as ‘107 rockets’ [107mm Katyusha] in the Gaza Strip.” Thanks to the work of Masshal, al Ashqar claimed, “a local copy of the 107mm Katyusha rocket… is [now] in the hands of all the mujahideen” in Gaza.
During his funeral, Masshal was wrapped in al Qaeda’s black flag, which was first used by al Qaeda in Iraq but has been adopted by other al Qaeda affiliates.
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 they were 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.”
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.
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).