Al Qaeda’s Triple Warning to Israel Ahead of Gaza Pullout

At an urgent weekend consultation, US, British, Egyptian, Jordanian and Israeli intelligence and counter-terror officials concluded that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s terror teams now pose an imminent threat to Israel. The Katyusha rocket which landed harmlessly near Israel’s Eilat airport across from Jordanian Aqaba on Friday, Aug 19, was not a stray from the volley aimed at the two US naval vessels docked in the Jordanian Red Sea port. It was Zarqawi’s first direct attack against Israel and it was aimed at its southernmost airport. The fact that the rocket missed its target was neither here nor there according to their common assessment.
Since those attacks, Jordan, Egypt and Israel have put their sea and air ports and essential installations on high terror alert. Washington quietly barred new danger zones to US diplomats and military officers serving in those countries: Aqaba, all of Jordan south of Amman up to the Saudi border, the Jordan River bridge crossings between Israel and Hashemite kingdom, the southern Israeli highway to the Red Sea port of Eilat across from Aqaba, and the Eilat resort.
All these locations are now rated as high risk of terror attack. According to incoming intelligence data, the Zarqawi network has pumped fresh terror teams into Jordan. They are supported by an extensive local logistical structure in place that is composed mostly of Palestinians together with Iraqi, Egyptian and Syrian nationals.
Earlier, US officials were ordered to stay out of Sinai. In addition to last week’s bombing attempt against the US-led Multinational Observer Force, debkafile‘s counter-terror sources report four unpublicized shooting attacks on vehicles traveling on northeastern Sinai roads near the Israel border. Zarqawi’s men are obviously in command of free routes between Iraq, Jordan, Sinai and parts of Israel’s southern and eastern Negev. Local gangs of gunrunners are hired along the way to secrete them across borders to reach their targets.
Our sources add that anti-terror agencies infer from the different names under which al Qaeda communiques refer to its latest operations as indicative of another alarming development: Zarqawi’s followers fighting against Americans forces in Iraq call themselves “Al Qaeda’s Forces in the Land of the Two Rivers.” The attacks in Jordan and Sinai are claimed by “Al Qaeda in Egypt and the Levant.” The al Qaeda branch just set up in the Gaza Strip is referred to as “Jihad Brigades in the Border Districts.”
These titles are more than braggadocio; they are the names of the regional commands into which Zarqawi has divided the fronts of his terrorist offensive for synchronized operations.
Initial official attempts to discount the rocket firing against Eilat were quickly scotched by al Qaeda’s claim of responsibility on the day it was staged.
Friday, Aug 19, the Abdullah al-Azzam Brigades of the al Qaeda Organization in the Levant and Egypt, announced over the Internet its “fighters” had fired three Katyusha rockets at “US vessels in Jordan and at (Israel’s) Eilat port… before returning safely to base.”
This group also claimed the bombing attacks on Sharm el Sheikh in July and Taba last year, which together killed more than 100 people. After warning the Americans to “expect even more stinging attacks”, the group went on to state: “The Zionists are always a legitimate target. We bombed you at Taba and will soon reach Tel Aviv.”
One of the three rockets fired Friday killed a Jordanian soldier and injured another, landing on the Emir Haya base parade ground during a drill practice; a second whizzed past the USS Ashland landing craft to land on a quayside warehouse. No members of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard were hurt. The third partially exploded near a taxi 150 meters from Eilat airport, slightly hurting the driver.
“This is our debut operation in Jordan,” boasted the Abdullah al-Azzam Brigades. “As we have begun to destroy the throne of the Egyptian tyrant (the Sharm al Sheikh, Taba bombings), we warn the Jordanian tyrant to release our jailed brothers and abdicate before we force you to go.”
This was not the first al Qaeda communique of late. Since the second week of August, three warnings to Israel have been released.
The first appeared on August 9, a week before the dismantling of Israeli locations in the Gaza Strip began. It was signed “The Ashura Council of al Qaeda-Palestine.” Addressed mainly to the Palestinians, it consisted of an attack on the democratic process Washington seeks to inculcate in Palestinian governance as a means of weaning Hamas and the Jihad Islami away from terrorism. This message decries democracy as anti-Islamic and a violation of the Ashura Council mode enshrined in Islamic law. It also tempts the faithful to elect representatives who enact laws contrary to the Shari code.
Al Qaeda sees the Islam-versus-democracy issue, largely waved aside by the Sharon government, as of prime importance and the key ideological justification for attacking both the Jewish state and the Palestinian Authority.
At the same time, the communique allows pragmatic tactics: “Living as we do in a period in which heretics (the Palestinian Authority) and true believers are mixed together, fighting the Jews (Israelis) and the Crusaders (the Americans and their allies) must take the highest priority.”
Two days later, on August 11, a second Internet notice was signed the “Jihad Brigades of the Border Districts,” another name for al Qaeda-Palestine. It was a transparent effort to ascertain that Israelis and Palestinians alike were apprised of the new organization in the Gaza Strip.
The third warning appeared on August 16. By then, the Israel army and police had begun evicting Israelis from the Gaza Strip. This four-page missive consisted of a list of oaths of allegiance sworn by the Jihadist Brigades in the Border Districts (Palestine) to the Taliban leader Mullah Omar, who is termed “Emir of the Faithful and Head of the Islamic Caliphate.”
The three messages reveal a carefully calibrated al Qaeda operation of four steps, designed to parellel the Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip:
1. August 2:The Al Qaeda-Palestine branch makes its debut in the Gaza Strip with a public announcement of its launch.
2. August 9: The new Palestinian branch elaborates its ideological-religious platform as validation for the terrorist campaign to come.
3.</bAugust 11: The al Qaeda-Palestine Web site is unveiled, inaugurating the official outlet through which the group will claim responsibility for future operations.
4August 16: The fighters’ oaths of allegiance are published, indicating that al Qaeda’s brigades are ready to launch terrorist operations.
Israel’s response
First: Official spokesmen first shilly-shallied, asserting it is impossible to know if the messages and warnings warrant serious attention and to identify the hand behind them. This skeptical vagueness came across in Israeli defense minister Shaul Mofaz’s comment on the Katyusha rocket that landed outside Eilat airport.
Second: An effort to keep the al Qaeda Internet warnings and moves in the Gaza Strip far from public attention. Mofaz and the chief of staff, both of whom are totally committed to Israel’s military and civilian pullback, were reluctant to heed any suggestion that the withdrawal might in fact be exploited to open the door wide for al Qaeda to walk in and join forces with Palestinian terrorists.
But al Qaeda’s threat to reach Tel Aviv after the rocket attacks last Friday came through loud and clear. It is hard to wave away the strong Palestinian element in the Abdullah Azzam Brigades which staged that attack, a branch of the same terrorist organization as the Jihad Brigades of the Border Districts. This manifestation was first reported by debkafile on August 3, 2005. To see the article, click HERE.

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