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DAILY ALERT

May 21, 2004

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In-Depth Issue:

New York Times Reporter Was Gaza Kidnap Target (Reuters/New York Times)
    New York Times bureau chief for Israel James Bennet was the target of a kidnap attempt by Palestinians in Gaza on Wednesday.
    Bennet said he was speaking on a cellphone in front of a Rafah hospital when a Palestinian he did not know came up, smiled, and offered his hand, saying "Welcome.''
    When Bennet shook his hand, the man and another Palestinian grabbed him and tried to thrust him into an old Mercedes car that pulled up with its back door open.
    An abduction was averted only by police at the hospital, who ran to Bennet's assistance in response to his struggle and cries.


To Get Weapons Away from Iraqis, U.S. Army Sets Up Arms Bazaar - Christine Hauser (New York Times)
    This week the army tried a new approach to silence Iraqi guns: Buy them.
    In a weapons buyback program in Baghdad, hundreds of Iraqis were paid $761,357 for 56,536 items, from bullets to assault rifles to mortars and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.


Expert Says Idaho Internet Sites Linked to Overseas Terrorists - Patrick Orr (Idaho Statesman)
    Terrorism expert Reuven Paz told the jury in the Sami Al-Hussayen terrorism trial Wednesday that articles posted on Web sites associated with the former University of Idaho student, including four religious decrees advocating suicide attacks, appeared to be propaganda to help recruit and raise funds for Islamic resistance groups.
    Paz provided the jury with its first expert testimony on how the Internet is used to provide material support for "extreme jihad" - a holy war by radical terrorist groups against perceived enemies of Islam.
    "The Internet became the university of global jihad," Paz said, adding that terrorist groups such as Hamas embraced the Internet in the late 1990s to keep a low profile in the Middle East while raising money and drawing recruits from all over the world.


Who Is Abu Zarqawi? - Robert S. Leiken and Steven Brooke (Weekly Standard)
    Abu Musab al Zarqawi masterminded not only Nicholas Berg's murder but also the Madrid carnage on March 11, the bombardment of Shia worshippers in Iraq the same month, and the April 24 suicide attack on the port of Basra.
    Well before 9/11, he had already concocted a plot to kill Israeli and American tourists in Jordan.
    His label is on terrorist groups and attacks on four continents.


U.S. Frees Oregon Lawyer Held in Madrid Bombings - Tomas Alex Tizon (Los Angeles Times)
    An Oregon lawyer arrested in connection with the March train bombings in Madrid was released Thursday after Spanish police identified fingerprints found on a bag of detonators as belonging to an Algerian.
    Police in Spain had expressed doubts early on about U.S. investigators' claims that one of the fingerprints on the bag belonged to Brandon Mayfield, a Muslim convert living in Portland.
    If the case is ultimately dropped, it will be a black eye for the government's anti-terrorism efforts.


April Tourism Hits Three-Year High - Zeev Klein (Globes)
    Tourist entries to Israel hit a three-year peak of 135,900 in April, up 28%, compared with March, and up 93.3%, compared with April 2003, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.


Hungary to Receive High-Speed Internet via Israeli Satellite - Ami Ettinger (Maariv International)
    The Israeli "Amos 2" satellite is starring in the skies of Eastern Europe.
    In the middle of April, Hungarian residents began connecting to high-speed Internet via the Israeli satellite, which provides Hungarians with television stations as well.


Useful Reference:

Rafah, Gateway to Terrorism (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
    If Palestinians were not smuggling arms into Gaza for the purpose of murdering Israelis, Israel would not have to act against them - and Palestinian noncombatants would not be endangered.

The Demolition of Palestinian Structures Used for Terrorism - Legal Background (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Weapon Smuggling Tunnels in Rafah (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Weapon Smuggling Through the Rafah Tunnels - a graphic presentation (IDF)


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • FBI Issues Homeland Suicide Bomber Warning
    The FBI is warning law enforcement agencies to be on the alert for the possibility that suicide bombers may attempt to strike inside the U.S. An intelligence bulletin circulated Thursday to 18,000 U.S. law enforcement bodies warns to look for people wearing heavy, bulky jackets on warm days, smelling of chemicals, trailing wires from their jackets, or with tightly clenched fists. Someone who never shows his palms could be gripping a detonator rigged to go off when a button is released. "If you shoot him, you're still not safe because his hands relax and the bomb explodes," says a counter-terrorism official. The FBI bulletin also notes that suicide bombers may disguise themselves in stolen military, police, or firefighter's garb, or even as pregnant women.
        FBI sources say there's no hard intelligence warning of specific plans by terrorists to launch suicide attacks in the U.S. like those wreaking havoc in Israel and Iraq. One U.S. analyst said that while there seems to be an endless supply of fanatical youths willing to die for the cause in the Middle East, most of them simply can't get visas to the U.S. (TIME)
  • U.S. Troops Mount Raid on Chalabi, Their Former Ally
    American troops and Iraqi police Thursday raided the home and offices of Ahmad Chalabi, once Washington's favorite son, who accused the U.S. of trying to sideline him and cover up a UN bribery scandal. Chalabi's allies claimed a key motive was to stop him revealing more details of the scandal over the UN's oil-for-food program. Growing evidence has emerged that Saddam Hussein used lucrative contracts to bribe politicians around the world. Those alleged to have received oil contracts in documents laid before the U.S. Congress included Benon Sevan, the UN's head of the oil-for-food program. Chalabi's friends claimed that Washington was trying to shield the UN from further scandal because it desperately needed the world body's help to devise an "exit strategy" from Iraq. (Telegraph-UK)
        See also Billion-Dollar Timebomb Puts Chalabi at Risk
    Ahmad Chalabi is in possession of "miles" of documents with the potential to expose politicians, corporations, and the UN as having connived in a system of kickbacks and false pricing worth billions of pounds. So explosive are the contents of the files that their publication would cause serious problems for U.S. allies and friendly states around the globe. (Telegraph-UK)
        See also Chalabi's Seat of Honor Lost to Open Political Warfare with U.S.
    Among Chalabi's vociferous defenders over the last three years have been Vice President Dick Cheney and Paul D. Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense. Chalabi broke with the administration when it seemed clear that he and other leading members of the Governing Council might be frozen out of the interim government that the UN is expected to create with American guidance to take over on July 1. (New York Times)
  • Montreal Firebombing Suspects Arrested
    Sleiman Elmerhebi, 18, and Simon Zogheib, 18, were arrested last Friday and charged with arson and conspiracy in the firebombing of a Montreal Jewish elementary school on April 5. Elmerhebi's mother, Rouba Elmerhebi Fahd, 36, was also arrested and charged with being an accessory after the fact. All three are Canadian citizens of Lebanese origin. (Toronto Globe and Mail)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Jordanian Soldier Fires on Israelis at Allenby Bridge - Yoav Stern
    A Jordanian soldier opened fire Thursday at a group of four Israelis at the Allenby Bridge border crossing between Israel and Jordan. There were no casualties. "We were waiting in the VIP room for our passports to be returned. A policeman came in and fired one bullet that missed us. His rifle jammed and he cocked it. Each time he pulled the trigger the rifle didn't fire and eventually there were about 30 bullets on the floor around him," said Israel Harel, one of the Israelis present during the incident. (Ha'aretz)
  • Rafah Demonstration Threatened to Cut Off IDF Troops - Amir Oren
    As the procession of Palestinian demonstrators in Rafah began making its way toward the IDF forces, with gunmen visible among them, the commander of the Gaza Division, Brig. Gen. Shmuel Zakai, tried to talk with community leaders. The chief liaison officer, Col. Fuli Mordechai, called former PA Ministry of Industry and Trade director Nasser Saraj, head of the citizens committees in the city, who did nothing to prevent the disaster. As the marchers approached a series of structures, behind which were IDF tanks and armored carriers, the commanders grew apprehensive that the crowd would charge the forces.
        Lt. Col. S., the tank battalion commander, who bears the scars of an anti-tank missile that injured him in Lebanon, is very familiar with the capabilities of such a missile fired from a short distance. He also knew that the armored force, toward which the demonstrators marched, was not the most forward element. Ahead of it, hidden from sight, for sniping and observation and preparing for another operation, were infantry units. Were the demonstrators to continue, the infantry units would have been surrounded. (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF: Rafah Operation Far from Over - Margot Dudkevitch
    The IDF Friday said its operation in the Rafah area in the Gaza Strip was far from over, saying it was cutting down its presence in some areas and expanding it in others. IDF sources said there are no plans to halt Operation Rainbow, but where troops have completed their search, they will move on to operate in other areas. Minister Gideon Ezra said some of those apprehended in Rafah over the past four days possess information regarding the location of weapon smuggling tunnels. After they are interrogated, the army would act on the information to discover and demolish the tunnels.
        Palestinians in Gaza fired eight Kassam rockets into the western Negev Thursday. There were no reports of casualties or damage. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Mortar Hits Gush Katif Home
    Palestinians in Gaza fired four mortars at Israeli targets Thursday night, three of which landed near IDF bases in the northern Gaza Strip, and one which directly hit a house in a community in Gush Katif, causing damage but no casualties. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Rejects World's Censure - Herb Keinon
    Israeli officials expressed regret Thursday at the UN Security Council's condemnation of IDF actions in Rafah, disgust at the wording of an EU statement, but satisfaction that the U.S. abstained from the UN vote and did not join the harsh censure. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said that Israel "regrets" that the UN took a "narrow" view of the IDF actions in Rafah. "The action in Rafah is meant to put an end to terror and attacks on IDF soldiers," he said. Rather than criticize Israel for fighting terror, Shalom said he would expect the international community "to come out with a call to the Palestinians to do what they are obligated to do - to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Yad Vashem Protests Austrian Newspaper Caricature - Etgar Lefkovits
    In a rare move, Yad Vashem on Thursday criticized the Austrian newspaper Kleine Zeitung for running a caricature on Wednesday titled "Then and Now," that compared an IDF solider to a Nazi. "The caricature is a classic expression of the new antisemitism...which diminishes the Holocaust and distorts both today's reality as well as that of the Holocaust," said a statement by Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Terror Cell Planned to Target Jerusalem Apartment Building - Yinon Kidri
    Members of the terror cell who murdered George Khouri - an Arab Hebrew University student out jogging - also planned a mega-attack on an apartment building, according to an indictment filed Thursday in Jerusalem District Court. Sajid and Amar Abu-Julus from Kafr Akeb and Louis Harnaz from Ramallah planned to carry out an attack in an apartment building in Jerusalem, entering each apartment and killing whoever was in it. They intended to use a pistol with a silencer so that other residents would not hear the shooting, but the plan was averted because the silencer malfunctioned. In addition, the gang attempted to carry out kidnappings on three different occasions at hitchhiking posts in Jerusalem, but in each instance they were identified as Arabs, and the would-be passengers refused to get into the car. (Maariv International)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Barghouti Conviction: A Criminal Verdict, Not a Political One - Ze'ev Segal
    Israeli law does not permit convicting the leader of a criminal or terrorist organization for crimes carried out by that organization "when he himself was not personally involved in the specific crimes themselves," even when it is clear that he gave his blessing to the crimes and provided his people with assistance and encouragement. Barghouti was therefore convicted of premeditated murder only in the three cases in which the court found evidence linking him directly to the specific acts. The court judged Barghouti according to ordinary standards of criminal justice, as required by a country in which the rule of law prevails.
        The court stated that an individual cannot be convicted of solicitation to murder because he issued a general call for attacks against Israel. For a conviction, the individual must be charged with providing the means to commit a specific crime. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Top Arafat Aide Convicted on Murder Charges (New York Times)
  • How the Media Affects the Future of Tactical Combat - Ralph Peters
    In Iraq last month, al-Jazeera constantly aired trumped-up footage and insisted that U.S. Marines were destroying Fallujah and purposely targeting women and children, causing hundreds of innocent casualties as part of an American crusade against Arabs. The "Arab CNN" immediately followed the Fallujah clips with video of Israeli "atrocities." Connecting the dots was easy. This is the new reality of combat. Not only in Iraq. The media is often referred to as a strategic factor, but we still don't fully appreciate its fatal power. We fail to understand that the media has become little more than a tool of propaganda that is increasingly, viciously, mindlessly anti-American. Real atrocities aren't required. Everything American soldiers do is portrayed as an atrocity.
         The implication for tactical combat is clear: We must direct our doctrine, training, equipment, organization, and plans toward winning low-level fights much faster. Before the global media can do what enemy forces cannot do and stop us short. We must develop the capabilities to fight within the "media cycle," before journalists sympathetic to terrorists and murderers can twist the facts and portray us as the villains. As we should have learned long ago, if we are not willing to face up to casualties sooner, the cumulative tally will be much, much higher later. If we do not learn to kill very, very swiftly, we will continue to lose slowly. (New York Post)
  • The Gaza Paradox - Michael Oren
    The father of an Israeli soldier recently killed in Gaza blamed his son's death on Ariel Sharon and his refusal to evacuate the Strip. The same day, paradoxically, another grieving father whose son died in the same battle denounced Sharon for his very willingness to withdraw. These pained accusations followed a turbulent two weeks that began with the murder of a pregnant Jewish woman and her four daughters by Gaza gunmen on the same day Sharon's own party rejected his Gaza detachment plan, and concluded with Palestinians brandishing the body parts of Israelis soldiers killed in Gaza.
        At all costs, Israel must avoid repeating its hasty retreat from Lebanon in May 2000, which emboldened the Palestinians to launch their terror war four months later. Rather, Israel must withdraw from Gaza but in a way that cannot be interpreted as a victory by the Palestinians and that allows the IDF to continue operating freely. The writer, a senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, is the author of Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East. (Wall Street Journal; 21 May 04)
  • Let's Not Get Mired in Gaza - Ze'ev Schiff
    The Gaza Strip is a quagmire. The quagmire in the Strip are the 1,400,000 Palestinians who are spread out in refugee camps in terribly crowded conditions. In about a decade, say the demographers, the population will reach about three million. Palestinian leaders say that when they take over, there will be no way to avoid transferring population to the West Bank. Israel must distance itself from the quagmire at any price, and at least release the only reserves of land, which are in Israeli hands. (Ha'aretz)
  • Life After Gaza - Barry Rubin
    What would the situation actually be after an Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip? The main gain would be a psychological lift for Israelis to say they were no longer there. But political and strategic benefits to Israel may well be limited and not necessarily last. The U.S. and Britain would enthusiastically endorse withdrawal; the rest of Europe would say it was a step in the right direction but not enough. There would then be renewed pressure to "do something," most likely demands in some quarters for an additional unilateral withdrawal from all the West Bank outside the security fence.
        Fatah and Hamas would proclaim an Israeli withdrawal as a defeat brought about by their armed struggle, only proving that more fighting and terrorism was needed to force Israel into additional unilateral concessions. The recruitment of activists, gunmen, and suicide terrorists would increase. The security situation would include an upsurge in West Bank terrorist efforts inspired by a Gaza withdrawal and the credible argument that a few more months of violence would force a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from that area. No Palestinian would say anything publicly to the effect that this deed showed Israel's readiness for peace and compromise. The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal. (UPI/Washington Times)
  • Where Fear is in Short Supply - Shmuley Boteach
    David Hatuel's pregnant wife Tali and four young daughters were killed two weeks ago by terrorists who shot them at point blank range. He told me he was not interested in blame and harbored in his heart absolutely no desire for revenge. Rather, his sole wish was that no family should be forced to suffer a similar tragedy. "Rather than focus on the horror of how my family was taken from me, I am focusing instead on the 12 beautiful years God gave me with my beloved wife and daughters," he said.
        Most people are under the impression that the Gaza settlers are a collection of stubborn Orthodox radicals. I harbored some of that same misconception until I drove past the spot where Tali Hatuel was murdered and into an Eden of green fields and colorful children's playgrounds. The brave and humane settlers in Gaza have created a vast desert paradise that exports tons of quality produce to Europe, converting sand dunes into lush acreage of magnificent crops. Gush Katif is a joyous land filled with pious people and material plenty. Indeed, the only thing in short supply was fear. (Jerusalem Post)
  • China's Islamic Awakening - Ahmad Lutfi
    Beginning in the 1950s, Beijing sent Muslim Chinese delegations to Mecca for pilgrimage and encouraged Sino-Muslim interaction with foreign countries. Numerous Muslims who were sent to Sunni Islam's most prominent university, al-Azhar, in Egypt, brought back the same literature that provided the Muslim Brotherhood, and its subsequent radical offshoots (such as Islamic Jihad and al-Jama'a al-Islamiyya) with the foundation for their ideology. From that point on, Islamic revivalism slowly penetrated the fiber of Muslim life under communist rule. (Media Line)
  • Combating Terror Financing in America - Dennis Lormel
    The U.S. has proven to be a good venue for fundraising by terrorist groups, particularly Hamas and Hizballah. However, intelligence and law enforcement agencies now have greatly improved capabilities in the fight against both terrorist funding and the terrorist threat in general. The writer served for 28 years as an FBI financial crimes investigator. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

    Weekend Features

  • Pro-Israel Activism on Campus Overcoming Anti-Israel Sentiment - Carl Schrag
    At scores of schools across the U.S., pro-Israel students have mounted a dramatic effort over the past two years to take back campuses from anti-Israel activists. "We have spent the last two years trying to tip the balance on campus in favor of Israel," said Alexander Ross Berger, 20, a junior at George Washington University. "We were given the tools to take back the campus," said Daniel Frankenstein, a Berkeley student. "Not only have we taken it back - we own the campus now." Rather than engaging in shouting matches and refuting every anti-Israel comment, the students were taught to promote their own agenda of pro-Israel messages by networking with campus leaders.
        At Berkeley, the approach seems to be paying off. Last month, two years after some 1,500 to 2,000 anti-Israel students occupied a campus building during a Deir Yassin rally, barely 150 people showed up at the annual Deir Yassin demonstration. (JTA)
  • You're Marching! - Jonathan Mark
    The Salute to Israel parade will be "huge," as Donald Trump would say, and indeed he'll be the grand marshal of it all, leading an unprecedented 100,000 marchers from more than 400 groups up Fifth Avenue on Sunday. Despite the backdrop of wartime solemnity, parade organizers in New York were positively jaunty, predicting that this 40th edition of the parade will be the most spectacular in quite some time, with a kaleidoscopic burst of balloons, flags, and props arching above the marchers. The theme of the parade will be "Let's go to Israel now!" (New York Jewish Week)
  • Observations:

    Egypt's Fault - Editorial (Jerusalem Post)

    • This week, the IDF launched in Rafah its largest operation since Operation Defensive Shield, with the main objective of preventing an arms build-up on the Palestinian side.
    • According to Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya'alon, Palestinian gangs were planning to smuggle missiles through tunnels under the Rafah corridor, which could place Ashkelon in their range and threaten the air force's activity in the area.
    • The arms smuggled into Gaza do not come from nowhere. They arrive via different routes, all of which pass through a neighboring sovereign country with which Israel has a peace treaty and diplomatic relations, at least nominally.
    • Since Egypt has a strong central government and aggressive security forces, the Egyptian tactics are clear: to allow mutual bloodletting between Israelis and Palestinians while maintaining an appearance of impartiality.


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