Beirut, January 28: The Islamic State group vowed to shift its focus from the remnants of its “caliphate” towards Israel, in its first audio statement since confirming the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
In a purported audio message by its spokesman Abu Hamza al-Quraishi, the jihadist organisation called for sabotaging a so-called peace plan US President Donald Trump is due to unveil.
The spokesman said IS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Quraishi encourages the group’s fighters to launch “a new phase” and vowed major operations against Israel.
“The eyes of the soldiers of the caliphate, wherever they are, are still on Jerusalem,” the spokesman said in the 37-minute message.
“And in the coming days, God willing, you will see what harms you and what will make you forget the horrors you have seen,” Abu Hamza al-Quraishi said, apparently threatening attacks of unprecedented scope.
AFP could not immediately authenticate the message but the recording was published via the group’s usual social media channels.
The jihadist organisation once administered a sprawling self-proclaimed “caliphate” straddling big parts of Syria and Iraq, where it minted a currency, levied taxes and ran school curricula.
Under pressure from combined military operations by Syrian and Iraqi forces supported by their respective allies, the proto-state collapsed last year.
IS has remained a potent outfit in its Euphrates heartland and surrounding desert hideouts however and its franchises in Africa and Asia have also continued to expand their attacks.
The group also has a presence in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, which borders Israel and which the Jewish state occupied for 15 years after the 1967 war.
The spokesman said IS leader Quraishi was “determined, and has encouraged his mujahideen brothers in all provinces, and Muslims across the world,” to launch “a new phase”.
That new focus “is fighting the Jews and reclaiming what they have stolen from the Muslims, and this cannot be reclaimed except through fighting,” he said.
Trump was from Monday hosting both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the premier’s rival Benny Gantz in Washington ahead of unveiling his “peace plan”.
The IS spokesman made a direct reference to the “Trump plan”, which has already been rejected by the Palestinians, who ironically call it the “Deal of the Century”.
“To Muslims in Palestine and across the world… be the warhead in fighting Jews and foil the so-called ‘Deal of the Century’,” Abu Hamza al-Quraishi said.
He urged IS fighters, especially those in Syria and Sinai, to turn Jewish settlements into “a testing ground” for their weapons.
Some 600,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank and Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem among around 2.9 million Palestinians.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in 1967 and annexed the territory in 1981.
On its southern coast, Israel imposes a crippling blockade on the Palestinian territory of Gaza, a strip which is controlled by the Islamist movement Hamas and shares a border with Egypt’s Sinai region.
Since coming to office, Trump has already gifted Netanyahu — who is running for re-election — a number of political presents.
These include breaking with diplomatic consensus to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, recognising Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and ending US opposition to settlements. (AFP)