Al Qaeda Readies Dual-track Offensive in Iraq and Gaza

Just in time for President George W. Bush’s first – and last – Middle East tour, al Qaeda’s new operational arm, Fatah al-Islam, completed its redeployment from Lebanon on two warfronts: Iraq and the Gaza Strip. Al Qaeda has managed to pull together two fronts for twin campaigns orchestrated by a single commander, Fatah al-slam’s Palestinian chief Shaker al-Abessi, from his new base in Iraq.
This feat, disclosed by debkafile‘s intelligence sources, eluded his predecessor, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who tried and failed to develop a joint Iraq-Palestinian command in 2005 and 2006 before he was killed.
Fatah al-Islam under Abessi’s command pinned the Lebanese army down at the northern Nahar al-Badr camp for four months in the summer of 2007 before being driven out. Within three months, they had relocated on the two new fronts.
With his top command, Abessi was able to access Iraq from Syria in the last month by transiting a purportedly sealed border. According to our sources, the Palestinian-led terrorist force has reached North Iraq and is taking reinforcements from Lebanon and Syria preparatory to joining the main al Qaeda body fighting US and Iraqi forces in other parts of the country.
In recent weeks, al Qaeda and its allies have shown signs of recovering from their trouncing by US and Iraq forces in most parts of Iraq; suicide attacks are climbing again. Just Sunday, Jan. 6, two struck in separate parts of Baghdad, killing 13 people, six of them Iraqi police.
US military commanders have taken to tingeing their’ accounts of major military successes with a dash of caution.
On Jan. 3, Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, the commander of U.S. forces south of Baghdad, said: Security gains that have led to a significant fall in violence over the last six months are tenuous and could be lost if Iraqis become disillusioned or extremists mount a major attack. “I’m very optimistic, but at the same time I’m very realistic. We have a tenuous security situation right now.”
As the Fatah al-Islam elite headed for Iraq toward the end of 2007, at least 120 rank and file were smuggled into Gaza through Sinai and by sea. They are very visible as they roar through Gaza’s streets in new mini-vans, brandishing the heavy machine guns and anti-tank weapons they brought with them. On display are their “Musab Zarqawi” missiles (a replica of the primitive Qassam short-range surface missile wielded by Hamas and Jihad Islami).
A high-placed Israeli military source said: “One would imagine the Taliban in Palestinian form had landed on our southwestern doorstep – the same sort of weapons, methods of operation and hot-eyed fervor.”
Our counter-terror sources report that Friday, Jan. 5, a video-tape was released in which Abessi urged his men in Gaza to fight the Israeli military to the finish and wipe out the “Zionist entity” – in the same way he claimed that the Lebanese army and the US military had been beaten at Nahr al-Badr. The Fatah al Islam chief quoted Osama bin Laden’s vow in a Dec. 30 audio-tape to “liberate the whole of Palestinian” and threat of “”blood for blood, destruction for destruction.”
The Abessi tape was recorded in Iraq and distributed in the Gaza Strip. His peroration is backed by shots of Fatah al Islam operatives firing missiles into Israel on Dec. 30 and 31.
Israeli officers liken the incursion of the Palestinian fundamentalists into Gaza to the early steps of al Qaeda and the Taleban in expanding across Afghanistan and deep into Pakistan, to the point that today they threaten to destabilize the Kabul and Islamabad governments.
But Israeli policy-makers refuse to admit a new peril is closing in from the Palestinian territory at war with the Jewish state. An Israeli military officer conversant with the new development sees the Gaza Strip descending further into fundamentalist Islamization. He says: “If until now Hamas and Jihad Islami were the barriers to the return of Palestinian Authority rule evicted from the Gaza Strip last June, now they are bolstered and being further radicalized by al Qaeda’s ideology, propaganda, funds and arms, which are streaming unimpeded to the Palestinian territory.
These violent elements are further boosted by Al Qaeda jihadists, most Palestinian, who are escaping Suez Canal towns in flight from Egyptian security forces. They are finding sanctuary in Gaza.
Al Qaeda established its firs foothold in the Gaza Strip in 2005. Israel must have been the only country in the world which did nothing to nip in the bud the buildup of a dangerous terrorist base along its borders. Today, the Olmert government continues to bury its head in the sand as the terrorist bases go up armed with full-blown military capabilities.
In the past week, the hodge-podge of extremist Palestinian organizations in Gaza fired 32 missiles into Israel and their first 122mm Katyusha rocket against Ashkelon, a major Israeli city. They pose an unarguable strategic threat to Israel’s southern half as great as the hazard Hizballah presents to the North.

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