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DAILY ALERT

March 31, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Palestinian Terrorists Step Up Arms Smuggling - Margot Dudkevitch (Jerusalem Post)
    Hizballah, Islamic Jihad, and Hamas have intensified their efforts to smuggle weapons from Egypt to cells operating in the territories, with the increasing involvement of Negev Bedouin, according to an internal Shin Bet document.
    Between July 2004 and February 2005, 180 anti-tank rockets, five anti-aircraft missiles, 600 kilograms of explosives, 3,000 rifles, 400 handguns, and 400,000 rounds of ammunition were smuggled from Egypt into the West Bank and Gaza Strip.


After Arafat, Hamas? - Jennifer Miller (Salon.com)
    Khalil Shikaki, head of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, says Abu Mazen won the presidency with 63% of the vote and a 46% turnout.
    Hamas won 70% of the municipal seats in Gaza with an 88% turnout.
    Shikaki estimates Hamas could take 40-50% in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections in July.
    Today, 77% of the PLC members are Fatah.


Hamas Leader: Agreement Reached with PA - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Head of the political wing of Hamas, Khaled Mashaal, told the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram Wednesday that he had reached an agreement with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on how Gaza is to be administered after the Israeli withdrawal.
    Mashaal also noted that there was an understanding with Abbas regarding the continuation of calm in the territories.


Suspected Palestinian Terror Trainer Arrested in Philippines (AP/Sun Star-Philippines)
    Authorities have arrested a Palestinian man who allegedly trained al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf guerrillas in the past and returned to the Philippines for a possible terror mission, government officials said Thursday.
    Fawas Ajjur was allegedly identified by captured Abu Sayyaf guerrillas as one of the foreign militants who trained them in bomb-making, a security official said.
    Intelligence officials say one plan by the Abu Sayyaf, together with the Southeast Asian militant group Jemaah Islamiyah and local Muslim converts, was to stage two separate car bomb attacks during the recent Easter holidays.
    Troops seized 1,300 pounds of explosives last week from a suburban Manila home based on information from a recently captured Filipino militant.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Syria Moves to Keep Control of Lebanon - Robin Wright
    Syria is working covertly through a network of Lebanese operatives to ensure Damascus can still dominate its smaller neighbor even after it withdraws the last of 15,000 troops, in defiance of a UN resolution demanding an end to Syria's 29-year control over Lebanon, according to U.S., European, and UN officials, and Lebanon's opposition. Damascus is establishing a new hidden intelligence presence in Beirut's southern suburbs, bringing in officials who will not be recognized. Syria is also using allies in Lebanon's government and agents in Lebanon's security services to stall Lebanon's spring elections for a new parliament, the key to political change. (Washington Post)
  • Gunmen Fire at Abbas' Headquarters - Mohammed Daraghmeh
    A group of Palestinian militants fired Wednesday at Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' Ramallah headquarters while he was in the compound, but he was not injured, security officials said. Later, the group of 15 gunmen, who said they were members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades linked to the ruling Fatah movement, went on a shooting rampage throughout the city. They said they had acted after Palestinian security officials forced six of them out of the Ramallah headquarters. A Palestinian security official said the six were asked to either hand over their weapons or leave the compound after "they were involved in kidnappings, blackmailing, harming people, shooting them." An Al Aqsa spokesman denied the gunmen belonged to his group and called them "criminals who should be in jail." (AP/Washington Post)
  • Egyptians March in Unprecedented Anti-Mubarak Protests
    Hundreds of Egyptian protestors in Cairo, Alexandria, and Mansura demanded the departure of President Hosni Mubarak in the largest popular action against the Egyptian ruler to date. Some leading figures of Egypt's burgeoning movement for democratic reform have been receiving the support of the U.S., angering the authorities in Cairo. (AFP/Yahoo)
  • Three Egyptians Charged Over Sinai Bombings
    Three Egyptians will stand trial for murder over the killing of 34 people including 12 Israelis in bombings at Egyptian Red Sea tourist resorts in October, the public prosecutor's office in Cairo said Wednesday. Mohamed Sabah and Mohamed Abdullah Rabaa were arrested two months after attacks on the Taba Hilton hotel. Fugitive Mohamed Ahmed Fulayfel will stand trial in absentia. Prosecutor Maher Abdel Wahed said the attacks were planned by a Palestinian who died in the Taba blast when the bomb went off early. Two other suspects were killed in gun battles with police in February. (The Australian)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Mofaz to U.S.: Palestinians Not Stopping Terrorists - Nathan Guttman
    In meetings with Vice President Richard Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday in Washington, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said the Palestinians are not moving to institute reforms or taking action against terrorists. He said there is a large gap between Mahmoud Abbas' intentions and what is happening on the ground. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinians Wound Three Israelis in Fire-Bomb/Rock Attack Near Modi'in
    Three Israelis were wounded Wednesday when Palestinians threw a fire-bomb and rocks at their vehicle along Highway 443 between Jerusalem and Modi'in, Israel Radio reported. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinians Warned Not to Collaborate with Hizballah - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Leaflets distributed in Ramallah on Wednesday warned Hizballah against "meddling" in Palestinian affairs and threatened to punish any Palestinian who collaborates with the Lebanese organization. The leaflets lashed out at Palestinians who received money from Hizballah and accused them of working against the interests of their people. PA officials recently accused Hizballah of inciting several Fatah cells in the West Bank against PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
        In a separate development, scores of Fatah gunmen in Ramallah on Tuesday forced shopkeepers to close their businesses in mourning over the death of Issam al-Aqra, 33, a senior member of the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, in a road accident. Dozens of Fatah gunmen stormed the Ramallah hospital where Aqra's body was being kept and beat a number of doctors, nurses, and policemen. They then took to Ramallah's streets, firing into the air. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • How to Stop Iran - Efraim Inbar
    Many pundits exaggerate the difficulties in dealing a severe military blow to the Iranian nuclear program. While the intelligence services cannot provide military planners with an exact picture of all Iranian nuclear installations, what we know seems enough to allow the destruction of a large part of the nuclear program through surgical air strikes in combination with limited operations conducted by special forces. The American military definitely has the capability and sophistication to perform such a preemptive strike. The writer is professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University and director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Fear of a U.S. Strike Spurs Iran to Strengthen Its Defenses - Scott Peterson
    In preparation for any strike on its budding nuclear facilities, Iran is making clear that the price will be high - burnishing its military forces, boosting its missile program, and warning of a painful response against U.S. and Israeli targets in the region. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • My Secret Life: CIA Station Chief in Jerusalem - Suzanne Goldenberg
    In 1998, Melissa Mahle was the CIA station chief in Jerusalem when a call came in that Palestinian police had seized two bags of explosives at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Though five months pregnant, she arrived at the scene focused on the mission, as she describes in her new book, Denial and Deception: An Insider's View of the CIA from Iran-Contra to 9/11.
        She also describes the bureaucratic wrangling that allowed the escape of al-Qaeda leader Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, just as Mahle was closing in on him. Muhammad was the destructive visionary behind the September 11, 2001 attacks. In 1995, a man fitting Muhammad's description turned up in Qatar. At the time, his exact importance to al-Qaeda was unknown - as indeed was Bin Laden's, but the CIA believed Muhammad was involved in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center. In her reports back to CIA headquarters, Mahle was all for a "snatch," spiriting Muhammad out of the country in secret. She argued her case to the highest reaches of the National Security Agency, where she was eventually overruled. Had she had her way, she believes, the post-September 11 world might have been a very different place. (Guardian-UK)
  • Learning From Mideast Mistakes - Daoud Kuttab
    Success in ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will not happen until the daily lives of Palestinians and Israelis is given top priority. Every day Israelis and Palestinians must be able to conduct their lives in Tel Aviv or Jenin with normality and without fear for their lives and futures. Palestinian-Israeli peace talks at present don't seem to have the ingredients for a quick solution. The differences are so big and the anger level is so fragile that an attempt to resolve all conflicting issues will most likely take much longer than most people would like. (UPI/Washington Times)
  • Observations:

    Syria's Assad Weakened But Expected to Survive - Barry Rubin (UPI/Washington Times)

    • We don't know whether the older-generation elite of generals and Baath Party bosses in Syria feel that Bashar Assad has gotten them into a mess and they should get rid of him.
    • The regime, though, still has plenty of assets. It controls the military and just about every other aspect of society. Other Arab states are showing solidarity in general, though both Iraq and Jordan are both angry at Syrian-backed subversion.
    • Bashar's strategy mainly boils down to toughing it out. As long as no one attacks him directly, in the way the U.S. overthrew Saddam, his odds for survival are good. He can use the age-old excuse of rallying Syrian patriotism by claiming the country is under assault by the U.S. and Israel.
    • A weaker Syria is a positive development since Syria is the only Arab state that can actively aid Palestinian radicals and press the new leadership toward more radical policies.
    • Israel should not help Syria escape from its current problems by letting Damascus pretend to talk peace when it has no intention of reaching an agreement.

      The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya


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