Al Qaeda has not been idle. Although foiled in some major plots, the jihads are gearing up for a fresh offensive.
On July 15, exactly a year ago, the former British prime minister Tony Blair canceled a visit to the Gaza Strip because of a security threat. The Middle East peace envoy returned to Jerusalem and the advance party of his cavalcade, which had already passed through the Erez crossing, turned back. The nature of the security threat was never disclosed.
Mystery similarly surrounded the warnings from US and Israeli officials which failed to deter US president Jimmy Carter from paying a visit to the Gaza Strip on June 19.
In an exclusive report, debkafile disclosed at the time that an al Qaeda cell in the Gaza Strip had planted a huge EFP explosive device weighing some 450 pounds near the Erez crossing, set to explode as Carter drove out of the Palestinian enclave.
Israel military patrols on the other side of the border witnessed the bomb as it was dismantled by a Hamas bomb squad, which Hamas spokesmen later denied. There was no information about who had tipped off the UN security detail escorting the Carter to the bomb's presence, in time to prevent its detonation.
Al Qaeda would have claimed the assassination of the former US president as a great triumph had it succeeded.
The world media skimmed very lightly over the al Qaeda plots against a former UK premier and a US president in the Palestinian Gaza Strip – although it would have made front page news anywhere else.
Al-Qaeda fighters, defeated in Iraq, find new purpose in Gaza Strip
This week, al Qaeda's Gaza branch issued a fresh warning of coming trouble by reporting that its members had taken an oath of allegiance to Osama Bin Laden, pledging to carry out “very big” attacks on American and Israeli targets in the Middle East.
A key role will no doubt be assigned the new terrorist organization which DEBKA-Net-Weekly's counter-terror sources report al Qaeda has established in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. It calls itself “Jaljalat” – the first word of al Qaeda's anthem, which means: “We have been saved” [implicitly by jihad].
Although the Gaza Strip is under close scrutiny by many undercover agencies – especially American, Israeli and Egyptian – very little is known about the organization's makeup, modus operandi and method of communication with fraternal al Qaeda branches across the Middle East.
From the little known, it seems that Jaljalat is headed by a man known only as Abu Talib, and many of its members came from the Palestinian Hamas' military wing, the Ezzedeen al-Qassam Brigades. These full-fledged terrorists joined up after becoming disillusioned with Hamas policies.
According to some Western intelligence services, the al Qaeda cell's hard core consists of Saudis, Yemenis, and Egyptians, who fought for the jihadist organization in Iraq and fled when it was beaten down by US forces.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources have identified a recent spate of cross-border attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip as having been mounted by al Qaeda terrorists – not Hamas, which has gone to ground since its drubbing by Israel in January.
The biggest of these attacks on June 8 was carried out against Israeli border patrols by several dozen Jaljilat terrorists using truck bombs and riding the first “bomb horses” known in the history of suicide terror.
Each horse carried a rider and hundreds of kilos of explosives. None made it across the border. They were driven off by Israeli mortar fire.