On April 2, the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC), an al Qaeda-linked group, claimed credit for two rocket attacks against Israel. According to the first statement, which was released by the Ibn Taymiyyah Media Center to jihadist forums as well as the Center’s Facebook and Tumblr pages, the attack was in response to the death of Hamas’ Maisara Abu Hamdiyeh.
Abu Hamdiyeh died of esophageal cancer on Tuesday at Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center in Israel. A press release from Hamas praised Hamdiyeh for “training the Mujahideen” since 1989 and working tirelessly “to supply the Mujahideen with weapons and explosives.” He was sentenced to life in prison in 2002 for attempted murder, among other charges.
The statement from the MSC, which was obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, said that “when the Muslim prisoners increase in the prisons of the brothers of pigs and monkeys, there is no room for statements of condemnation or denouncement that don’t even deserve the ink with which they are written. We must follow the command of Allah to defend the weak and deter the aggression of the disbelievers and the criminals.”
According to the MSC, it fired two rockets towards the Nir Oz kibbutz in the Eshkol Region Council at 3:20 p.m. on April 2. However, an IDF spokesperson said those rockets landed short of Israel in Gaza. Approximately five hours later, the MSC fired three more rockets towards Israel, according to a second statement released by the Ibn Taymiyyah Media Center on April 2. At least one of those rockets landed in the Eshkol Regional Council.
In response to the rocket fire, the Israeli Air Force struck a couple of targets in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli airstrikes were the first in Gaza since the end of Operation Pillar of Defense in late November 2012.
In addition to claiming responsibility for the attack, the first statement from the MSC also called on Hamas to release Salafi jihadists currently being held in prisons in Gaza. “In the event of any treacherous escalation that the criminal Jews might carry out, we demand from the reasonable people in the Hamas Movement to pressure their government security agencies to release the Salafist Jihadist mujahideen who are held unjustly in their prisons,” the statement said.
Last week, Hamas forces reportedly arrested two Salafi jihadists in Zawaida, raided the home of a member of the Popular Resistance Committees, and kidnapped a Salafi jihadist in Rafah. Press reports suggest that the two jihadists in Zawaida were connected to the MSC, which took credit for a rocket attack on Israel on March 21. On March 30, the Ibn Taymiyyah Media Center warned on its Facebook page that preparations were being made by Hamas to launch a mass campaign of arrests against Salafi jihadists in the Gaza Strip.
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 that 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.
In 2012, the Israeli Air Force targeted a number of MSC members. On Oct. 7, the IDF killed Tala’at Halil Muhammad Jarbi, a “global jihad operative,” and Abdullah Muhammad Hassan Maqawai, a member of the MSC. Maqawai was likely a former member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. On Oct. 13, 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.