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DAILY ALERT

Friday,
July 6, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Johnston Deal Lets Army of Islam Keep Weapons - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Members of the powerful Dughmush clan in Gaza claimed Thursday that in line with the deal struck to gain the release of BBC correspondent Alan Johnston, the clan's Army of Islam would be recognized as a legitimate Palestinian faction in Gaza.
    They also said the accord allowed the clan's private militia to keep its weapons.
    A clan member said the five-point agreement with Hamas recognized the Army of Islam as "the weapon of mujahideen [holy warriors] against Jews, Crusaders and apostates."
    He said the deal also banned Hamas and the Army of Islam from attacking each other and called for solving future disputes peacefully.

    See also Johnston's Release and the Hamas/Al-Qaeda Connection - Jonathan D. Halevi (JCPA-Hebrew)
    The Hamas government is presenting its success in bringing about the release of Alan Johnston as proof of the effectiveness of its government in Gaza and of its pragmatic outlook, in an attempt to receive British and international legitimacy for the government it established through a military coup.
    A look at the details of the agreement with the Army of Islam shows that the Hamas government's recognition of an al-Qaeda affiliate as a legitimate faction in Gaza enables it to act freely and develop its terrorist infrastructure.
    If the version reported in Al-Quds al-Arabi is correct, Hamas has even provided funds and ammunition to the al-Qaeda affiliate, with whom it has cooperated in terror operations in recent years.


Hamas to Build Forces with Arms Captured from Fatah - Alex Fishman (Ynet News)
    Senior Israeli defense officials are extremely concerned by the fact that Hamas has recently seized large quantities of anti-aircraft missiles, anti-tank rockets and Katyusha rockets.
    In the course of Hamas' takeover of Gaza, it took control over Fatah and PA security forces' depots containing vast amounts of weapons.
    An IDF Southern Command official explained that some of the weapons were smuggled into Gaza in violation of agreements with Israel, and may pose substantial risk to the IDF, including Sagger anti-tank rockets and outdated Strela anti-aircraft missiles that could be used against Israeli planes.
    Hamas also got hold of several dozen Grad B rockets (Katyushas), which were apparently brought into Gaza by Islamic Jihad and seized by Fatah.
    Hamas captured heavy anti-aircraft DShk machine guns, large quantities of explosives, thousands of guns, a few thousand RPG rockets and millions of bullets of various types, as well as radio equipment, night vision systems and telescopes.
    A senior military source said that following its acquisition of such massive quantities of arms, Hamas plans to increase the size of its security forces.


Terrorism's Hook into Your Inbox - Brian Krebs (Washington Post)
    The global jihad landed in Linda Spence's e-mail inbox during the summer of 2003, in the form of a message urging her to verify her eBay account information. The 35-year-old New Jersey resident clicked on the link included in the message, which took her to a counterfeit eBay site where she unwittingly entered in personal financial information.
    Ultimately, Spence's information wound up in the hands of a young man in the UK who investigators said was the brains behind a terrorist cell that sought to facilitate deadly bombing attacks against targets in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East.
    Spence's stolen data made its way via the Internet black market for stolen identities to biochemistry student Tariq al-Daour, 21, one of three UK residents who pleaded guilty this week to a terrorism charge of using the Internet to incite murder.
    The trio used computer viruses and stolen credit card accounts to set up a network of communication forums and Web sites that hosted everything from tutorials on computer hacking and bomb-making to videos of beheadings and suicide bombing attacks in Iraq.

    See also 45 Muslim Doctors Planned U.S. Terror Raids - John Steele (Telegraph-UK)
    A group of 45 Muslim doctors threatened to use car bombs and rocket grenades in terrorist attacks in the U.S. during discussions on an extremist Internet chat site.
    Police found details of the discussions on a site run by Younis Tsouli, 23, of London, who along with two other "cyber terrorists" are facing lengthy jail sentences after admitting using the Internet to spread al-Qaeda propaganda inciting Muslims to a violent holy war and to murder non-believers.
    They had close links with al-Qaeda in Iraq and believed they had to fight jihad against a global conspiracy by non-believers to wipe out Islam.


Covering Gaza - Kevin Peraino (Newsweek)
    While Alan Johnston's release may let foreign correspondents breathe a little easier in Gaza, hundreds of local Palestinian reporters are still wary.
    According to a new report by the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedom (PCDMF), more than 30 Palestinian journalists were attacked in Gaza and the West Bank last month, the highest in the territories' history.
    Already three reporters have been killed this year, compared with only one fatality in the preceding three years.
    The only newspaper currently available in Gaza is the Hamas-run Fallastin.


Belarusian Leader Promises Weapons Cooperation with Iran (AP/International Herald Tribune)
    Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko promised aid to Iran's military Thursday, and held talks with visiting Iranian defense chief Mostafa Mohammad Najjar.
    Lukashenko and Iranian President Ahmadinejad are vocal critics of the U.S. and have cultivated ties with other countries at odds with the West.


Germans Split Over a Mosque and the Role of Islam - Mark Landler (New York Times)
    The largely Turkish Muslim population in Cologne, a city with the greatest Gothic cathedral in Germany, is pushing for approval to build what would be one of Germany's largest mosques.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • UK Bombing Plots "Were Carried Out with Bin Laden's Blessing" - Deborah Haynes, Jeremy Page, and Martin Fletcher
    The London and Glasgow bomb plots were carried out with the approval of Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader, a top foreign intelligence source said Thursday. "It was an established fact from Day 1 that al-Qaeda was behind this and it was planned by its followers in Great Britain with bin Laden's blessing," the source told The Times. (Times-UK)
        See also London Bombers Sped to Glasgow - Serge F. Kovaleski and Alan Cowell
    British investigators have concluded that the two men who carried out an attack at Glasgow's international airport last Saturday had sped there after a failed attempt to bomb a nightclub in central London, a British security official said Thursday. Evidence emerging is that Dr. Bilal Abdulla and Dr. Khalil Ahmed were the main operatives, if not the leaders, of a network of other medical professionals. Eight suspects are in police custody. Ahmed was so badly burned from the attack that he has not been questioned, while Abdulla has spoken to investigators. (New York Times)
        See also Scottish Hero in Glasgow Terrorist Attack
    Baggage handler John Smeaton helped a lone police officer subdue a suspected terrorist who drove a burning car into Scotland's Glasgow Airport last week. (canada.com)
  • Al-Qaeda Deputy Leader Urges Strikes on West - Habib Trabelsi
    Osama bin Laden's right-hand man Ayman al-Zawahiri issued a new video calling for Islamic fighters to strike Western interests worldwide and for regime change in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. "In the short term, one must take aim at the interests of the Crusaders and Jews," Zawahiri said in the 95-minute video shown on Wednesday. "All those who have attacked the (Islamic) nation must pay the price, in our countries and theirs, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Palestine and in Somalia, but above all where one can strike a blow against their interests," he said. "The wind - by the grace of Allah - is blowing against Washington." (AFP/Yahoo)
  • Near Gaza, Unrest in the Sinai - Cam Simpson
    There may be new troubles brewing right next door to Gaza in the Egyptian Sinai desert. The gap between Cairo and the Bedouins of northern Sinai was a fairly local concern until 2004, when extremists launched coordinated bombings at three resorts near the Israeli border - the first acts of terror in Egypt since 1997. Four more attacks and more than 120 deaths later, Israeli officials say the Sinai remains restive and rife with extremism. Yuval Diskin, the chief of Israel's Shin Bet security agency, told foreign journalists that Israeli intelligence officials see the Sinai as crucial new ground for the "Global Jihad" movement of Sunni Muslim extremists, who espouse ideology similar to Osama bin Laden's and employ nearly identical terrorist tactics. "I think the Egyptians have big, big problems here," he said. He also said Israeli officials are seeing growing connections between Sinai militants and those in Gaza. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Egyptian Police Seize Explosives in Sinai
    Egyptian police seized 1.2 tons of explosives in Sinai on Thursday which they suspected had been destined for Gaza. A Bedouin reported finding a plastic sack filled with high explosive in the mountains in al-Roda, 60 km north of al-Arish, and a police search turned up 28 sacks. Egyptian police routinely find large quantities of explosives and ammunition in Sinai, sometimes hidden in tunnels near the border with neighboring Gaza. Tensions have also mounted recently between Egyptian police and Sinai Bedouin who took to the streets in April over the deaths of two Bedouin in a shootout with the police. (Reuters)
  • Iranian Banks Feel the Heat - Con Coughlin
    Unmistakable cracks are beginning to appear in the edifice of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's autocratic regime. However much Ahmadinejad tries to dismiss the effect the sanctions are having, the fact is they have brought the Iranian economy to its knees and will continue to do so, particularly if Britain and America are successful in persuading the UN to toughen them to punish Teheran for refusing to curtail its nuclear enrichment program.
        There are encouraging signs that the sanctions have thrown the regime into panic. Banking experts advising the UN say Teheran has recently ordered the withdrawal of millions of dollars from Iranian-owned banks based in Europe, a pre-emptive move to prevent the funds being frozen by any toughening of UN sanctions. Two banks have already been blacklisted by the U.S. Treasury Department: Bank Saderat, because of its alleged involvement in financing Hizbullah, and Bank Sepah, because it is suspected of providing the finance for the nuclear program. Another Iranian bank with offices in Europe, Bank Melli, is also under scrutiny by UN and American officials over allegations that it is involved in financing Iran's nuclear program. (Telegraph-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF Anti-Rocket Operation in Gaza Targets Hamas Gunmen - Avi Issacharoff and Yuval Azoulay
    11 Palestinians were killed in exchanges of fire in Gaza as Israel pressed its military campaign against rocket squads on Thursday. Two IDF soldiers were lightly wounded in the fighting. IDF troops had probed about 1 km inside Gaza on a routine operation against rocket squads when Israel Air Force aircraft covering their advance spotted a group of armed Palestinians approaching. The aircraft fired at the gunmen and a ground battle developed between the patrol and the militants. Witnesses reported a heavy exchange of fire as IDF tanks and bulldozers moved in and soldiers took positions on rooftops. Hamas said most of the dead in the clashes were its members, including Mohammed Siam, 37, the Hamas field commander in central Gaza. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Palestinians in Gaza Fire Mortars at Israel
    Palestinians in Gaza fired three mortar shells that landed in Israel's western Negev on Thursday evening. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Hamas Opens Fire to Bar Civil Servants from Working on Thursdays - Avi Issacharoff
    Palestinian civil servants said they came under gunfire from Hamas' Executive Force as they tried to report for work on Thursday, which Hamas has decreed a day off. Mahmoud Abbas' government set Sunday to Thursday as working days, but the Hamas government in Gaza has set a Saturday-Wednesday working week. (Ha'aretz)
  • 100 More African Refugees Arrive in Israel - Sheera Claire Frenkel
    Nearly 100 African refugees have arrived in Israel in the past week, despite the government's recent decision to stop accepting refugees and to begin returning existing asylum seekers to Egypt. The new refugees have been placed at a Beersheba hotel, along with 125 other refugees who have recently arrived. Last Sunday, Prime Minister Olmert announced that he had reached an agreement with Egyptian President Mubarak to return more than 2,000 African refugees to Egypt. Mubarak promised they would be placed in protected areas and kept safe. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Egyptians Shoot Sudanese Refugee
    Egyptian border guards shot a Sudanese refugee and arrested two others early Wednesday as they tried to cross from Egypt into Israel. (AP/Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israel Planning Fence on Egypt Border - Mark Lavie
    Israel is planning to build a sophisticated fence to prevent smuggling and infiltration across its 135-mile desert border with Egypt, the IDF magazine Bamahane reported. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    Palestinians

  • Fatah on Shaky Ground in West Bank - Ken Ellingwood
    Routed in the Gaza Strip, the Fatah party of Mahmoud Abbas is fractured and adrift at a moment when it is viewed by the outside world as the best hope for blunting the militant Hamas movement in the West Bank. Once dominant in Palestinian affairs, the organization long led by the late Yasser Arafat is beset by a weak and aging leadership, internal schisms and a widespread reputation among Palestinians as corrupt, ineffectual and out of touch. The crisis facing Fatah has deepened since Hamas crushed its forces in Gaza last month, leaving Fatah's authority limited to the West Bank.
        Hani Masri, a political analyst in the West Bank, said the Gaza defeat unmasked deep problems that bode ill for Fatah's lasting prospects in the West Bank. Ahmed Abdel Rahman, a Fatah spokesman, said the party was in shock after the bloody takeover in Gaza. "There is no vision for the future. There is no plan," said Kadoura Fares, a former Fatah lawmaker. Many Israelis believe it is only a matter of time until Abbas talks with Hamas to reach some form of accommodation. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Hamas Thrives as U.S. Moves Misfire - Warren P. Strobel and Dion Nissenbaum
    Hamas outmaneuvered everyone else and seized Gaza in a swift military campaign that vanquished Fatah forces loyal to Abbas. Abbas, with U.S. encouragement, responded by dissolving the Hamas-led government and declaring emergency rule. Now, with Palestinians divided into two mini-states in Gaza and the West Bank, mediating a peace deal with Israel will be harder than ever. The strategy toward Hamas was overseen by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and carried out largely by Elliott Abrams, a leading neoconservative in the White House, and Assistant Secretary of State David Welch.
        At its heart was a plan to organize military support for Abbas for what opponents of the strategy feared could have become a Palestinian civil war. As recently as March, Jordanian officials developed a $1.2 billion proposal to train, arm and pay Abbas' security forces so they could control the streets after he dissolved the government and called new elections. While U.S. officials were involved in developing and presenting the plan, a State Department official described it as a Jordanian initiative. Ultimately, congressional concerns in Washington and Israeli objections kept any significant military aid from being delivered, even as Israeli intelligence and the CIA warned that Hamas was becoming stronger. (McClatchy/Miami Herald)
  • Time to Set Benchmarks for Abbas - Clifford D. May
    Instead of giving Abbas unconditional support, why not set a few benchmarks? Why not tell Abbas it's time to disarm - or at least disavow - Fatah terrorist factions? How about insisting he initiate a serious campaign against theft by his cronies of aid intended for destitute Palestinians? And wouldn't it send a message were Abbas to state without equivocation that another generation of Palestinians should not be sacrificed in pursuit of the genocidal dream of Israel's annihilation? (Boston Herald)

    Other Issues

  • Buildup in Lebanon - Editorial
    It has been nearly a year since Hizbullah staged an unprovoked raid from southern Lebanon into Israel, killing eight soldiers, abducting two others and triggering a 34-day war in which 1,200 Lebanese and 160 Israelis died. A UN report last week reported evidence of rearmament by Hizbullah as well as by extremist Palestinian factions and of shipments of heavy weapons across the Syrian-Lebanese border. It said that the Lebanese government had reported seizing a truckload of weapons belonging to Hizbullah, including Russian Grad rockets, and that the Lebanese army had observed four truck carriers bearing eight missile launchers across the border last month.
        The report notes Israel's claim that "the transfer of sophisticated weaponry by Syria and Iran across the Lebanese-Syrian border, including long-range rockets (with a range of 250 miles)...[and] anti-tank and anti-aircraft systems, occurs on a weekly basis." And it says, "Hizbullah armed elements are alleged to be constructing new facilities in the Bekaa Valley, including command and control centers, rocket launching capabilities and conducting military training exercises."
        When Resolution 1701 was adopted, Israel urged the Security Council to deploy international forces or monitors along the Lebanese-Syrian border to prevent such weapons deliveries. The council refused. The result is that Syria and Hizbullah once again are positioned to rain missiles on Israeli cities. (Washington Post)
  • Ross: Syria Should Pay a Price for Rearming Hizbullah - Jeff Barak
    Dennis Ross, the former senior American Middle East peace negotiator, said in an interview that "Syria has rearmed Hizbullah to the teeth - there should be a price to pay for that," pointing out that the Bush administration had failed to implement its own Syria Accountability Act. He said the U.S. and Europe should aim to "squeeze the Syrian economy" and use a policy of "sticks before carrots" in its dealings with Damascus.
        Ross also said that the West had to ratchet up the sanctions against Iran to stop its nuclear program. "We have slow-motion diplomacy matched against their fast-paced nuclear development," he said, arguing that Europe was not applying enough economic pressure "to get the attention of the Iranian leadership." (Ynet News)
  • A Ring of Threats to Israel Emanating from Iran - Aluf Benn and Shmuel Rosner
    As outgoing deputy defense minister Ephraim Sneh waited Tuesday for his successor, Matan Vilnai, Sneh expressed concern over what he saw as complacency vis-a-vis Iran. The Iranians are approaching zero hour of nuclear operability, which they are projected to achieve between 2009 and 2011. Sneh sees Israel as being surrounded by a ring of threats emanating from Iran and its military industries. The Palestinian Grad missile [Katyusha] that hits Ashkelon tomorrow - from Iran. The weapons stockpiled by Hizbullah - from Iran. The Syrian army's rearmament - bought with Iranian money. Above all, there are Iran's attempts to obtain nuclear weapons, which translates into an intolerable existential threat to Israel. (Ha'aretz)
  • Princeton Economist Says Lack of Civil Liberties, Not Poverty, Breeds Terrorism - David Wessel
    "Each time we have one of these attacks and the backgrounds of the attackers are revealed, this should put to rest the myth that terrorists are attacking us because they are desperately poor," says Princeton economist Alan Krueger. "But this misconception doesn't die." "As a group, terrorists are better educated and from wealthier families." The Sept. 11 attackers were relatively well-off men from a rich country, Saudi Arabia. Examining 781 terrorist events classified by the U.S. State Department as "significant" reveals terrorists tend to come from countries distinguished by political oppression, not poverty or inequality.
        The conventional wisdom that poverty breeds terrorism is backed by surprisingly little hard evidence. The 9/11 Commission stated flatly: Terrorism is not caused by poverty. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Mideast Has an Old Cold War Look - Borzou Daragahi
    The confrontation between the U.S. and Iran overlays and drives much of the strife afflicting the new Middle East. It is a conflict with many features of the 45-year Cold War, including the use of military and political surrogates, aggressive diplomacy, economic pressure, competing propaganda outlets and a looking-glass war waged by intelligence services. (Los Angeles Times)

    Weekend Features

  • The Real Exodus - Linda Grant
    Ike Aronowitz, 83, is former captain of the illegal immigrant ship Exodus. He is known to the world as the blond, blue-eyed Paul Newman, who played Aronowitz in Otto Preminger's 1960 film Exodus, based on Leon Uris' blockbuster novel. Both film and book tell the story of the postwar illegal immigration ships bearing a human cargo of Holocaust survivors who tried to break the British blockade of Palestine in the last days of the Mandate. But it was a fairy tale. In Uris' version, the Jewish refugees, stranded on Cyprus, are saved by a sympathetic British general who convinces the British government to allow the ship to land. In real life, the British army boarded, killed three people, loaded the passengers on to prison ships and took them back to Hamburg, Germany, where they were re-incarcerated in refugee camps. It was a PR catastrophe. "Back to the Reich," one U.S. newspaper put it. "Return to the death land," said another. (Guardian-UK)
  • Austria's Attitude Toward Israel: Following the European Mainstream - Interview with Anton Pelinka
    Austria's overall attitude can be characterized as "going with the mainstream." When Israel was established in 1948, Austria behaved as if its diplomatic relationship with it was a normal one, despite its war past, reflecting Austria's false claim to have been solely a victim in World War II. When the Social Democrat Bruno Kreisky became chancellor in 1970 he invited Yasser Arafat to Vienna to promote the interests of the PLO. Much of what Kreisky said promoted the idea that the lesson of the Holocaust should be learned by the victims rather than the perpetrators. The conservative OVP (People's Party) seems, on the surface, most friendly to Israel. The socialist SPO is divided on the Middle East conflict. Prof. Pelinka is director of the Institute of Conflict Research at Vienna University and professor of political science at the University of Innsbruck. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Observations:

    Iran's Proxy War: Tehran Is On the Offensive Against Us Throughout the Middle East - Joseph Lieberman (Wall Street Journal)

    • The Iranian government has been using the Lebanese terrorist group Hizbullah to train and organize Iraqi extremists, who are responsible in turn for the murder of American service members. In February, the U.S. military stated that forensic evidence has implicated Iran in the death of at least 170 U.S. soldiers.
    • The Quds Force - a special unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps whose mission is to finance, arm and equip foreign Islamist terrorist movements - has taken groups of up to 60 Iraqi insurgents at a time and brought them to three camps near Tehran, where they have received instruction in the use of mortars, rockets, improvised explosive devices and other deadly tools of guerrilla warfare that they use against our troops. Iran has also funded its Iraqi proxies generously, to the tune of $3 million a month.
    • Iran is acting aggressively and consistently to undermine moderate regimes in the Middle East, establish itself as the dominant regional power and reshape the region in its own ideological image.
    • No responsible leader in Washington desires conflict with Iran. But every leader has a responsibility to acknowledge that the Iranian government, by its actions, has all but declared war on us and our allies in the Middle East. America now has a solemn responsibility to utilize the instruments of our national power to convince Tehran to change its behavior, including the immediate cessation of its training and equipping extremists who are killing our troops.
    • It is of course everyone's hope that diplomacy alone can achieve this goal. However, any diplomacy with Iran is more likely to be effective if it is backed by a credible threat of force - credible in the dual sense that we mean it, and the Iranians believe it.


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