The year 2010 will see a new Israeli military operation in Gaza – not against the Palestinian Hamas, which is not eager for more punishment, but the al Qaeda bastions spreading across the southern Gaza Strip. This prognosis is shared by intelligence circles close to the Obama administration and the CIA, debkafile's intelligence and counter-terror sources report.
A senior White House terror expert warned recently that strengthened al Qaeda networks in the Gaza Strip would be as dangerous and menacing as the jihadists' strongholds in Yemen. This threat prompted Egypt to build its iron wall along the Gaza-Egyptian border. Their access to Sinai would not only directly imperil the peninsula, but might well spill over into Egypt proper, first terrorizing the cities along the Suez Canal and the vital waterway itself.
US intelligence watchers have picked up a working link between the Gaza-based networks and Pakistan accompanied by a swelling influx of Pakistani fighters into the Hamas-ruled Palestinian territory at a rate estimated at dozens a month. They include some Saudi jihadists.
According to current US evaluations, while al Qaeda's new headquarters in Pakistani Baluchistan is working hard to push reinforcements into Yemen, its operational planners are not neglecting the Gaza Strip, assuming that this Palestinian enclave will be the next Western-jihadist warfront after Yemen.
Bruce Riedel, who produces the latest evaluations on the Afghanistan and Pakistan conflicts for president Barack Obama, predicts another Gaza war may be triggered by a jihadist cell ambushing another military patrol on the border of Gaza, killing several and capturing one or two. Israel will not be able to endure another Shalit ordeal for the return of its captive soldiers and will therefore go into the Gaza Strip with maximum force. "Another Gaza war would be another gift to al Qaeda," says Riedel, especially if the ambush is timed to take place on the anniversary of 9/11 in September 2010.
Worries about al Qaeda's spreading tentacles were also voiced in Lebanon by Fatah commander Brigadier Sultan Abu al-Aynayn. Sunday, Jan. 3, he accused external parties of seeking to “export” fundamentalists
to refugee camps across Lebanon. “We have taken measures to prevent Al-Qaeda from infiltrating Palestinian refugee camps after we received information that external parties were seeking to export extremists,
particularly from Iraq, and stir up tension inside the camps,” Abu al-Aynayn said in an interview.