The Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSCEJ – for ease of reading – the group does not use this abbreviation) is an armed Jihadist group with extensive links to al-Qaeda (Joscelyn, 2012). Although it was active in large sections of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula as well as within the Gaza strip, its current activity in these regions is somewhat ambiguous. The group was formed in 2012 in order to coordinate the activities of the Salafi jihadist groups which are present in Gaza. MSCEJ carries out attacks against varying targets, including Israeli civilians and the military, and it has been described as being radically antisemitic. It was placed under the command of al-Qaeda in the Sinai Peninsula in August of 2012 (Roggio, 2012a).
History & Foundations
The group was created in 2012 in order to improve the coordination between the activities of Jihadist groups operating in Gaza under al-Qaeda. It has taken responsibility for carrying out attacks against both the Israeli Army and civilians within Israel and Egypt since its emergence in the Arab Spring (Roggio, 2012a). The group claimed responsibility for an attack on the 18th of June 2012 in which an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) was detonated near the Egyptian-Israeli border. During this attack, an Israeli construction worker, Saeed Fashafshe, was killed (Haaretz, 2012). The MSCEJ released a video nine days later on the 27th of June in which they called the attack a “gift to our brothers in Qaedat al Jihad (al-Qaeda) and Sheikh Zawahiri”. They also claimed that the attack was an act of revenge for the death of Osama Bin Laden (Roggio, 2012b). The leader of the organisation, Hisham Al-Saedni, who founded the group in 2012, was killed in an Israeli airstrike within Gaza on the 14th of October 2012 (BBC News Middle East, 2012).
In 2014, the group declared its support and allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) after severing ties with al-Qaeda due to an “unfair view towards ISIS and its emir [...] Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi” (Al-Monitor, 2014). On the 19th of August 2014, the group received a terrorist organisation designation by the US State Department which was done with the aim of freezing any ‘financial’ and ‘material’ support the group may receive from abroad (State Department, 2014). However, due to perceived inactivity by the group in Israel, the group was delisted by the US State Department in 2022 and is no longer considered operationally active. Nevertheless, the individual groups which compose the group remain relatively active (Truzman, 2022).
Objectives & Ideology
The group is composed of several Jihadist terrorist organisations which are present in Gaza and its stated aim and objective is to coordinate the attacks committed by these groups. It has claimed numerous attacks on Israel since its foundation in 2012 and this is directly related to the group's Salafi Jihadist ideological background. Salafi Jihadism is a hybrid religious-political ideology which advocates for military-style jihad and to return to what is believed by its adherents to be the “true Islam” (French, 2020). This directly relates to the declaration of support for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Al-Monitor, 2014) and their actions have proven a willingness to ‘re-establish’ the Islamic Caliphate through jihadist activities.
Approach to Resistance & Military/Political Abilities
The group is not believed to have had extensive military capabilities, notably as it was known primarily for its small-scale rocket attacks on Israeli territory. One of the component groups of MSCEJ was responsible for the death of a Thai worker in 2010 when they launched a rocket into Israeli territory (which they later claimed responsibility for) (Al Jazeera, 2010).
During its peak activity, the group was relatively violent, although this violence was constrained to the aforementioned small-scale rocket attacks. Due to a small member base of around several hundred fighters (US State Department, 2017), this has limited how the MSCEJ approaches its resistance tactics as they do not have significant enough numbers to launch attacks similar to those carried out by groups such as AQSP (al-Qaeda in the Sinai Peninsula). Similarly, due to its delisting as a terrorist organisation by the United States State Department in 2014 – which followed its inactivity as a group – this further provides evidence to the lack of action in its current pathway to resistance (Truzman, 2022).
International Relations & Potential Alliances
There is little to no evidence of the group receiving external funding or support from a support network of similarly-aligned organisations or from a support base. However, the group originally pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda in 2012 (Joscelyn, 2012), and this suggests a potential alliance. Instead, it seems the MSCEJ has more enemies than allies, as it has also been in conflict with Hamas. This conflict sparked after the latter organisation has cracked down on Salafi jihadist organisations which are present within Gaza in effort to stop them firing rockets into Israeli territory (Barnett, 2013b). The MSCEJ has accused Hamas of collaborating with IDF intelligence units to target members of its organisations with a senior figure within the MSCEJ, Hithem Ziad Ibrahim Masshal, being killed in a supposedly Hamas-intelligence-provided airstrike by Israeli forces in 2013 (Barnett, 2013a).
Works Cited (MLA-style)
Al Jazeera (2010). Gaza rocket kills worker in Israel. [online] www.aljazeera.com. Available at: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2010/3/18/gaza-rocket-kills-worker-in-israel
Al-Monitor (2014). Gaza Salafists pledge allegiance to ISIS - Al-Monitor: Independent, trusted coverage of the Middle East. [online] www.al-monitor.com. Available at: https://www.al-monitor.com/originals/2014/02/isis-gaza-salafist-jihadist-qaeda-hamas.html.
Barnett, D. (2013a). MSC in Jerusalem member targeted by Israeli Air Force | FDD’s Long War Journal. [online] www.longwarjournal.org. Available at: https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2013/04/msc_in_jerusalem_mem.php.
Barnett, D. (2013b). Popular Resistance Committees calls on Hamas to stop arrests of ‘mujahideen’ | FDD’s Long War Journal. [online] www.longwarjournal.org. Available at: https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2013/07/popular_resistance_committees.php
BBC News Middle East (2012). Five Gaza militants killed in air strikes. BBC News. [online] 13 Oct. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-19938217.
French, N.S. (2020). And God knows the martyrs: martyrdom and violence in jihadi-salafism. [online] New York, Ny: Oxford University Press. Available at: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=dWHdDwAAQBAJ&pg=PA36&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false.
Haaretz (2012). Haifa Man Named as Victim of Terrorist Attack on Egypt Border. Haaretz. [online] 18 Jun. Available at: https://www.haaretz.com/2012-06-18/ty-article/haifa-man-named-as-victim-of-terrorist-attack-on-egypt-border/0000017f-e305-d9aa-afff-fb5df7bf0000.
Joscelyn, T. (2012). Al Qaeda-linked group claims responsibility for attack in Israel | FDD’s Long War Journal. [online] www.longwarjournal.org. Available at: https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2012/06/al_qaeda-linked_grou.php.
Roggio, B. (2012a). ‘Global jihadists’ overrun Egyptian Army outpost on Israeli border | FDD’s Long War Journal. [online] www.longwarjournal.org. Available at: https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2012/08/global_jihadists_ove.php.
Roggio, B. (2012b). Mujahideen Shura Council calls attack in Israel a ‘gift’ to Zawahiri and al Qaeda ‘brothers’ | FDD’s Long War Journal. [online] www.longwarjournal.org. Available at: https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2012/07/egyptian_jihadist_gr.php.
State Department (2014). Terrorist Designation of the Mujahidin Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC). [online] U.S. Department of State. Available at: https://2009-2017.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2014/230728.htm.
Truzman, J. (2022). U.S. State Department Set to Delist Mujahideen Shura Council of Jerusalem | FDD’s Long War Journal. [online] www.longwarjournal.org. Available at: https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2022/05/u-s-state-department-set-to-delist-mujahideen-shura-council-of-jerusalem.php.
US State Department (2017). Country Reports on Terrorism 2017 - United States Department of State. [online] United States Department of State. Available at: https://www.state.gov/reports/country-reports-on-terrorism-2017/.