Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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DAILY ALERT

May 17, 2004

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info@prescon.org

In-Depth Issue:

Saudi Royal Guards "Aided al-Qaeda" in Riyadh Bombings that Left 35 Dead - Mark Hollingsworth (Independent-UK)
    Al-Qaeda terrorists whose suicide bombs killed 35 people and injured 200 at a housing compound in Riyadh last May were secretly assisted by members of the Saudi National Guard which protects the royal family, military trainers employed by the Vinnell Corporation have claimed.
    Some members of the Saudi National Guard knew about the bombing in advance and gave inside help to al-Qaeda, including possibly a detailed map of the target.
    An "exercise" organized by the National Guard removed 50 of 70 security staff for the day of the bombing, thus leaving the compound "defenseless."
    Lt.-Col. Raphael Maldonado, then a Vinnell instructor, points to the discovery of a detailed map in the car left behind by the assailants, and on the morning of the atrocity he noticed that none of his Saudi co-workers was present.
    "There is no doubt we were set up," he said. "Someone in the upper echelons of the Saudi National Guard knew the bombing was imminent."


Report: Syrian Technicians Killed in North Korean Train Explosion (IMRA/FBIS-Tokyo Sankei Shimbun)
    A Japanese military source familiar with Korean Peninsula affairs revealed on 6 May that Syrian technicians were killed in the train explosion on 22 April in Yongch'on in North Korea and that the damage was especially serious in that section of the train where the Syrians were aboard, along with large equipment.
    North Korean military-related personnel wearing protective suits arrived on the scene immediately after the explosion and removed debris only from that section of the train.
    The technicians were from the Syrian technical research center Centre d'Etudes et de Recherche Scientific (CERS), which is suspected of playing a major role in Syria's weapons of mass destruction development program.


Al-Zarqawi: The New Face of Evil - Mark Hosenball (Newsweek)
    Jordanian terrorist Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, who the CIA says probably wielded the knife in the gruesome beheading of Nicholas Berg, may be the most dangerous and effective Islamic terrorist at large.
    He has been linked to several big terror attacks in Iraq last year including the UN headquarters bombing and the bombing of an Italian paramilitary encampment - as well as instigating the Sunni rebellion in Fallujah.
    Al-Zarqawi heads a jihadi group called al-Tawhid, which aims to oust the Jordanian monarchy.
    But al-Zarqawi's network has been traced as far east as the former Soviet Georgia and as far north as Great Britain.
    Bin Laden is still the world's most wanted terrorist, with the U.S. offering a $50 million reward for his capture.
    The price on al-Zarqawi's head? $10 million.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Head of Iraqi Governing Council Killed in Car Bombing
    The president of the U.S.-backed Iraqi Governing Council, Abdel-Zahraa Othman, was among four Iraqis killed in a car bomb attack Monday outside coalition headquarters in central Baghdad. Othman was a Shiite and leader of the Islamic Dawa Movement in the southern city of Basra. (FOX News)
  • Powell Unable to Make Headway in Mideast - Barry Schweid
    Secretary of State Powell came up short in his latest foray into Middle East peacemaking, blocked by Arafat from reshaping Palestinian security forces and waiting for Sharon to devise a new plan to pull Israel out of Gaza. Powell suggested that Palestinian and other Arab leaders should persuade Arafat to quit, to make way for a successor willing to end terror against Israel. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Powell Opposes Israel's Razing of Palestinian Homes in Gaza
    Secretary of State Powell said Sunday: "We know that Israel has a right for self-defense but the kind of action they are taking in Rafah with the destruction of Palestinian homes, we oppose." (Reuters)
        For the Israeli position, see below Observations - Israeli Chief of Staff: Border Corridor to be Widened
  • Powell: Arab Response to Berg Not Enough
    Secretary of State Powell scolded Arab governments Sunday for not expressing more outrage over the videotaped beheading of an American civilian in Iraq. Powell said he told Arab leaders, "When you are outraged at what happened at the [Abu Ghraib] prison, you should be equally, doubly outraged at what happened to Mr. Berg." (AP/FOX News)
  • D.C. Bank Connected with Saudi Embassy Fined $25 Million for Money-Laundering
    Federal regulators fined the Washington, D.C.-based Riggs Bank $25 million Thursday for allegedly violating anti-money laundering laws in its handling of tens of millions in cash transactions in Saudi-controlled accounts under investigation for possible links to terrorism financing. "Riggs failed to properly monitor, and report as suspicious, transactions involving tens of millions of dollars in cash withdrawals, international drafts that were returned to the bank, and numerous sequentially numbered cashier's checks," the Treasury Department said. (AP/Los Angeles Times)
  • Al-Qaeda Planned to Bomb Israel's Canberra Embassy
    Commonwealth prosecutor Ron Davies told the District Court in Perth Monday that British-born Jack Roche, accused of conspiring to blow up the Israeli embassy in Canberra, traveled to Afghanistan in early 2000 and met senior members of al-Qaeda, where they discussed targeting Israeli interests in Australia. After receiving training about explosives, he returned home to Perth and then traveled east where he videotaped the embassy. (ABC-Australia)
  • Rice, Palestinian Premier Hold Talks
    U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice met Monday in Berlin with Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei. (AP/Guardian-UK)
        See also below No Mood for Mending Broken Ties - Danny Rubinstein (Ha'aretz)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Sharon: Gaza Operations Strike at "Terror's Oxygen Line"
    At the weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday, Prime Minister Sharon said: "In the Gaza Strip, our soldiers are fighting heroically, with dedication and proficiency against Palestinian terror that also threatens Israel itself. In the Zeitoun neighborhood, our units succeeded in eliminating laboratories and factories for manufacturing Kassam rockets aimed at Ashkelon, Sderot, Nirim, Kisufim, Nahal Oz, Mefalsim, Nir Am and beyond [all cities and villages inside Israel]. Along the Philadelphia corridor, fighting took place in order to strike at this terror's oxygen line. We will not allow Palestinian terror to attain the capabilities to which it aspires, and threaten the heart of the country even after the disengagement from Gaza. (Prime Minister's Office)
  • IDF Begins Anti-Terror Operation in Southern Gaza - Margot Dudkevitch
    IDF forces entered Rafah on Monday as part of ongoing operations against the terrorist infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, and the arms smuggling tunnels in particular. Forces are deployed in an attempt to isolate Rafah from the rest of the Strip and prevent long-range weapons from being smuggled into Gaza from Egypt. The move is also designed to stop reinforcements from arriving to help Palestinian combatants ahead of an expected, prolonged battle.
        On Sunday night a tank fired at three Palestinians approaching the security fence at Kibbutz Be'eri in the Western Negev. The three were killed, and shortly after the first impact there was an explosion apparently caused by a bomb the three terrorists were carrying. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Two Soldiers Killed in Gaza on Friday - Margot Dudkevitch
    Two IDF soldiers were killed and two moderately wounded when Palestinians opened fire at soldiers deployed in the Rafah refugee camp near the border with Egypt on Friday. The soldiers were positioned in one of the local homes in order to safeguard other troops searching for the remains of soldiers killed on Wednesday. Brig.-Gen. Shmuel Zakai, the Gaza division commander, said: "One of the soldiers opened the door to assist an elderly Palestinian woman to bring in the food and was shot....Another soldier went to his assistance and was also shot and an armored vehicle that reached the scene to assist in evacuating the wounded came under fire and two other soldiers were hit."
        Zakai said scores of anti-tank rockets and thousands of bullets were fired at troops and over 100 bombs detonated near soldiers searching for their comrades' remains. "The Palestinians made cynical use of children, using them as cover while moving from one alley to another. Terrorists also used ambulances in order to reach different places in the camp to attack soldiers."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • No Mood for Mending Broken Ties - Danny Rubinstein
    The meeting Saturday between Ahmed Qurei and Colin Powell in Jordan, and another with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in Berlin this week, are a long way from any breakthrough in relations between the U.S. and the PA. The relationship reached a crisis, effectively a break, after the attack on an American convoy in the Gaza Strip on Oct. 15, in which three U.S. security guards were killed. The Americans agreed to the meetings to try to quiet the anger in the Arab world over events in Iraq. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Philadelphia Route - Ze'ev Schiff
    The decision to hold onto the Philadelphia route, running between the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula, despite the separation plan for withdrawal from Gaza, led the IDF to an operational decision to expand the road in order to make it easier to defend. As a result, there was virtually no alternative to the evacuation and destruction of several dozen homes in the Rafah refugee camp. So long as arms continue to be smuggled through the Rafah tunnels, the IDF will persist in its effort to control the Philadelphia strip. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Tunnels Keep Gaza Terrorists Awash in Arms - Margot Dudkevitch
    Items smuggled via the tunnels to terrorists in the Gaza Strip include katyusha rockets, mortars, shoulder-mounted anti-aircraft missiles, anti-tank grenades, large amounts of explosives, ammunition, and rifles. The IDF has uncovered and destroyed 11 tunnels this year - and close to 100 during the past three and a half years.
        Homeowners willing to allow tunnels to be dug either inside their homes or in their yards are offered $1,000 each month. If the tunnel is detected and their home demolished, the homeowners receive further compensation and assistance from the PA, which helps to rebuild their homes in Rafah's Tel Sultan neighborhood. (Jerusalem Post)
  • A Bit of Perspective, Please - Mortimer B. Zuckerman
    The Iraq prison photographs have been broadcast endlessly in Arab media and denounced from every minaret, but the reaction on the street has been mild - milder than in the U.S.! The photos offend Arab sensibilities, just as they offend ours. But in virtually every Muslim country, the people know that their prisons systematically practice real torture - and even murder - and that their autocratic leaderships visit barbarity on their own people as a matter of everyday routine. Arab media elites know full well what American values are, but they simulate rage because that's the prudent thing to do in autocracies that survive by focusing internal resentment on externals, like America, the West, and Israel. (U.S. News)
  • Think Again: Al-Qaeda - Jason Burke
    A resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would not end the threat of militant Islam. In their view, Israel is merely the West's most obvious outpost. If the Jewish state disappeared, the Islamists would still fight in Chechnya, Kashmir, Egypt, Uzbekistan, Indonesia, and Algeria. Bin Laden's primary focus has always been to topple the regime in his homeland of Saudi Arabia. A two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which would still leave the "Zionist entity" intact, would offer little succor to the wounded pride of any committed militant or to the pride of those in the wider community who support and legitimize extremism and violence. (Foreign Policy)
  • Observations:

    Chief of Staff: Border Corridor to be Widened (Ha'aretz)

    • IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya'alon told the Cabinet Sunday the Philadelphia route would be widened, following a High Court of Justice ruling Sunday that permits the army to demolish Palestinian homes without granting residents a right of appeal if this is dictated by "immediate operational necessity" or the need to protect soldiers' lives.
    • The goal would be to widen the road in order to reduce attacks on the soldiers who patrol it to prevent arms smuggling from Egypt.
    • Widening the road would also reduce the threat to the IDF outposts there, army sources said, as it would make it harder for Palestinians to tunnel under these outposts and plant bombs there - something that they have attempted several times already.
    • Finally, widening the road would make it harder for the Palestinians to dig arms smuggling tunnels under it. If the nearest Palestinian houses were 500 meters from the border with Egypt, the army believes that the Palestinians would have difficulty ventilating the tunnels. And since the international border cannot be moved, the only way to achieve this distance is to destroy the nearest ranks of Palestinian houses in Rafah.
    • Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told the Cabinet that the IDF plans to widen the Philadelphia route significantly, thereby "creating a different reality in the Philadelphia-Rafah region....The Palestinians are trying to obtain weapons that would 'destroy the balance.' If we don't fight against the weapons that are smuggled and manufactured there, we will find them here, aimed at the citizens of Israel."
    • Military sources said that as part of the effort to widen the Philadelphia route, the IDF is also planning to dig a wide, deep canal that will run the length of the road, from the Mediterranean Sea to Kerem Shalom. The canal would help both to protect the soldiers on the road from attack and to make it harder for the Palestinians to construct arms smuggling tunnels.

    Chief of Staff: Arms Smuggled to Gaza Originate in Iran - Herb Keinon and Matthew Gutman (Jerusalem Post)

    • IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon told the Cabinet the arms being smuggled through tunnels in the Rafah area originate in Iran, and - with Hizballah's help - are brought to the region through Africa.
    • A senior military source said that while Egypt makes "some effort" to control and combat the tunnels honeycombing the Egyptian-Gaza border, RPG's, rifles, explosives and ammunition continued to flow by the tons into the Palestinian side of Rafah in 2003. "Egypt does not like the arms smuggling any more than we do," he said. "But they could do much more in this department." Israeli sources cautioned that if Egypt plans to play a constructive role once Israel evacuates the Strip, it must begin by stopping the tunnels now.
    • Ya'alon said the IDF does not demolish buildings without a reason, and only when the tunnels come up through the buildings themselves, or when the Palestinians use the buildings and homes to fire on IDF troops. He also said that most of the demolished buildings were already abandoned by their residents before the bulldozers moved in.
    • Ya'alon said the IDF will not fall back into a strictly defensive mode. In order to prevent terrorism, he said, it is necessary to attack, to keep the terror organizations off balance, to hit their leaders, their infrastructure, and their bases. The underlining principle is to keep them so busy with their own defense that they are unable to carry out any attacks.


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