Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

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DAILY ALERT

May 20, 2003

To contact the Presidents Conference:
info@prescon.org

In-Depth Issue:

Hamas Goes Global - Matt Rees and Jamil Hamad (TIME)
    Jordanian security officials report that two Hamas agents recently traveled to Afghanistan to recruit the remnants of al Qaeda's network to join its operations in the Arab world.
    The Jordanians say a growing number of Hamas leaders now argue that the best way to strike Israel is to attack U.S. targets in Arab countries.
    A choice venue for such attacks, they say, would be Iraq, where Hamas would find local groups willing to cooperate.


2nd British Bomber's Body Identified (Ha'aretz)
    The Institute of Forensic Medicine in Tel Aviv confirmed Monday that the body washed up on a Tel Aviv beach last week is that of Omar Sharif, the second British would-be bomber at a beachfront cafe last month.
    British detectives provided DNA samples that were used to identify the body of the British citizen of Pakistani extraction.

Was Failed British Bomber Killed by His Own Side? (London Times)
    Israeli intelligence chiefs believe that Sharif was murdered by his terrorist handlers because they feared he would betray them if he were captured.
    After his bomb failed to go off, Sharif discarded his explosive belt, stole a wallet and a mobile telephone from a passer-by, and called for help from the back seat of a taxi.
    Police now say that Sharif was probably interrogated by his terrorist handlers, who realized that he was a liability and murdered him.


Al Qaeda's Bomb Backfire - Nawaf Obaid (Washington Post)
    According to the Saudi kingdom's intelligence community, the Riyadh attacks were orchestrated by Khaled Jehani, al Qaeda's "Saudi operations chief."
    The attacks killed many more Saudis and Muslims than Americans.
    According to Saudi intelligence sources, nine of the bombers had narrowly escaped a recent government raid.
    The two leaders of the terrorist cell and most of the explosives used in the bombings made their way into the kingdom through Yemen.


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News Resources - North America and Europe:

  • Fifth Suicide Bomb Blast in 48 Hours Kills 3 Israelis
    A Palestinian woman blew herself up during a security check outside a mall Monday, killing three Israelis and wounding 47 in the fifth suicide bombing in 48 hours. The blast in the northern town of Afula near the West Bank was claimed by a militia linked to Arafat's Fatah group. (AP/Washington Times)
  • Iraqis Killing Former Baath Party Members
    Iraqis have begun tracking down and killing former members of the ruling Baath Party. Some Iraqis say the killings could reach several hundred in Baghdad alone. Many have been carried out in the Shiite neighborhood formerly known as Saddam City, while others have been reported in Najaf, Karbala, and Basra. The singer Daoud Qais, known for his odes to Hussein, was shot dead on Saturday. "We want the Americans to kill them, but we don't think they are going to," said Muntathar Mohammed, 40, of Baghdad. The U.S. issued a decree last Friday that prohibits senior Baath Party officials from holding positions in Iraq's postwar government. (Washington Post)
  • Palestinians Execute "Collaborator" in Public Square
    Seven masked activists from the Al Aksa Martyr's Brigades hauled Alla Daghlas, 22, to the main square in Nablus on Sunday. His hands tied behind his back, he was forced to kneel, with two gunmen pointing guns at him. Then "they shot him together and went back into the Old City where they came from," said witness Ahmed Abu-Omar, 28. (AP/Sydney Morning Herald/Jerusalem Post)
  • Jewish Donors to Democrats Urge Support of Road Map
    A group of prominent Democratic Jewish donors sent a letter Monday to the Democratic presidential candidates urging them to support, or at least not to oppose, the Bush administration's "road map" for peace in the Middle East. The letter was signed by more than 100 people, most of them Jewish and longtime contributors to Democratic candidates. (New York Times)
  • American Christian Leaders Warn Bush on Road Map - Janine Zacharia
    Twenty-two American Christian conservative leaders - among President Bush's most significant political supporters - signed a letter on Monday saying the road map for Middle East peace in its current form "could lead to disaster." (Jerusalem Post)
  • News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:

  • Sharon Gives Abbas a Chance - Aluf Benn
    Even after the Afula bombing, Prime Minister Sharon's office made clear that he is sticking to the political process and plans to meet again with Abbas in the near future to try and gradually shift security control and responsibility to the Palestinian government. Defense sources spoke Monday about the need to "let Abu Mazen take off," which is dictating Israel's cautious policy regarding retaliation for the bombings. (Ha'aretz)
        A senior diplomatic official said Hamas and Islamic Jihad, supported by Iran and Syria, realize that if Abbas succeeds in steering the PA onto a different track, their historical role will be terminated. They are now fighting for their lives, with instigation by and support from outside forces. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Weighs Anti-Terror Options
    In the wake of the recent wave of terror bombings, Israel Radio, quoting senior Israeli officials, on Tuesday listed some of the options remaining to security forces:
    * Assassinating Yasser Arafat or expelling him from the territories, along with some of the PA leaders that accompanied him from exile in Tunis when he assumed control of the PA in 1994.
    * "Serious harm" to the Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip, targeting the political wing (Sheikh Yassin, Rantisi and others) with assassination or expulsion.
    * A massive, prolonged IDF incursion into the Gaza Strip, on the model of the 2002 Operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank.
        Army Radio said Tuesday that, as an alternative to Arafat's outright expulsion, Foreign Ministry officials were weighing a plan to ask European countries to accept the PA leader "under their patronage." (Ha'aretz)
  • "As Long as Arafat Lives, Jews Will Die" - Ben Caspit and Amir Rapaport [lead headline]
    According to security sources, one reason for the recent Palestinian "successes" was the easing of the closure on Palestinian cities in the wake of Abu Mazen's appointment. The roadblocks around Palestinian cities have now been strengthened. After security consultations on Sunday, it was decided that the prime minister would refuse to meet with foreign leaders who planned to meet with Arafat, and to renew the deportation of families of West Bank suicide bombers to Gaza. (Maariv-Hebrew)
  • Palestinian Extremists Leave Damascus - Daniel Sobelman
    Three prominent Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders have left Damascus in recent days. Khaled Mashal and Mussa Abu Marzuk of Hamas went to Qatar, and the Islamic Jihad's Ramadan Shalah is believed to be in Lebanon. Israeli sources call the developments in Syria "cosmetic." "There have not been any real steps to curb the freedom of movement of the organizations," said a senior military source. (Ha'aretz)
  • Fatah, Islamists Battle in Lebanon
    Seven people were killed and 55 wounded in fighting Monday at Ain al-Hilweh in Lebanon between Arafat's Fatah movement and the Esbat al-Nour faction of the larger Esbat al-Ansar, an Islamist group with suspected links to al Qaeda. (Beirut Daily Star)
        Six of those killed were Fatah militiamen, as members of the Esbat al-Nour group sought to revenge the near-fatal Fatah shooting on Saturday of their leader, Abdullah Shraidi. "Some 200 fundamentalist fighters opened fire on Fatah offices," a senior Palestinian official said. (AFP/Jordan Times)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Tolerating Saudi Bigotry - Editorial
    In Saudi Arabia, no religion other than the officially sanctioned form of Islam may be practiced in public, and foreign Christians have been beaten or detained for long periods without charge or trial. Muslims who convert to other religions can be executed. Leaving Saudi Arabia off the State Department's list of countries "of particular concern for religious freedom" year after year sends a message that its bigotry is tolerable in an ally. Better not to have a list at all than to have one so patently dishonest. (Washington Post)
  • Don't Treat the "Road Map" as Gospel - Robert Satloff
    Designed by diplomats from the UN, the EU, Russia, and the U.S., the road map suffers the common ills of committee-drafted work. It is long on text but short on detail; it claims to be performance-based but it is actually timeline-driven. Having been presented to Israel and the Palestinians as a fait accompli, the road map has the dubious distinction of being the first U.S.-endorsed peace plan in decades that the local parties did not themselves negotiate. At best, it is a tool to jump-start bilateral diplomacy; at worst, it is the opening act of a new drama of terrorism and violence. Against this backdrop, the president's decision to wade into Middle East diplomacy makes little sense. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Observations:

    White House Condemns "Homicide" Attacks - Ari Fleischer (White House)

    • It's important to recognize that Israel has been repeatedly hit now by suicide homicide bombings.
    • The message, as the President unequivocally carried it today, is that the peace process begins best with the actions by Palestinian authorities to crack down on those who would derail the peace.
    • Clearly peace-loving Palestinians have an interest not only so that the negotiations with Israel can be fruitful, but also for the good of the lives of the Palestinian people, to make sure that there are not terrorists who live among themselves in the Palestinian areas who would carry out these homicide attacks in Israel.
    • It is the obligation, under Oslo and under the road map, for the Palestinians to crack down on those who engage in acts of terror.

    Presidential Press Secretary Ari Fleischer announced his resignation Monday.

        See also Bush's Spokesman Stepping Down, For Now (New York Times)


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