Tehran pulls wires of latest Palestinian terror cycle

A senior source in Israel’s northern command warned Sunday, November 24, that Syria is making a bad mistake by fostering the Hizballah and letting Iran strengthen its mastery over the extremist Shiite group.
This assertion left a question mark over the Israeli side of the equation – and for good reason. Israel’s passivity in contending with the Hizballah is part and parcel of its failure to come to grips with Yasser Arafat and his escalating campaign of terror.
Last Thursday, November 21, the day a suicide killer from Bethlehem murdered 11 Israeli women and schoolchildren on a Jerusalem bus in Kiryat Menahem, Hizballah secretary general, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, delivered a Ramadan address in which he dodged adroitly around admitting his group’s involvement in the latest outburst of Palestinian anti-Israel terror. But denying it would have invited awkward questions about his inaction. He therefore hinted at a Hizballah role in the suicide attacks this month at Hermesh, the Karkur Junction, Kibbutz Metzer, Hebron, Kiryat Menahem – and the failed El Al hijacking attempt – which together cost 29 Israeli lives and left hundreds seriously injured. Urging the aggressive dissemination of “the suicide culture” worldwide, he was clearly congratulating himself on being astute enough to help make life in Israel a living hell without exposing Lebanon to Israeli reprisals.
In Gaza, the Jihad Islami leader, Abdallah Shami, stood up to deny any connection between his organization, which claimed most of the recent murderous assaults on Israelis, and al Qaeda, dismissing it as “a typical Zionist libel”.
Israeli leaders, for their part, have not hinted at the real culprit behind this latest cycle of terror, except for dire warnings that its ferocity can be expected to increase – and run even to mega-attacks.
debkafile‘s counter-terror experts affirm that these veiled hints, unrelated denials and suggestive silences add up to a curtain that all the parties concerned have an interest in drawing over a single name: Iran. The ayatollahs in Tehran have called in their many ties in the murky world of terror – from Hizballah to al Qaeda, Yasser Arafat and his “security” organisms to the Jihad Islami and, indirectly, Syria, to unleash the latest round of deadly terrorist attacks against Israelis.
According to our experts, these attacks, culminating Friday in the explosives boat off the Gazan coast – blown up with its two suicide killers by an Israeli gunboat – are the work of Iranian Revolutionary Guards members based in Lebanon, Palestinian terrorists whom they trained and al Qaeda fugitives from Afghanistan, 150 of whom went to ground in south Lebanon.
This operation has two relevant elements:
A. The advance team for setting it up began entering Israel and the Palestinian areas in February 2002 by sea, the Golan Heights frontier and through Jordan. A few flew in as tourists on foreign passports. They came, after Yasser Arafat promised they would be free to operate in any Palestinian population center they chose – and even among Israeli Arabs. Arafat received skilled terrorist reinforcements and experts in building weapons supplies and funding systems, Iranians and their proxies – the Karine-A smuggling ship was a precursor of this intensified collaborative program. In return, he was prepared for these experts to disseminate their Shiite gospel in the areas under his control.
At the same time, the project was so carefully compartmentalized from the start that debkafile‘s counter-terror experts believe Arafat and his terrorist and intelligence aides do not know the names or locations of Iran’s agents. They know in general that one agent each is resident in Nablus, Hebron or Gaza, but not who he is or whom he has recruited locally for specific attacks or support functions.
For this reason, Israeli security and intelligence services, who never take their eyes off the various Palestinian groups, have not been able to identify the perpetrators of the current wave of terror. For example, debkafile‘s military sources report that, for the Kiryat Menahem bus attack, the local Iranian agent called on the Bethlehem Tanzim militia of Arafat’s Fatah to “leak” to the Israelis that a suicide bomber was on his way from Bethlehem to a Jerusalem target in a white car.
During the 24 hours prior to the actual attack, Jerusalem police were out stopping and inspecting every white car on the road, while the killer was actually dropped off by a blue vehicle.
One Israeli security source suggested that the masterminds behind this attack had taken a leaf out of the false white car lead that threw the Maryland State police off the track of the Washington sniper.
The other unusual feature of that attack was that the Palestinian killer was instructed to blow himself up aboard the bus standing up, not sitting – definitely not standard Palestinian terror procedure. This raised the instantaneous death toll, because most of the victims took the blast from the neck up.
B. To heighten the secrecy, the Iranian agents hired local Jihad Islami networks as their operatives. They were picked from a list handed over at the organization’s Damascus headquarters by Jihad Islami leader, Ramadan Shelah, who was not averse to hiring out to Iranian intelligence as a surrogate terrorist group.
As a result, no one knows the identities of the Jihad Islami killers or their Iranian controllers.
These waters are too deep for Abdullah Shami at the group’s Gaza center, and even for Sheikh Nasrallah. This fiery orator may be Tehran’s man, but the Iranians are far from putting all their eggs in the Hizballah basket.
This wariness is also applied on the Hizballah’s home ground.
Nasrallah has not been able to discover where in Lebanon the Revolutionary Guards unit based in the south Lebanese town of Sidon has hidden the Zelzal ground-ground missiles which are capable of reaching Tel Aviv and beyond. He and the men under his command have been denied access to additional Iranian weapons caches and the fighting units Iran has secretly deployed around Lebanon.
Tehran has three principal reasons for holding its military cards against Israel close to its chest:
1. Their handover to Nasrallah would empower him to act independently and force the pace of anti-Israel action. The Iranians need full control so as to use their heavy weapons when it suits their interest, not that of the Hizballah.
2. The close friendship between the Hizballah leader and Syrian president Bashar Assad, which the officer in Israel’s northern command described as far in excess of the ties reigning in the day of Bashar’s father, president Hafez Assad. The Iranians disapprove of this alliance and the additional autonomy it affords their Lebanese minion.
3. The Hizballah was rated by the same Israel officer as militarily the strongest terrorist organization in the world, capable of striking anywhere. However, Nasrallah has his limitations. The Shiite group’s intelligence and terrorist structures fan out across the Middle East, reaching into the Persian Gulf and as far as the continents of Africa and South America. Like any such far-reaching organization, it requires a magnetic, inspirational leader. debkafile‘s counter-terror sources identify him as the same Imad Mughniyeh who carried out crippling terror attacks against the American presence in Beirut in the early 1980s, and who is now Tehran’s most senior terrorist mastermind, His loyalty to the ayatollahs comes first, far ahead of his allegiance to the Hizballah. In addition, he commands the 150 al Qaeda terrorists sheltering in South Lebanon, who were responsible for murdering an American woman missionary last week in Sidon.
In this dark, sinister and treacherous maze of terrorist affiliations, Mughniyeh may be the only operative holding all the names of the Iranian network running the current wave of terror in Israel.
To scotch the terror, Israel must lay hands on its orchestrators. They are not to be found in Bethlehem, Hebron, or even Syria and the Hizballah, but in Tehran and Ramallah, the headquarters of Arafat who opened his back door to let the Iranian terror masters and agents in. Reaching into Iran may not be feasible in better circumstances – certainly not now when Iran is extending assistance to the American campaign against Iraq. However, Iranian targets across the border in south Lebanon are readily accessible. And there are plenty of them – scattered from Sidon in the west to Baalbek in the east. As long as they are free to do their will, the cycle of terror inflicted on Israelis will accelerate.

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