Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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September 28, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Al-Qaeda is in Gaza - Attila Somfalvi (Ynet News)
    Head of IDF Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Aharon Zeevi Farkash said Wednesday that al-Qaeda exploited bursts in the Gaza-Egypt border along the Philadelphi Route in order to penetrate the Gaza Strip, and warned that their interest in Israel has increased in recent times.

Hamas Releases Al-Qaeda-Style Video of Murdered Israeli - Ali Waked (Ynet News)
    Hamas has released a video of an Israeli man, Sasson Nuriel, blind-folded and being interrogated, in front of a green Hamas banner. According to a Hamas statement, Nuriel was abducted in Jerusalem on Wednesday. They intended to exchange him for Palestinian prisoners but decided to kill him.
    A security source said following the murder that Hamas was planning an intensive terror campaign in Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel, while attempting to present itself as a moderate political force committed to calm, ahead of the Palestinian elections in January 2006.
    Hamas has no intention of disarming or ceasing armed attacks, added the security source.

Assad Tells Hamas, Islamic Jihad to Increase Attacks (Jerusalem Post)
    Syrian President Bashar Assad requested from Hamas and Islamic Jihad commanders in Damascus to increase their terror activities against Israel, essentially giving them a "green light" to commit terror acts, according to a PA intelligence report revealed on Wednesday.
    Assad told Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders two weeks ago that since the international community was hounding him, he wanted more attention to be focused on the Palestinians.
    Assad's instructions were reportedly the reason for an emergency meeting between Assad and Egyptian President Mubarak earlier this week, where Mubarak allegedly told Assad not to interfere in the Palestinian conflict, Israel Radio reported

IDF Uncovers Weapons Factory Near Jenin (Jerusalem Post)
    IDF soldiers discovered an explosives factory in Kabatiya south of Jenin on Tuesday, Army Radio reported.
    The workshop contained seven kilograms of explosives, a pipe bomb ready for use, improvised guns, and tools for manufacturing explosive devices.
    Three Islamic Jihad operatives were arrested during the operation.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Foreign Fighters Now Seen as Main Threat in Iraq - Bradley Graham
    The top U.S. military intelligence officer in Iraq, Maj.-Gen. Richard Zahner, said Abu Musab Zarqawi and his foreign and Iraqi associates have essentially commandeered the insurgency, becoming the dominant opposition force and the greatest immediate threat to U.S. objectives in the country. "I think what you really have here is an insurgency that's been hijacked by a terrorist campaign," Zahner said. U.S. military leaders say they now see Zarqawi's group, known as al-Qaeda in Iraq, as having supplanted Iraqis loyal to ousted president Saddam Hussein as the insurgency's driving element. Although numerically still a small fraction of the insurgency, Zarqawi's network is said to be behind a disproportionately large share of the violence.
        Since spring, U.S. commanders have moved beyond targeting the group's leaders and urban cells to try to shut off the flow of foreign Islamic extremists infiltrating from Syria. Zahner said the number of foreign fighters entering Iraq, which had started to approach 200 a month in June, appeared to drop to 100 a month or fewer by the end of August. More than 315 foreign fighters have been killed since March and nearly 330 detained. The average level of daily attacks across Iraq is about 90. (Washington Post)
        See also Insurgents in Iraq Seize Five Towns Near Syria - Anna Badkhen
    U.S. Marine commander Lt.-Col. Julian Alford said Monday that insurgents loyal to Zarqawi had taken over at least five key western Iraqi towns on the border with Syria and were forcing local residents to flee. He estimated that 300-400 insurgents were operating in the area, most of them foreign fighters who have crossed into Iraq from Syria. (San Francisco Chronicle)
  • British Arms Deal with Saudi Arabia Linked to Halting Corruption Investigation - Ewen MacAskill and Rob Evans
    Saudi Arabia has asked for three favors from Tony Blair and Defense Secretary John Reid, who have been to Riyadh trying to sell BAE Systems' Typhoon fighter planes. The Saudis want London-based dissidents expelled, British Airways to resume flights to Riyadh, and a major corruption investigation into BAE and a Saudi prince to be dropped.
        The Saudis' third demand seems difficult to comply with at this stage. The Serious Fraud Office has devoted a sizeable budget to its joint investigation with the Ministry of Defense police fraud squad. Last month it made a fresh round of arrests for questioning, after discovering a fleet of luxury cars supplied to Prince Turki bin Nasr had been shipped out of London this year. (Guardian-UK)
  • Israelis Deployed in New Orleans to Help in Post-Katrina Chaos - Chanan Tigay
    Washington may have rebuffed Israeli offers of assistance after Hurricane Katrina, but a team of Israeli rescue personnel managed to deploy in some of the worst-hit areas around New Orleans. The 18-member team - which included physicians, mental health professionals, trauma specialists, logistics experts, and a special unit of Israeli police divers - arrived in St. Bernard Parish and Plaquemines Parish on Sept. 10 and spent a week and a half assisting fire department search-and-rescue squads. The team administered first aid to survivors, rescued abandoned pets, and discovered victims of the storm.
        The Israeli team was received with slightly puzzled appreciation in the outlying areas. "The soldiers were shocked seeing us," said Gal Lusky, a diver who founded Israeli Flying Aid, a non-governmental organization that undertook the mission along with the IsraAID relief group. They asked the Israelis, "How come you came from so far? You have your own troubles." Rep. Charles Melancon (D-La.) said the Israelis "performed courageously in south Louisiana when we needed them most." (JTA)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF Responds to Continued Palestinian Rocket Fire - Arieh O'Sullivan
    Israel airforce jets unleashed a barrage of missiles against targets throughout Gaza City early Wednesday. On Tuesday, the IDF fired four live artillery shells into the northern Gaza Strip for the first time, in response to continued Palestinian rocket attacks on the western Negev town of Sderot. The rocket attacks came despite an announcement by the leader of Islamic Jihad halting these attacks.
        "We will continue to hit them with a heavy hand until there are zero incidents," Defense Minister Mofaz said during a visit to IDF units on the border with Gaza. "This artillery battery behind me is not just for show. It's operational and sighted in and will react against any Kassam rocket attack," he said. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also IDF Leaflets Warn Palestinians: Don't Stay Near Terrorists - Shmulik Hadad
    The Israel Defense Forces have dropped leaflets in Arabic over the northern Gaza towns of Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia, used as launching sites for Kassam rockets: "The ongoing terror incidents coming from your area are causing the IDF to boost its response against those who endanger the safety of Israeli citizens. We once again call on the Palestinian Authority to take responsibility and prevent these criminal acts. The IDF warns you not to stay in areas in which terror activity is taking place." (Ynet News)
  • West Bank Hamas Plans New Attacks in Spite of "Lull" - Amos Harel and Arnon Regular
    Hamas cells in Ramallah and Hebron in the West Bank have resumed trying to carry out attacks against Israeli targets, even though the organization's leadership remains officially committed to the "lull" in the violence, Israeli defense officials said Tuesday. This assessment is based on intelligence information, and not only on the recent kidnap and murder of Jerusalem resident Sasson Nuriel. (Ha'aretz)
  • Hamas Liaison with Saudi Arabia Nabbed - Etgar Lefkovits
    A senior Hamas operative who served as the liaison between Hamas operatives in Saudi Arabia and activists in the West Bank is under arrest, police said Tuesday. Ya'akub Abu Assab, 33, of eastern Jerusalem, was apprehended last month. Assab received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Saudi-Arabia-based Hamas officials, as well as directives for Hamas operations which he passed on to activists in the West Bank. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Mubarak: Sharon's Moves Thwart Peace - Ali Waked
    Prime Minister Sharon is taking a number of negative steps which undermine the peace process and hurt the prospects of political negotiations, Egyptian President Mubarak said in interview in the Egyptian newspaper Roz al-Yusuf on Tuesday. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • If You Lie Down with Missiles - Yoel Marcus
    The Palestinians haven't learned a damn thing. They have a morbid knack for making the biggest, most stupid mistakes whenever the door opens a crack and a chance comes their way to establish a state alongside Israel. What prompted them, after the Oslo accords were signed, to send suicide bombers into the heart of Israeli cities? Why, the moment the Barak, Arafat and Clinton summit ended at Camp David, did they kick off the Al-Aqsa Intifada that left 4,000 people dead on both sides? He who goes to bed with Kassams should not be surprised if he wakes up with a boom. (Ha'aretz)
  • Heart of Darkness - Fouad Ajami
    The remarkable thing about the terror in Iraq is the silence with which it is greeted in other Arab lands. Zarqawi has been skilled at exposing the moral emptiness of so much of official Arab life. The extremist is never just a man of the fringe: He always works at the outer edges of mainstream life, playing out the hidden yearnings and defects of the dominant culture. In the way he rails against the Shiites (and the Kurds), Zarqawi expresses that fatal Arab inability to take in "the other." Zarqawi and the band of killers arrayed around him must know the meaning of this great Arab silence. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Observations:

    Palestinian Militants Gather Post-Disengagement Momentum - IDF Brig. Gen. Michael Herzog (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

    • In the unsettled aftermath of the Israeli disengagement from Gaza and parts of the northern West Bank, only one camp seems clearly to know where it is heading - the militant Palestinian Islamist groups, led by Hamas. These groups now profess their intention to continue their violent campaign in and from the West Bank.
    • The relative calm accompanying Israeli disengagement did not arise from PA enforcement, but rather from Hamas's self-restraint. Hamas sought not to bear the blame for any interruption of the Israeli pullout and was also sensitive to the preference of most Palestinians, manifested in opinion polls, for a relative calm.
    • In the meantime, the militant groups are strenuously developing their armed capabilities. There are ongoing efforts to extend the range and improve the performance of rockets, as well as extensive attempts to smuggle arms and introduce rockets into the West Bank. Militant groups believe that rocket attacks could play an even greater role from the West Bank since the biggest Israeli population centers and most vital infrastructure are highly vulnerable to trajectory fire from the West Bank.
    • A new terror offensive from the West Bank is likely to meet an intolerant Israeli reaction. Israel is better positioned to cope with a terror threat emanating from the West Bank; in recent years it dismantled most terror infrastructure there and now has the ability to enter and exit West Bank cities at relative ease according to security needs.

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