2. Egypt worried by terror spillover into N. Sinai

The terror-ridden Palestinian Gaza Strip shares a border with Egyptian northern Sinai. Although the border crossing is under Israeli security control by agreement, Palestinians move easily between the two territories through a warren of tunnels they have dug to smuggle people and arms and drugs back and forth. Palestinian extremist groups dominating the 140-sq mile Gaza Strip are therefore more than doubling the area of their enclave by gradually absorbing a 160-sq. m stretch of Egyptian Sinai that curves to the southwest along the Mediterranean and centers on the desert town of el Arish.

Last month, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s top strategists, his chief political adviser, Osama el-Baz, and General Omar Suleiman, the head of Egypt’s intelligence services, warned him that north Sinai’s creeping takeover by the radical Palestinian Muslims of the Gaza Strip posed an immediate threat to regime stability in Cairo.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terrorism sources, after accessing portions of that report, reveal the decision by Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat, whose control over Gaza and the West Bank is in a state of collapse, to hand the lead position in the confrontation with Israel over to his supposed rival – the fundamentalist Muslim terror group, Hamas (which Canada, in the wake of most Western countries placed on its terrorist black list Thursday, November 28).

Arafat took note of the group’s rising popularity in the increasingly radicalized Palestinian street – the latest Palestinian opinion polls award Hamas more than 40 percent of Palestinian support. However, our sources stress that the vote of confidence does not designate the local Hamas leaders – its wheelchair-bound founder, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, and spokesman Abdelaziz al-Rantissi – but its Damascus headquarters, “external Hamas”, which is headed by two implacable terrorist masterminds, Khaled Mashal, head of the military wing, and Mussa Abu Marzook, the political-religious authority.

This is what disturbs Egyptian leaders most about the creeping Hamas enclave.

According to the Egyptian briefing to Mubarak, the authority of the local Hamas leaders has been eroded by local “Irisa”, i.e. “salvation” committees run from Hamas-Damascus. These committees draw their name from deep inside Islamic history, the call for salvation voiced by weakening Muslim forces fighting for Islam and barely holding out until reinforcements come to help them turn the tide of battle.

Similar salvation committees are strewn across the Muslim world, but only the Gaza Strip outfit has been given an international umbrella, a new Muslim organization calling itself Itlaf al Kheir – the Axis of Good. It is believed to be a pilot venture destined to be repeated at other Muslim terror centers – the Islamic fundamentalist answer to US President George W. Bush’s Axis of Evil.

The inventor of the Axis for Good concept is an old thorn in the Egyptian government’s side, Sheikh Yussef Quaradawi, the popular preacher who broadcasts his teachings around the Arab world in a regular 90-minute weekly Sunday spot on Al Jazeera satellite television’s “Sharia (Muslim ritual law) and Life”.

The studio in Doha is not 30 miles from the command center at al Udeid of US General Tommy Franks.

No link has been proven between Quaradawi and Osama bin Laden or al-Qaeda. But the sheikh’s broadcast message to tens of millions of Muslim viewers is identical to the terror network’s fundamentalist teachings.

It is also awesomely simple.

“We are in a jihad (holy war) against the West,” he declares. Playing on Muslims’ emotions and sense of history, he accuses the “corrupt and secular West” of waging a new Crusade against Islam. Quaradawi has placed himself at the head of the salvation committee network he has established in the Gaza Strip as well as its patron, the Axis of Good.

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