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The super-confident Lebanese Shiite terrorist group Hizballah was twice jolted out of its complacency this month and forced to accept that its innermost core had been penetrated and its eight-year old links with Palestinian terrorists laid bare. Word reaching Israel’s intelligence sources is that Hizballah’s Iranian masters and Syrian backers are now looking forward to the next stage of their terrorist assault on the Jewish state, the use of non-conventional weapons.
The first knock occurred on July 19, when Ghaleb Awali, head of the Hizballah’s Special Group was murdered outside his Beirut home. Awali, who worked under the direct orders of the Hizballah’s backroom godfather Imad Mughniyeh, was the keystone of the arch linking Hizballah with Palestinian terrorist organizations.
Then on Sunday, July 25, Israeli Border police undercover troops sought out and killed six wanted Tanzim-Fatah and Jihad Islami terrorists in the West Bank town of Tulkarm.
debkafile reports that one of the dead men, Mahdi Tambouz, was their main quarry – not just as head of the Fatah’s suicide arm al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade in the town, but as Hizballah’s secret liaison man with the local Palestinian terror groups. The Israeli special unit knew exactly who they were looking for. All six had been identified as links in the chain from Hizballah HQ in Lebanon to Ramallah and other Palestinian terrorist centers.
In Tulkarm, their cell working alongside all the terrorist groups – al Aqsa, Jihad Islami, Hamas – was partly smashed. Although the structure will most likely be rebuilt, the Israelis are seen to be disturbingly close to catching up with the several hundred Hizballah terror operatives and experts present in Qalqilya and Jenin, in the northern West Bank, as well as in the Gaza Strip. There, Hizballah plants are thickest on the ground in the south and Gaza City, integrated in the Hamas structure and Jihad Islami – which is funded directly from Tehran – and strong in the violent Popular Resistance Committees of Khan Younes and Rafah. Hizballah sleepers are also known to be buried in some Israeli Arab communities. Hizballah input has substantially upgraded Palestinian weaponry, bomb-making techniques and tactics; it is now a major source of funding for terrorist operations.
Plans in the making in Tehran and Damascus envision a big future for the Hizballah in unconventional warfare. Military intelligence chief Maj.-Gen Aharon Zeevi reported to the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem Sunday, July 25, that Syria is testing chemical warheads for Hizballah’s 115- and 215-kilometer range surface missiles, which are among the estimated 12,000 ranged along Lebanon’s southern border with Israel. The warheads are manufactured by Syria with financing from Iran. Fitting them on Hizballah’s missiles, which are guarded by Iranian Revolutionary Guards, would provide Iran with a menacing presence on the shores of the Mediterranean – and it would not stop there.
debkafile‘s Tehran sources reveal that the hardline Islamic regime sees Hizballah passing short-range missiles with Syrian chemical payloads to Yasser Arafat for the use of his Palestinian terrorists, so that by the time Iran has its first nuclear bomb ready to go in about two years, unconventional weapons will be pointed at the Jewish state from two external directions, Tehran and Lebanon – whence missiles can strike as far south as Hadera – as well as from Palestinian areas abutting on the Israeli heartland.
The elusive Mughniyeh, who has long starred on the FBI’s list of most wanted 22 terrorists, links Tehran’s terrorist industry and its various offshoots to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda, with whom he is in close touch. His minion, the late Ghaleb Awali, belonged to a hidden tier of clandestine operatives that performed Hizballah’s deadly work behind the strutting figure of its secretary general Hassan Nasrallah.
That tier was breached twice this month.
Last week’s DEBKA-Net-Weekly traced some little known features of the life and work of the go-between who personified the Tehran-Hizballah-Palestinian partnership-in-terror.
Born 41 years ago in the south Lebanese village of Toulin, he joined Nabih Berri’s Shiite Amal movement in the late 1970s as a teenager, then in the 1980s partnered Mustafa Dirani to set up a Shiite militia called “Believing Resistance.” Dirani was seized by Israelis in 1988 and held in the hope of securing the release of the navigator Ron Arad whom he captured and reportedly sold to Iran. After Dirani’s capture, Alawi and the entire militia joined the Hizballah where he was soon spotted by Mughniyeh and attached to his own staff with high officer rank. The grooming he received for future missions most probably included language lessons in Farsi in which he became fluent. Between 1990 and 1996, Awali was attached to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards units stationed in E. Lebanon’s Baalbek and Beqaa Valley. In 1996, he was promoted again by Mughniyeh as operations coordinator between the Hizballah and Palestinian terrorist organizations – in practise, this made him also contact man between Tehran and the Palestinian leadership headed by Yasser Arafat.
Like all senior operatives of the secretive network, Awali was given a codename, “The Hajj.” His real name and photo were blanked out in all Hizballah publications.
Awali’s clandestine function exploded the myth that global Islamic terror and Palestinian terror are separate conflicts. Mughniyeh is the key link between Hizballah and Iran’s terror branch and al Qaeda’s leaders, maintaining regular, close ties with Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zuwahiri.
At the very same time that al Qaeda was setting up the attacks on the United States, Mughniyeh, on Iran’s behalf, engineered a campaign of terror against Israel and other parts of the Middle East through the Hizballah and the Palestinians.
The Lebanese Hizballah and Syrians recruited by him were the very first foreign elements to terrorize American forces in Iraq. After they lit the bonfire, Baathist guerrillas jumped in, followed later by former Iraqi military men.
Up until the late 1990s, Awali was engaged in setting up the logistical infrastructure for the Palestinian confrontation which erupted in September 2000, exactly one year before 9/11. He organized weapons supplies to the Palestinians and personally arranged arms shipments aboard three of the Iranian-Palestinian freighters captured by Israel between 2001 and 2003 – the Santorini, the Karen-A and the Abu Hassan.
With regard to Karin-A, documentary proof exists that the cargo was paid for in Greece by Iraq (during Saddam Hussein’s rule) and Iran through a Greek shipper called Dimitris Kokkos and Pakistani Rifat Muhammed, owners of Nova Spirit Inc. registered in the Delaware, USA, the company that runs al Qaeda’s fleet (estimated today by intelligence experts at 35 freighters of various tonnage).
Nova Spirit operates secretly out of Iran’s Bandar Abbas base of the Revolutionary Guards and ports in Lebanon, Romania and Bulgaria.
Incontrovertible evidence therefore exists of collaborative relations for terror – at least in logistics – binding jihadist al Qaeda, fundamentalist Iran, Saddam Hussein’s secular Iraq, radical Shiite Hizballah and the suicidal, Israel-hating Palestinian Authority.
Through 2003 and up until his death, “The Hajj” was in direct communication with a senior Fatah-Tanzim member of the Palestinian Legislative Council called Hussam Khader of the Nablus refugee camp of Balata. Khader now languishes in an Israeli jail since examination of his bank accounts in the West Bank and Jordan turned up large infusions of cash from the “Lebanese businessman, G. Hajj.”
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s reports that five days before his death, Awali returned home from another secret trip to Tehran to pick up new instructions and a large supply of funds for use in exploiting the chaos in the Palestinian Authority to plant more Iranian and Hizballah agents on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
When he alighted from the plane in Beirut, Awali was picked up by a white Mercedes 280 and bodyguard and drove to his new apartment in the smart south Beirut suburb of Muadad.
That new apartment was the death of him. All the top Shiite Hizballah people live together in “The Security Square” of south Beirut, which is enclosed by a high wall and guarded by armed roadblocks fortified against bomb cars. His killers must have kept him under close surveillance for months and knew exactly when and where to rig the bomb that ended his life. Nasrallah and Mughniyeh quickly deduced from the precise timing and method of Alawi’s assassination that their innermost core had been subjected to hostile penetration. This had never happened before – even in the 1980s during Mughniyeh’s reign of terror and abduction against Westerners which eventually drove the Americans out of Beirut.
Hizballah leaders are shy of saying out loud that The Hajj was the fourth of their number to be targeted for liquidation by a similar method in the last two years.
In public, Nasrallah accused the Israeli Mossad and vowed to exact revenge.
His threat has put Israel’s security services in and outside the country on supreme alert ready for a Hizballah strike against an Israeli or Jewish target. This week was the tenth anniversary of the devastating attack on the Jewish Community Center of Buenos Aires, which claimed 82 lives and injured 230. That attack was Hizballah’s revenge for the death of one of its leaders Abbas Mussawi.
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