New Palestinian Terrorist Coalition Pinions Abbas
The Qassam missiles and mortar shells raining down on Israeli civilian and military targets on both sides of the Gaza border in the last two weeks are beginning to look like the opening shots of a major Palestinian offensive across a broad front. It is clearly timed to peak as the Palestinian election date of January 9 approaches.
debkafile‘s military and Palestinian sources report that orchestration is no longer in the hands of a single extremist group, Hamas. Seven Palestinian terrorist groups have formed an ad hoc coalition with a more far-sighted goal than drawing the Israeli army into an extreme reprisal so as to sabotage the vote and Mahmoud Abbas’s election. Their eye is on the election’s aftermath. Taking Abbas’s win for granted, they are playing on his weakness to keep him running scared and make him too dependent to raise a finger against them.
These groups are Abbas’s own Fatah, its suicide arm, the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the Abu Rish Martyrs Brigades, the Popular Resistance Committee’s Battalions, Hamas’s Ezzadin al-Qassam, Jihad Islami and, a newcomer making its first appearance, the Abu Masoud Squads.
Claims of responsibility for attacks on Israeli targets are therefore meaningless. Planning and execution are in the hands of a joint command. Early Wednesday, January 5, Palestinian gunmen carried out a guerrilla-type assault on the Israeli military post guarding the Gaza Strip’s Erez outlet to Israel. Explosives blew a hole in the post’s wall, through which the assailants stormed, shooting automatic weapon and lobbing grenades, while mortar-men outside shelled the installation. The incident was cut short by an Israeli officer rushing the assailants. He killed one. Three Palestinians in adjoining facility were injured. A few hours later, a rare, well-aimed Qassam missile struck a military post at Kibbutz Nahal Oz outside the Gaza Strip injuring ten Israeli soldiers, two seriously.
These attacks on Israeli military facilities were punctuated with the daily dose of missile and mortar fire on Israeli civilian targets on both sides of the Gazan border.
The communiques issued by this new alliance clearly refrain from limiting its operations to the Gaza Strip. Just they reverse; some of the groups are based in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Therefore, the escalating terrorist violence may be expected to spill over to the West Bank too – only there, the terrorists and suicide killers will be next door to the most densely-inhabited Israeli cities rather than the sparsely populated Negev adjoining the Gaza Strip.
This peril was clearly enunciated Tuesday, January 4, by Israel’s domestic intelligence and counter-terror combat ace Avi Dichter in his annual report to the Knesset foreign affairs and security committee. He said bluntly that the northern West Bank would become a second Gaza Strip if given into Palestinian hands. He also disclosed that 5-6 shoulder-launched anti-air missiles had been smuggled into the Gaza Strip from Egypt.
Israeli security agencies are not just keeping a careful eye on the new weapons, but also on the recently formed Abu Masoud Squads made up of Fatah elements in the Gaza Strip and Hizballah. This group is viewed as a dangerous new increment for anti-Israel terrorist ranks.
The late Abu Masoud was a Force 17 colonel called Masoud Iyad, whom Yasser Arafat sent to Lebanon in April 2000 (six months before the current Palestinian-Israel war erupted). His mission was to collect and bring back to the Gaza Strip a group of Hizballah experts in guerrilla warfare, assembly and manufacture of explosives and the production of mortars, missiles and Katyusha rockets.
In January 2001, Iyad personally took part in the first Palestinian mortar shelling of an Israeli location. The test was staged to impress on the Palestinian leadership how shocked the Israelis would be when they realized that (in contravention of the 1993 Oslo peace accords) the Palestinians had armed themselves with new types of arms and heavy weaponry.
Ehud Barak, who was then prime minister, ordered a targeted assassination of Col. Iyad to abort the Arafat-Hizballah alliance. It had the opposite effect: the operational links between the Hizballah and the Palestinian terrorists were strengthened. Iyad’s place was soon filled by Arafat’s close aide Sahar Habas and Mohammed Dahlan, still then engaged in orchestrating terrorist operations in the Gaza Strip at Arafat’s behest.
After four and-a-half years of warfare, with Abbas running scared and Sharon committed not to make waves before his election, Fatah and Hizballah feel safe enough to come out in the open and run their combined terrorist cells in broad daylight – first in the Gaza Strip and next in the West Bank. Hopes of Abbas being able or willing to deal with the terrorists fade day by day. His embraces with notorious Palestinian terrorist chiefs, which US secretary of state Colin Powell found “disturbing,” are not just a stratagem to boost his majority. They are in fact embracing him to remind him he is largely in their power both before and after January 9.
As one senior security source put it to debkafile: The terrorists carried him on their shoulders – not as a sign of affection and respect, but as a warning to keep his feet and hands off their territory if he wants to survive.