Hizballah’s Kidnapping Rampage Goes Unopposed
mg class=”picture” src=”/dynmedia/pictures/NASSR.jpg” align=”left” border=”0″>The Lebanese Shiite terror group has launched an extensive, particularly vicious, terror campaign against Israel in collusion with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. At present, an Israeli Arab terror gang in Galilee, controlled and funded by Hizballah, is believed by Israeli security officials talking to debkafile to be responsible for the kidnap-murder of Israeli soldier Oleg Shaichat, whose body was found last week in northern Israel. The same squad also apparently abducted Tiberias teenager Dana Bennet six days ago and possibly also New York yeshiva student Eliezer Zussiya Klughoft, who was last seen on Mt. Meron on Saturday, August 2.
Three kidnappers from the same gang tried at gunpoint to force an Israeli Druze soldier into a car at the Yokneam junction on August 7. They fled when he cocked his rifle. Military and police investigators regret the soldier’s failure to open fire on his assailants and interrupt their depredations. But the Druze soldier was constricted from opening fire by the new rules of engagement quietly put in place since a truce was declared on June 29.
debkafile‘s military sources report Israeli authorities are convinced that these terrorists are not snatching hostages as bargaining chips but are out to kill. This they do shortly after grabbing a victim and bundling him or her into their vehicle. Several days before Shaichat was abducted, a frightened Bedouin soldier showed up late at his unit and reported he had escaped kidnappers at the Golani junction in northern Israel. His superiors who did not believe him at the time now see he was telling the truth.
Israeli security officials have realized retrospectively that the particularly virulent and violent speech Hizballah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah delivered on Sunday, July 27, several hours after Shaichat’s body was found, was a signal to go ahead with these abductions. In the address, he referred to Elhanan Tannenbaum, the retired Israeli army colonel kidnapped by his organization three years ago. “Who says he’s alive?” Nasrallah asked and went on to declare with brandished fist: “I will work day and night to capture more Israeli prisoners”.
That broadcast address is now seen as an implicit order to terrorist gangs to press ahead with the campaign of abduction and murder. Nasrallah actually spoke in the Palestinian vernacular of Arabic, specifically addressing Israeli Arabs in the Galilee so as to reach the ears of the terrorist squad which has since been preying on Israeli teenagers in the north. Word slipped out to listeners in Galilee that they could pick up the broadcast and results were soon to follow.
So far, Israeli authorities have released no word on the investigation into Shaichat’s killers. The media are bound to silence by a court gag order.
On Sunday, August 3, two days after Bennet went missing in Tiberias, two volleys of Hizballah anti-air shells fired from southern Lebanon hit Moshav Even Menachem, a farming-resort village located between Shlomi and the Lebanese border. There was no Israeli air activity in the border region at the time. In a third volley, the Hizballah artillerymen lowered their barrels and fired on a direct line into the village, destroying a guest house and slightly wounding four holidaymakers. Another shell exploded in the courtyard of a kindergarten. Luckily, the children were not playing outside.
debkafile‘s military analysts find strong signs of the Hizballah’s recovery from the shocks of Saddam Hussein’s overthrow and Baghdad’s fall to the Americans. During the Iraq war, the group was scared enough to keep its powder dry most of the time, but in recent weeks it has stepped up its warfare against Israel – and not only by means of frequent, almost daily attacks against civilian locations across the border.
Last May, Hizballah’s Beirut headquarters dispatched a senior demolition expert, Hamad Amara, to the Gaza Strip. An Egyptian fishing boat, the “Abu Hassan”, was to have dropped him secretly on the Gaza coast with a set of videocassettes containing manuals for instructing Palestinian terrorists on how to extend the range of their Qassam surface missiles from six to eight km (four to five miles) to 10 to 12 km (six to seven miles), and teaching them how to manufacture wafer thin explosives belts that could be worn as tee-shirts.
The Hizballah expert had also been invited by Arafat to move on from Gaza to his Ramallah headquarters and share his advanced craftsmanship with Fatah al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and Tanzim bombers and terrorists. Unfortunately for Arafat, the Israeli Navy intercepted the fishing boat and captured Amara on May 20. But debkafile‘s intelligence and military sources report that at least three other Hizballah ace bomb-makers did get through to Gaza by sea and were able to infiltrate Ramallah and Nablus in the West Bank. Their expertise can be seen in the nightly tests the Palestinians have been carrying out on improved Qassam missiles since the truce went into force and in the foundries of Nablus, where missile manufacture organized in assembly lines has gone into top gear in the last two weeks.
“The Palestinians are capable of manufacturing two to three missiles a day,” one security source told debkafile. “In strictly military terms, this is not a lot. But working around the clock, the Palestinians can turn out 10 to 12 missiles a week – and that’s only in the first of the three months of ceasefire.
“Now consider the close proximity of the Qassam firing ranges to major Israeli urban centers, such as Jerusalem, Kfar Saba and Raanana, and this “non-military” scale of Palestinian missile capability assumes frightening proportions and becomes a fresh military threat of the first degree.”
Israeli military experts now stress that the Lebanese Hizballah has extended its sights from cross-border assaults to strikes into Israel’s heartland. They tell debkafile: “Hizballah’s leaders are not satisfied with arraying thousands of missiles in southern Lebanon – all pointing south into Israel. In the guise of aiding the Palestinians, the Shiite terrorists are aiming for a missile threat reaching from the West Bank into central Israel and its main population centers, which will not only wreak death and destruction but also weaken Israeli military capabilities for threatening the Hizballah missile concentration in southern Lebanon.
The Hizballah is pouring millions of dollars into arms and explosives purchases for smuggling into the West Bank largely by dope traffickers. Large quantities are slipping past Israel’s electronic fences, fortifications and constant army patrols on its borders with Syria and Lebanon, mainly through the Golan Heights. Most of the war materiel is destined for Arafat’s suicide arm, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, in Ramallah, Jenin and Tulkarm.
The complex relationship between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and US President George W. Bush is tying Israel’s hands for cutting down the Hizballah offensive. The White House, caught up in the hectic events in Iraq, with US forces closing in on Saddam Hussein, is anxious for calm on Israel’s borders with Syria and Lebanon, Ramallah, Gaza and Nablus. Any violent outbreak would disturb the advance on the prime US target.
Nasrallah and Arafat are fully aware of the constraints under which Sharon is laboring. The Hizballah are taking advantage by orchestrating the kidnapping and murder of Israelis youngsters in Galilee and shooting shells directly into Israeli border villages; Arafat for his part struck out Sunday, August 3, by ordered a shooting ambush that injured four members of a family driving on a road south of Jerusalem. Another war sector was about to be opened in the Jordan Valley-Dead Sea region. This plot was pre-empted Wednesday August 6 when Israeli troops raided the Palestinian town of Jericho and rounded up 15 would-be perpetrators, all in Palestinian security police uniforms.
Both terror chieftains counted on an Israeli non-response.
A senior Israeli security source acknowledged that Israel’s hands are tied. He said “Nothing will happen” as long as attacks are isolated incidents. “If, God forbid, several children had been killed in Even Menachem or a Hizballah artillery shell had slammed into a bus full of tourists, even then it would have been up to Sharon, not the military, to decide on a response. But it would have been seriously weighed,” the source said.
debkafile‘s sources in Washington and Jerusalem report that Sharon is meanwhile waiting for a quiet protest to be lodged by Washington with Syrian president Bashar Assad hoping he will be persuaded to rein Nasrallah in. The Syrian president may or may not respond to such an American demarche and Nasrallah may or may not obey Assad. After all, Assad has scarcely heeded the ultimatum US secretary of state Colin Powell handed him in April.
As things stand now, Palestinian terrorism will continue alongside a Palestinian ceasefire – a typical Middle Eastern contradiction and the rationale for the proposal coming from Palestinian foreign minister Nabil Shaath to make the ceasefire permanent. In Palestinian terms, a permanent ceasefire would be tantamount to an broad license for a permanent Palestinian reign of terror.