For the first time, a thread links the three rockets which hit the Israeli town of Sderot Sunday, Aug. 26, slightly injuring two workmen, and the two terrorist cells captured in Riyadh and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on the same day, debkafile’s counter-terror sources report. Both events were conceived by Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula. AQAP has ordered its Sinai cells and Egyptian and Palestinian offshoots to step up their attacks from Sinai and the Gaza Strip.
By three happenings Sunday, AQAP broke new and menacing ground:
1. Three Qassam missiles fired at the industrial zone Sderot shares with Shear Hanegev ushered in a Gaza-based anti-Israel offensive launched by the “Shura Council in the Jerusalem Area” – the umbrella organization of all the Salafi groups operating in Sinai and the Gaza Strip.
This group’s 6,000-strong force of well-armed terrorists is commanded by an Egyptian by the name of Hisham Saydani. Al Qaeda has dubbed him Abu al-Walid al-Maqdisi. He and his lieutenants serve as liaison between the Sinai cells and AQAP headquarters in Yemen.
2. Hamas held Saydani in a special security prison cell in the Gaza Strip until two weeks ago when, for some unknown reason, which US, Egyptian and Israeli counter-terror agencies are trying to discover, Hamas let him go. His first action was to set up the Shura Council’s attack near Rafah, in which 16 Egyptian troops were killed and the Kerem Shalom crossing barrier into Israel was rammed. The gunmen were liquidated before they reached their target: the IDF Bedouin Reconnaissance Battalion’s command base nearby.
This operation was designed at the highest AQAP command level.
Suspecting that at least three of the perpetrators had gone to ground in the Gaza Strip, Egypt demanded that Hamas hunt them down and arrest them. The Shura Council’s three-missile volley against Sderot was its way of warning Hamas to call off the hunt or else the missile fire would continue and bring Israeli retribution down on the Hamas-ruled enclave.
The same tactic was behind the firing of two Grad missiles against the southern Israeli resort and port town of Eilat Friday, Aug. 17. That too was an al Qaeda warning to Cairo to call off the Egyptian military’s pursuit of Salafi terrorists in Sinai or else more missiles would be loosed against southern Israel.
Two days later, Israel placed Eilat under the guard of an Iron Dome missile defense battery.
Following these two incidents, al Qaeda’s Shura Council announced that Israeli towns would be held hostage for the halting of Egyptian and Hamas military pursuit of its members in Sinai and the Gaza Strip, which must stop forthwith.
3. Sunday, too, the Saudi Interior Minister announced the busting of two al Qaeda cells in the capital Riyadh and the Saudi summer capital of Jeddah on the Red Sea, which were plotting attacks on Western targets, and local security forces and public places in the kingdom. There were eight arrests, two Saudis and six Yemenis.
Saudi sources disclosed that they were members of AQAP, operating under the orders of the organization’s headquarters in Yemen. Found in their possession were weapons and explosives and also chemical substances for loading into explosive charges.
This is the first evidence since 2002, when a bomb packed with poison chemicals was detonated by Palestinian suicide killer in Jerusalem, of the use of chemical weapons by Middle East terrorists. It is feared that those weapons may also have found their way to Sinai.