Former IDF Chief of Staff: Al-Qaeda Sees Gaza as "Safe Haven," Establishing Base

(Forward) Ori Nir - Al-Qaeda operatives are establishing a base in Gaza for launching attacks against Israel and neighboring pro-American Arab regimes, Israeli security officials say. Israel's former military chief of staff, retired Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon, told the Forward in an interview that in the wake of Israel's withdrawal from Gaza in August, al-Qaeda began to see the area as a safe haven. "What we are recently identifying is the entrance of various so-called vanguard, precursor elements - al-Qaeda operatives without a doubt - who are coming with a long-term plan to establish an infrastructure there." "They are already there to take advantage of the negative potential in Gaza: the instability, the chaos, the lack of Palestinian Authority control. They will use it to establish an operational base or to control, from there, al-Qaeda cells in the West Bank." Israeli officials are concerned that al-Qaeda operatives could smuggle in missiles with longer ranges than the Kassam rockets that Palestinian militants currently use or bring in stronger explosives for suicide bombs, Ya'alon said. "Israel is a preferred target, whether on its own merits or as a symbol of the West." Israel has become a more attractive target for al-Qaeda with the growing influence of the organization's leader in Iraq, Abu-Mus'ab al-Zarqawi. "Zarqawi has been saying for some time that after the battle in Iraq is won, the next phase will be the liberation of the Al Aqsa" mosque in Jerusalem, said Yoram Kahati, a former Israeli intelligence officer and now a research fellow at the Institute for Counter-Terrorism of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. "The battle for Palestine, as Zarqawi sees it, is the ultimate one," said Kahati.

2005-12-30 00:00:00

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