Can Gaza Become a Somalia or Yemen?

(Jerusalem Post) Matthew Levitt - The recent arrest of an organized cell in the northern West Bank inspired by al-Qaeda's ideology is a stark reminder of the expanding threat facing Israel from radicalized individuals who are ideologically aligned with al-Qaeda and are eager to globalize the assault on Israel. The ability of West Bank Arabs to travel and study abroad creates opportunities for radicalization and recruitment, but the area's relatively strong and growing civil society makes it less amenable to the development of organized Salafi-Jihadi groups. While even small cells or lone wolves could potentially carry out significant terrorist attacks, the threat is minimized by the strong Israeli and growing Palestinian security presence in the West Bank. While membership in Gaza's various Salafi-Jihadi groups totals just 200-300 combined, such groups nonetheless "think big" and are regularly plotting large-scale attacks, such as infiltrating Israel with booby-trapped trucks. Their capabilities have been significantly enhanced by the entry of several dozen foreign fighters starting in 2005, after Israel's withdrawal from Gaza. In 2009, reports emerged that some individuals who traveled to Iraq to fight U.S. forces have since turned to Gaza. They bring operational know-how and a globally driven ideology. According to a new Pew Research Center poll, 51% of Palestinians express confidence in al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden. If al-Qaeda's global jihad were to truly set roots in the West Bank or Gaza, it would markedly increase the nature of the terrorist threat Israel faces. The writer, a former U.S. counterterrorism official, directs the Stein program on counterterrorism and intelligence at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

2010-02-12 07:45:57

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