The Palestinian Islamist militant group Jund Ansar Allah, or the Soldiers of the Companions of God, announced its presence in the Gaza Strip in June when three of its members were killed in a horseback raid on an Israeli border post.
It has criticised the rival Islamist group, Hamas, which controls the coastal territory, for failing to establish Islamic law and for abiding by the ceasefire called after the Israeli offensive ended in January.
On Friday, the leader of Jund Ansar Allah, Abdul-Latif Moussa, declared in a sermon at Rafah’s Ibn-Taymiyah mosque that Gaza was now an “Islamic emirate”. Hamas forces attacked later that day.
Moussa, a doctor and local cleric, was killed alongside 21 others in the ensuing battle. Hamas officials said he and an aide named Khaled Banat, a Syrian national of Palestinian origin also known as Abu Abdullah al-Muhajir, had blown themselves up using explosive vests.