On Saturday, the Israeli Air Force killed Abu al Walid al Maqdisi, the leader of one of several al Qaeda-linked jihadist groups in Gaza. Al Maqdisi, the former emir of the Tawhid and Jihad Group in Jerusalem, was killed along with his assistant in an airstrike tonight as he was riding a motorcycle, according to the New York Times.
While Israeli officials have not yet confirmed that al Maqdisi was the target of the strike, a statement from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said that the targets were members of the Mujahideen Shura Council (MSC), which had recently taken responsibility for a Grad rocket that struck the backyard of an Israeli home in Netivot on Friday evening.
The description of al Maqdisi as both emir of Tawhid and Jihad and a member of the Mujahideen Shura Council may not be contradictory, but may actually provide evidence of the consolidation of the smaller Salafi-Jihadist groups into the Mujahideen Shura Council.
The Israeli Air Force has launched several airstrikes against “global jihad” operatives in Gaza over the past week. On Oct. 7, the IAF killed Tala’at Halil Muhammad Jarbi, a “global jihad operative,” and Abdullah Muhammad Hassan Maqawai, a member of the Mujahideen Shura Council, who were reportedly planning a major attack from the Sinai.
The MSC has taken responsibility for a number of rocket attacks against Israel as well as the June 18, 2011 attack that killed one Israeli civilian. In July, the group released a 38-minute-long video in which it said that the June attack was “a gift to our brothers in Qaedat al Jihad and Sheikh Zawahiri” and retaliation for the death of Osama bin Laden.
Abu al Walid al Maqdisi
Al Maqdisi is a longtime jihadist who 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. However, a biography released by the group claimed that al Maqdisi was arrested by Egyptian security forces while trying to travel to Iraq.
In early August, Al Maqdisi was freed by Hamas after being detained by Hamas security forces for 17 months. Masada al Mujahideen, another jihadist group in Gaza, released a statement that praised the release of al Maqdisi, and claimed that he had been arrested “for nothing other than promoting virtue, prohibiting vice, and explaining the Sharia-based rulings [Islamic law] in issues about which Hamas doesn’t like to speak publicly or even believe in.”
Tawhid and Jihad Group in Jerusalem
The Tawhid and Jihad Group in Jerusalem and Masada al Mujahideen are among at least six major jihadist groups operating in Gaza, including Army of Islam, Jund Ansar Allah, Jaish al Ummah, and Jaish al Mu’minun. These groups have clashed with Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated terror group that rules Gaza and is supported by Iran and Syria.
The Tawhid and Jihad Group in Jerusalem announced its formation in a statement released on jihadist forums in August 2009. In the same announcement, the Tawhid and Jihad Group in Jerusalem denounced a raid by Hamas against a Jund Ansar Allah mosque that killed Latif Moussa. Hamas killed Moussa and several followers after he declared an Islamic emirate in Gaza and challenged Hamas’s authority. Al Maqdisi had studied under Moussa.
The Tawhid and Jihad Group in Jerusalem has claimed credit for numerous attacks against Israeli security forces and civilians. In multiple statements released on jihadist forums, the terror group has claimed to have launched rocket and mortar attacks into Israel, as well as IED attacks against Israeli soldiers.
Tawhid and Jihad has also expressed its affinity with al Qaeda’s top leaders. In June 2010, the group released a statement eulogizing Mustafa Abu Yazid, one al Qaeda’s top leaders who was killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan. Tawhid and Jihad said Yazid’s death was the latest among “a generation” of martyred al Qaeda leaders such as “Abu Musab al Zarqawi, Abu Omar al Baghdadi, Abu Hamza al Muhajir, Abu al Laith al Libi, and Yusuf al Ayiri, who will turn the life of their enemy into unbearable hell and send them after that to eternal perdition where the Lord of the Worlds is the judge,” according to a translation of the statement by the SITE Intelligence Group.
In addition, the terror group has expressed solidarity with the Islamic Caucasus Emirates, al Qaeda’s affiliate in southern Russia, and eulogized Emir Sayfullah, who was the terror group’s top judge was well as its leader in Dagestan before he was killed in August 2011.