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Majlis Shura al-Mujahidin Fi Aknaf Bayt al-Maqdis

In negotiating a ceasefire to end the current conflict in Gaza, most of the focus has been on Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), who have launched hundreds of rockets into Israel. But in order for the ceasefire to be sustainable, it must address the role of other, non-Hamas-aligned militants from Gaza and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula who have been involved in the attacks as well.

The jihadis of Majlis Shura Fi Aknaf Bayt al-Maqdis (MSM for short), Jama’at Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (JABM), Jaysh al-Ummah (JU), and Jaysh al-Islam (JI) claimed responsibility for 99 rocket attacks from Nov. 11 to Nov. 21 once the conflict escalated. MSM and JABM have cells in both the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula. MSM was responsible for the majority of these rocket attacks, having conducted 72 of them –14 of which were in a joint operation with JI on November 20. Five of MSM’s rocket attacks originated from northern Sinai. Additionally, JU announced the launch of 26 rockets, while JABM accounted for the final one having targeted the Israeli port city of Eilat from the Sinai.

In the four groups’ statements, they mention that they targeted “Jewish settlements” (actually Israeli cities) Eshkol, Sderot, Netivot, Ashkelon, Kissufim, and Karmia, each location on a number of occasions. Further, MSM released four videos and JI published one video both showing members of their organizations launching rockets from Gaza and the Sinai toward Israel. In addition to Gaza-based jihadis, there were also unconfirmed though likely reports from al-Qaeda’s forums that members of al-Salafiyya al-Jihadiyya in the Sinai infiltrated Gaza and joined in the fight with MSM as well as JABM.

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Statements and a video released on an al-Qaeda website are disturbing evidence of the growing lawlessness in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

The revelation that an Egyptian and a Saudi national infiltrated southern Israel from Sinai on June 18 and killed an Israeli worker is the first credible sign of the emerging global jihadist threat in the peninsula. Previously, groups using the names “al-Qaeda in the Sinai Peninsula” and “Ansar al-Jihad in the Sinai Peninsula” had released statements announcing themselves and pledging fealty to al-Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahiri in August and December 2011 and January 2012; members of different jihadist factions had also been arrested in al-Arish. Until now, however, it was difficult to assess the legitimacy and true capabilities of these groups.

Yesterday, a new group called Majlis Shura al-Mujahedin Fi Aknaf Bayt al-Maqdis (the Mujahidin Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem, or MSC) announced itself, issuing two statements and a video martyrdom message from the attackers, Abu Salah al-Masri and Abu Hadhifa al-Hidhali. Both men were killed by Israeli security forces following the attack, and a senior MSC member was killed by an Israeli airstrike near Rafah today.

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