Intro and Analysis
The Gaza-Sinai area has for some time been of interest to those observing the al-Qaeda-Islamic State dispute because the area has been perceived as a hotbed of pro-Islamic State (or, prior to the Caliphate declaration, ISIS) sentiment. There is certainly some truth to this general observation. When infighting broke out between what was then ISIS and other rebels in Syria, the two main jihadi groups operating in the Sinai-Gaza area- Jamaat Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis and the Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen- both came out in support of ISIS, insisting the group had a right to 'self-defence.'
However, supporting or sympathizing with ISIS in the early period does not necessarily translate to aligning with the group's subsequent self-declaration as a Caliphate demanding allegiance from all Muslims. For comparison, Ansar al-Shari'a Tunisia has generally been associated with pro-ISIS sentiment, but nothing points to a formal pledge of loyalty to the Islamic State, even as many of its rank-and-file members ended up joining the group in the Syria-Iraq arena. In fact, Ansar al-Shari'a is essentially trying to have it both ways (i.e. extending respect and appreciation to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi while not subsuming itself under his Caliphate, if not openly rejecting it), as I documented in a previous post on the group's Eid al-Fitr message.
The same seems to be true of Jamaat Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis and the Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen, even as neither group has issued an explicit statement on the Caliphate announcement or Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Contrary to what Egyptian press reports claimed (relying on a Twitter account merely calling itself "Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis", now since deleted), there was no pledge of allegiance by the former group to the Islamic State. At the same time, Jamaat Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis' activities in particular are advertised by some IS-aligned accounts on social media, most notably @dawlaanoor.
Nonetheless, I believe the evidence is sufficient to point to an established Islamic State network in the Gaza-Sinai area. First, there is a recognizable Gazan contingent fighting for the Islamic State in the Syria-Iraq arena- the Sheikh Abu al-Nur al-Maqdisi Battalion. Second, we also have this shadowy group calling itself "[Jamaat] Ansar al-Dawla al-Islamiya/al-Khilafa fi Bayt al-Maqdis" ("[The Group] of Supporters of the Islamic State/Caliphate in Jerusalem"). Here is a photo of purported members of the group; here is purported da'wah material for the Caliphate distributed by the group in Gaza*; in addition, at the end of June, the group announced the death of one member Muhammad al-Fasih in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza, who "was killed by the aircraft of the Jews in treachery on Friday and his papers had been prepared for hijra to the spring of the Islamic State in Iraq and ash-Sham." It is also in this context that I have translated the latest 'martyrdom' announcement from the group, which affirms the death of a slain engineer who was a representative of the group and ended up fighting under the Islamic State in Syria.
Jamaat Ansar al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi Bayt al-Maqdis
Obituary notice for the mujahid brother Mahmoud Nayef al-Qayrnawi: Abu al-Bara' of Gaza
The Almighty said: "Those who have believed, made hijra and waged jihad in God's path with their wealth and souls are held in the highest honour in God's eyes, and they are the winners of success." [Qur'an 9:20]
We present to the Islamic Ummah generally and the Ansar al-Dawla al-Islamiya- the state of the Rightly-Guiding Caliphate- in particular, the news of the martyrdom of a representative of the Ansar al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi Bayt al-Maqdis with the state of the Islamic Caliphate, the engineer Mahmoud Nayef al-Qayrnawi- Abu al-Bara' of Gaza- may God accept him.
Our martyr joined the Islamic State after a long journey, much of it filled with difficulty; he resided in Sinai for a period of time and participated with his mujahideen brothers in fighting against the enemies of God, until God- Almighty and Exalted is He- granted for him to arrive in the land of ash-Sham, and he embarked on expeditions with his brothers in the Islamic State- may God glorify it- and exchanged military expertise in the engineering of explosives, but God granted for him to be wounded in one of the expeditions, and there was nothing from him except endurance and reckoning- may God accept him. And that wound was only a further stimulus for his determination to continue on the path, despite the arduous falter.
And during his participation with the mujahideen of the Islamic State in the assault on the ash-Sha'ar field in Homs province on 28 Ramadan 1435 AH [26 July 2014]- God- Almighty and Exalted is He- glorified him with martyrdom...and we ask Almighty God to accept our brother Abu al-Bara'.
Jamaat Ansar al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi Bayt al-Maqdis
15 Shuwwal 1435 AH
11 August 2014.
Update (29 September 2014): Just for clarification: while this da'wah material is put out in the name of "Ansar al-Shari'a in Bayt al-Maqdis," it is hard to imagine that it is not somehow tied to Jamaat Ansar al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi Bayt al-Maqdis, which, after all, is the most explicit affirmation of allegiance with the Islamic State among global jihadi-orientated groups in the Gaza-Sinai area.