Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), an al- Qaida-affiliate group active in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, issued a statement late Wednesday expressing condolences for the deaths of two Salafist-Jihadist leaders killed in Gaza.

Israel killed the two men, Hisham Ali Abd al-Karim Saidani and Ashraf al-Sabah, in an air strike earlier this month.

Saidani, also known by his codename, Abu al-Walid al- Maqdisi, was a top operative of Jamaat al-Tawhid wal- Jihad, considered the most important jihadist organization in the Gaza Strip.

Sabah was the founder of another jihadist group, Ansar al-Sunnah.

AQAP’s statement, published on the As-Ansar website and a number of other jihadist forums, and translated by The Jerusalem Post, said, “We ask God to heal our wounded mujahadin brethren in Palestine for their loss, and to reward them with great patience and resolve on the path of jihad and sacrifice for Palestine’s liberation.”

AQAP said in its statement that the two terrorists were martyrs who had died “at the hands of the rapist Jews,” and that their sacrifices were part of jihad against the Jews.

AQAP’s statement is the latest in a series of condolences issued in the past two weeks by al-Qaida-affiliated groups over the killings of Saidani and Sabah.

The condolences, several of which include threats of retaliation against Israel, highlight the strong ideological and operational links between Salafist- Jihadist terrorist groups in Gaza and Sinai, and other al-Qaida affiliates around the world, including in Egypt and Jordan.

Among the groups that issued threats is Ansar Bayit al-Maqdis (“Supporters of Jerusalem”), the most active of Sinai’s Salafist Jihadist organizations, which claimed responsibility for the border attack that killed IDF Artillery Corps Cpl. Natanel Yahalomi, 20, from Nof Ayalon, on September 21. In its statement, the group threatened large-scale revenge on Israel, saying “the blood of Muslim heroes is not cheap, nor is it shed in vain. The Jews will pay.”

Salafist-Jihadist groups in Jordan have also threatened Israel with terrorist attacks, with a radical Jordanian cleric admitting this week that his group had planned a suicide attack in Israel. Abu Abu Muhammad al-Tahawi said that Jordanian Salafists were “getting closer to Palestine via Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.”

The two slain Gaza terrorists both had strong links with jihadi groups in both Sinai and Jordan.

According to the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Saidani had Egyptian citizenship and first became involved with the Salafist- Jihadist movement while living in Cairo. After moving to Jordan, Saidani met al-Qaida ideologue Abu Muhammad Asem al-Maqdisi, a Jordanian considered the mentor of former al- Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Saidani later founded Jamaat al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, which carried out a number of terrorist attacks against Israel.

Together with Sabah, Saidani founded a new group, the Mujahideen Shura Council in Greater Jerusalem (MSC), an umbrella organization for Gazan Salafist-Jihadist groups with links to global jihad.

MSC is active in both Sinai and Gaza and has carried out a number of terrorist attacks against Israel, including rocket attacks and the June 18 shooting on the Sinai border that claimed the life of Saeed Fashafshe, an Israeli civilian from Haifa.

This week, the MSC released a video with details of its rocket attacks, threatening to continue attacking Israel.

“We will pound your settlements and will uproot you, God permitting, from our land, and we will fight you as long as we hold weapons in our hands,” the video said.

Attacks from Sinai and Gaza Salafist-Jihadist groups have prompted the IDF to target the organizations’ senior operatives. Last week’s targeted killings of Saidani and Sabah was the latest in a string of operations against terrorists in the Strip.

On October 7, the IDF killed MSC operative Abdullah Muhammad Hassan Maqawai and Tala’at Halil Muhammad Jarbi, a senior global jihad agent responsible for terrorist activity targeting Israeli civilian and security personnel. Jarbi was planning a complex terrorist attack at the Sinai border, the IDF said.

Relations between Gaza and Sinai’s Salafist-Jihadist groups and Hamas are also increasingly tense.

Salafists do not recognize Hamas’s control over Gaza and say their aim is to establish an Islamic emirate on the strip. In an interview with Arabic daily Asharq Alawsat on Tuesday, prominent Gaza Salafist Abu Abdul-Muhajir accused Egypt of helping Hamas to attack MSC operatives in Gaza, saying that Egyptian intelligence had interrogated Sheikh Abu Suhayb Rashwan, a Salafist held by Hamas, over the September 21 terrorist attack on the Sinai border. Muhajir described that attack, in which IDF soldier Yahalomi was killed, as “heroic.”

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