Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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October 8, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Steep Rise in Arms Smuggling into Gaza - Including 70 Katyushas - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
    There has been a sharp increase in the quantity of explosives, including various types of rockets, smuggled into Gaza from Egypt over the last few weeks, say senior officers in the Israel Defense Forces.
    Hamas now has complete control over the smuggling routes from Egypt, having forced the clans that previously controlled these routes to take orders from it.
    They added that the arms smuggling has expanded markedly since Hamas seized control.
    Fatah sources said Sunday that terrorist organizations in Gaza recently received a shipment of about 70 Grad Katyusha rockets.
    See also Gazans Dig for Profit - Nidal al-Mughrabi (Reuters)
    The flow of people and commercial goods through border terminals has been cut sharply since Hamas took control of Gaza.
    That has translated into huge profits for the Palestinian clans that dig the smuggling tunnels.
    "There has been an increase in demand especially since June," said Abu Salman, a veteran tunnel builder. "Many other tunnels are being constructed."
    He said each tunnel is built with several shafts so that if one opening is blocked by Israeli forces or by the Egyptians, smuggling can continue.
    Now that Israeli forces have left Gaza, tunnel-diggers are able to break ground closer to the Egyptian frontier.

Poll: Israeli Occupation Low on List of Palestinian Concerns (IMRA)
    A survey of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza by Near East Consulting on September 28-30, 2007, asked about the "main issue that makes you feel concerned."
    Responses: Economic hardship - 35%, the internal power struggle - 22%, the absence of security - 20%, the Israeli occupation - 8%.

Petraeus: Iranian Ambassador to Iraq Member of Quds Force - Jim Clancy (CNN)
    Gen. David Petraeus told CNN that Iran's ambassador to Iraq, Hassan Kazzem Qomi, is a member of the Quds force that controls Iranian policy.
    There was "no question" that Iranian arms were ending up in the hands of the Iraqi militias and there was "no debate" that six Iranians detained by the U.S. military in northern Iraq are Iranian Quds force members - the Iranian unit the U.S. accuses of training and arming insurgents.
    "There's no question, absolutely no question that Iran is providing advanced RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades], RPG 29s," Petraeus said.
    "It has provided some shoulder-fired, Stinger-like air-defense missiles. It has provided the explosively formed projectiles and it has provided 244 mm rockets, in addition to mortars, mortar rounds and other small-arms ammunition."

Egyptian-Bedouin Violence Erupts in Northern Sinai - Ashraf Sweilam (AP/Washington Post)
    On Saturday scores of masked Bedouins randomly opened fire in the town of El-Arish in northern Sinai, injuring three people and damaging shops and cars.
    Three more people, including two policemen, were injured when residents demanding better protection from the Bedouins clashed with police.

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  • Palestinians Fire Longer-Range Rocket Deeper into Israel - Steven Erlanger
    Palestinians fired a Katyusha rocket into Israel east of Gaza on Sunday that landed in Netivot, 6.8 miles east of Gaza. The Katyusha, a factory-manufactured missile with a longer range than the Kassam, better accuracy and a warhead of some 11 pounds, must be smuggled into Gaza rather than made there. The Israeli Army said four Katyushas were fired from Gaza before - one was fired at the city of Ashkelon a year ago. The Katyusha has a range of 7.4 to 12.4 miles, as opposed to the Kassam's range of 5 to 7.4 miles. The Katyusha was used extensively by Hizbullah in southern Lebanon against Israel in the August 2006 war. (New York Times)
        See also Palestinians in Gaza Fire Katyusha Rocket at Israel - Yonat Atlas
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a Katyusha rocket, three Kassam rockets, and eight mortar shells at Israel on Sunday. The mortars hit Kibbutz Kerem Shalom, striking a house and causing a fire. The Grad-type Katyusha rocket landed in Netivot. Netivot is 11 kilometers east of Gaza, while Sderot, the target of frequent attacks, is less than one kilometer from Gaza. (Ynet News)
  • High Level Debate Stalled Syria Air Strike - Martha Raddatz
    The September Israeli airstrike on a suspected nuclear site in Syria had been in the works for months and was delayed only at the strong urging of the U.S. In early July the Israelis presented the U.S. with satellite imagery they said showed a nuclear facility in Syria, plus additional evidence that showed some of the technology was supplied by North Korea. One U.S. official said the material was "jaw dropping" because it raised questions as to why U.S. intelligence had not previously picked up on the facility, which had likely been there for months if not years.
        A senior U.S. official said the Israelis planned to strike during the week of July 14 and in secret high-level meetings American officials argued over how to respond to the intelligence. Some in the administration supported the Israeli action, but others, notably Secretary of State Rice, did not. (ABC News)
        See also North Korean Mystery - Jim Hoagland
    Why is President Bush accepting the promises of a regime he has regularly excoriated - at a time when officials in his administration make a credible case that North Korea has just been caught helping Syria with nuclear technology? Highly classified U.S. intelligence reports say that the Israeli raid in Syria last month destroyed a nuclear-related facility and caused North Korean casualties at the site, which may have been intended to produce plutonium, according to a senior official with access to those reports. The Israelis have provided the U.S. with photographs, physical material and soil samples from the site - taken both before and after the raid - according to two independent sources. (Washington Post)
        See also U.S. Intelligence: Syria Had Centrifuges for Enriching Uranium - Sarah Baxter
    According to U.S. intelligence, Syria is believed to have received centrifuges for producing enriched uranium from the Khan network several years ago, prompting the CIA to report to Congress in 2004 that it viewed "Syrian nuclear intentions with growing concern." (Sunday Times-UK)
  • Prominent Palestinian Christian Killed in Gaza - Nidal al-Mughrabi
    Rami Ayyad, 31, a prominent Palestinian Christian in Gaza, was found dead on Sunday after being abducted near his home, six months after the religious bookshop he ran was blown up. Medical officials said he had been stabbed and shot. 3,000 Christians live among 1.5 million Muslims in Gaza. (Reuters)
        See also Palestinian Christian Activist Stabbed to Death in Gaza
    Ayyad, who had received repeated death threats, was director of the Teacher's Bookshop, Gaza's only Christian bookstore, which is run by the Bible Society of Gaza Baptist church. (AP/Ha'aretz)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Olmert: Israel to Test Whether Abbas Can Implement Agreements - Herb Keinon
    Israel will condition any concessions to the PA on its ability to carry out its undertakings, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the cabinet Sunday. Olmert said he had decided to move forward with the current PA leadership because there were more dangers for Israel in continuing the status quo. "For the first time, there is Palestinian leadership that wants to reach peace based on two states living side by side in security, and where Israel will be a Jewish state," Olmert said. Abbas and Fayad genuinely want peace, he said, but the question is whether they can implement agreements. In light of the different leadership, Olmert said, it is necessary to "create a political horizon." However, "Israel will not carry out anything on the ground until the other side passes the test of implementing what it needs to," Olmert said. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations Begin on Joint Document for Conference - Wafa Amr
    Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are drafting a joint document for next month's U.S.-sponsored statehood conference. Both sides have agreed that formal talks on Palestinian statehood will not begin until after the conference, expected in late November in the Washington area. "The joint statement will address core issues. In a general way, it will show the points of accord that we hope will be the basis of negotiations in the future," Olmert spokeswoman Miri Eisin said.
        Briefing his cabinet ahead of its weekly meeting on Sunday, Olmert invoked the "road map," a U.S.-backed peace plan from 2003 that conditioned the creation of a Palestinian state on a series of mutual confidence-building measures including a Palestinian crackdown on armed anti-Israel factions. "Anything to do with implementing a (two-state) solution is predicated on making good on the road map, not just in terms of content but also of sequence," Olmert said. (Reuters)
  • Shin Bet: Seven Suicide Bombings Recently Foiled - Attila Somfalvi
    The security forces thwarted seven suicide bombings in Israel in the last month-and-a-half, Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin told the cabinet Sunday. IDF intelligence chief Amos Yadlin told the cabinet that there was an irreconcilable gap between Abbas' desire to lead a substantial process in the Annapolis peace conference, and his ability to implement it on the ground. If Hamas believes that the summit may succeed, said Yadlin, it will do its utmost to torpedo it, including launching terror attacks. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • A Way Out for Iran - David Ignatius
    Senior American officials say they are seeking to avoid military conflict with Iran. The administration wants Iran to make a strategic shift - by changing its nuclear policy so that it doesn't have the potential to make weapons, stopping its support for terrorism and working with the U.S. to stabilize Iraq. U.S. officials continue to believe that the regime is capable of such a shift, but they have concluded that Iran won't bargain unless it feels more pressure - from tougher economic sanctions and from credible threats of military power. The biggest danger, some U.S. officials believe, is that the Iranians don't take U.S. power seriously since the Bush administration is so bogged down in Iraq. (Washington Post)
  • Egypt Expecting Hamas-Fatah Dialogue - Serene Assir
    Eighty Palestinians with ties to Hamas and Islamic Jihad returned to Gaza in the early hours of 30 September purportedly without Israeli intervention or prior knowledge. They had been stranded in Egypt since 9 June. According to Major General Salaheddin Selim, a military expert with close ties to the Egyptian regime, "the return was secured following negotiations between Ismail Haniyeh and the Egyptian authorities." Egyptian officials said Cairo does not intend on severing whatever contact with Hamas it deems necessary.
        Asked whether he believed the negotiation that led to the men's return signaled an improvement in Hamas-Egyptian relations, Selim replied that, "Egypt has already made it clear that in any negotiation process all the Palestinian factions must be taken into account." Cairo has consistently denied that it supports the siege on Gaza, or the closure of the Rafah terminal. Egypt is certain that, sooner or later, "possibly after the upcoming peace summit," Hamas and Fatah will have to enter into some kind of serious dialogue. (Al-Ahram-Egypt)
  • Observations:

    Suicide Bombers Head to Iraq from Damascus - Hala Jaber and Ali Rifat (Sunday Times-UK)

    • Ahmed, 23, has a degree in chemistry. He knows all about explosives. Last year, he says, he took 15kg of TNT, packed it into pouches with some nails, and strapped the bomb to his 19-year-old brother's waist. He placed detonators in both his brother's trouser pockets and a third in a shirt pocket, just in case the others failed.
    • The Damascus flat where we met was rented by a handler who channels aspiring "martyrs" to insurgent groups. More than 1,300 suicide bombers have struck in Iraq since 2003. The bombers have killed and injured more than 4,000 people in the first nine months of 2007. In interviews with men passing through Syria on their way to die in Iraq, we found articulate, middle-class men in their twenties and early thirties who had come from good homes and gone to university. One was a newly married accountant. Yet all had reached the chilling conclusion that killing "sinners" would transport them to paradise.
    • According to Mohammed Hafez, a visiting professor at the University of Missouri and author of Suicide Bombers in Iraq, the Strategy and Ideology of Martyrdom, the influence of the Saudi Wahhabis is key to any understanding of the phenomenon. His study of 139 suicide bombings found that 53 were carried out by Saudis, compared with 18 by Iraqis, seven by Syrians and four by Jordanians. The Saudis had already fought foreign jihads in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Chechnya, Hafez said. In Iraq they exploited the culture of martyrdom established by Palestinian suicide bombers. The targeting of so many Shi'ites has been consistent with their beliefs. "Wahhabi tradition sees the ascendancy of Shia as [a] worse evil than occupation by infidels, because Shia are heretics and apostates," said Hafez.
    • Abu Ziad takes eager volunteers, inveigles them into Iraq for a fee and delivers them to insurgents who consign them to a bloody death with clinical efficiency. His network includes the imams who drum up the volunteers and forgers who create new identities for their journey across the border with Iraq. Then there are the officials he bribes to turn a blind eye, and insurgent groups ranging from the pan-Arab, fundamentalist Al-Qaeda in Iraq to the Iraqi nationalist 1920 Revolution Brigade, started by former members of Saddam's armed forces.

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