Masoud Ayyad’s Slaying Severed Dangerous Palestinian-Hizballah Link

Only a fragmentary picture of the exploits of Masoud Ayyad, colonel in Yasser Arafat’s elite Force 17 and his contact man with the Lebanese Shiite Hizballah, emerge from the official disclosures. He is described by Israeli military spokesmen as having spent last summer in Lebanon, set up the Palestinian link with the Shiite militants and returned to Gaza with his son, who is detained in Israel, last September(when the current confrontation erupted). Since then he has been engaged in running arms and fighting men from Lebanon into Gaza Strip. In the last fortnight, Ayyad is held responsible for the mortar shelling of the Jewish settlement of Netzarim. Palestinian spokesmen are even less forthcoming. The express surprise that so senior a Palestinian officer in Arafat’s praetorian guard developed with an Iran-sponsored group. One Palestinian reporter even suggested the Palestinians were secretly grateful to Israel for getting rid of him.
As for Washington, the state department spokesman, increasingly anxious over the sharp rise in bloodshed in the last six days, calls on Israel to desist from policy of killing Palestinian militants and on the Palestinians to stop the highway killings of Israeli soldiers and settlers.
debkafile‘s exclusive sources fill in some gaps:
Massoud Ayyad did not spend his summer holiday in Lebanon by chance; neither did he go calling on the Hizballah commander Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah on an impulse. He was sent by Yasser Arafat to execute a section of the Palestinian leader’s war plan. After setting up his strategic alliance with Saddam Hussein of Iraq last April, Arafat busied himself with forging the Baghdad-Damascus-Hizballah-Beirut-Gaza alignment. Ayyad was Arafat’s operational contact man in Beirut – a key link in the chain Arafat devised for his confrontation against Israel.
debkafile‘s intelligence sources report that Ayyad did an excellent job. He negotiated agreements that turned the Hizballah into the Palestinian Authority’s main arms supplier and provider of training facilities. Dozens of Palestinian Fatah militiamen in theTyre and Sidon refugee camps of Lebanon were instructed in Hizballah’s guerrilla and terrorist techniques by Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers working out of the group’s Baalbek bases.
The Hizballah were paid $5 million by the Palestinians as sale price for the weapons.Syria, which has a strong army intelligence presence in Beirut’s Shiite suburbs and harbor, became indirectly involved, though not outside the low profile bounds set by Beshar Asad for his participation in the Arafat-Saddam strategic alliance. Telling his Beirut agents to turn a blind eye to the Arafat-Nasrallah deal, the Syrian ruler made an offer, which was accepted, for the Syrian army to restock Hizballah armories against a cut from the Palestinians’ fee, thus gaining a revenue estimated at $600,000 to defray his costs in maintaining a Syrian army intelligence unit in the Lebanese capital. The Palestinians purchases consisted of anti-air Stinger missiles, hundreds of kilos of explosives, mortars, heavy machine guns and quantities of ammo and shells. It was all carefully packed in waterproof sheeting, placed in tarred barrels and sealed in Hizballah packing houses in Beirut.
This was in line with Col. Ayyad’s plan to break through the naval blockade Israel clamped down on Gaza early in the Palestinian disturbances last October, by dropping the barrels outside the waters Israel patrolled and have frogmen snag them under the Israeli radar screen and tow them to shore. The stratagem worked for some weeks until December, when Israel’s intelligence and its navy discovered what was going on. Israel considered and rejected the option of blowing up the Lebanese arms ships before they left Beirut harbor, for fear of blowing its intelligence sources in Beirut. Attempts to intercept the vessels at sea were often defeated by the decoys sent out by Ayyad and the Hizballah. After that, it was decided to try and snare the Palestinian frogmen in the waters off Gaza. The Israeli-Palestinian silent contest under Mediterranean waters has been waged secretly since the early winters months. When Israel scores a success, dozens of barrels stuffed with arms drift onto the beaches of the Gaza Srip, unaccompanied by their Palestinian “escorts”.
Late December, when the underwater skirmish was at its peak, Ayad reported to Arafat, that the Lebanese-based militiamen trained by Iranian officers and the Hizballah had completed advanced courses in explosives and raiding operations and were ready for transfer to Gaza. Arafat decided to invite their instructors, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard officers to accompany the imported fighting men. This ploy was meant to take Palestinian-Tehran relations a step forward and prod the Iranian regime into a final commitment to join the Baghdad-Damascus-Beirut-Gaza alliance.
By disposing of Col. Ayyad and holding his son, Israel cut short one of most secret and dangerous partnerships Arafat established in pursuance of his war against Israel – the PLO-Hizballah connection.

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