Tuesday, August 2, Al Qaeda claimed the establishment of a Gaza branch called “Al Qaeda-Palestine, Jihad Brigades in the Border Land.” (This is an al Qaeda locution meaning warfront.) The announcement, accompanied by a video tape, appeared on Websites normally reserved for releases on major al Qaeda strikes, such as the Madrid, London and Saudi bombing attacks and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s operations in Iraq. It is therefore to be taken seriously. The statement came out three days after the DEBKAfile exclusive disclosure of al Qaeda’s purported theological grounds for attacking Israel, as expounded in its new monthly magazine, From the Tip of the Camel’s Hump.
Al Qaeda’s Palestinian gunmen performing on the tape claim the new organization is already in action and assume responsibility for firing rockets at the Israeli communities of Neve Dekalim and Gunei Tal in the Gaza Strip Saturday night, July 30.
Military tests revealed that Sinjal rockets, which are used by the Jihad Islami and are inferior even to the hit-or-miss Qassam missiles, were indeed fired at those two places. The gunmen who are heavily masked sounded very much like Gazan Palestinians.
Israeli intelligence experts on al Qaeda have three diverse theories to explain the new development.
1. This theory holds that the three most violent Palestinian groups, Hamas, Jihad Islami and the Fatah-al Aqsa Brigades, established a new umbrella organization to execute terrorist and shooting attacks against Israel’s withdrawal operation in two weeks while eluding the charge of flouting Abu Mazen’s orders. This theory does not fully explain al Qaeda’s introduction to the Gaza Strip.
2. Al Qaeda’s agents infiltrated the Gaza Strip through northern Sinai, the Palestinian arms smuggling gangs who work both sides of the Rafah border or Hizballah cells in Gaza, and set u p a new organization based on the Hamas and Jihad Islami.
3. The Palestinian Popular Committees which bring together the al Aqsa Brigades and other terrorist splinters has split into feuding elements, one of which may have joined up with al Qaeda, promised allegiance and collaboration and received funds. That money would have paid for the film and the two attacks.
Whichever mechanism was used, it is clear that the international Islamist organization has made its first public appearance as a terrorist force present in the Gaza Strip. In every country, this hostile penetration would have captured top headlines and the security authorities and government would have been challenged for explanations. However in Israel today, the government, defense officials are media are so deeply immersed in the task of rooting out every last civilian and soldier from the affected territory against all opposition, that they are incapable of reviewing that task in the light of the new invasion.
It is becoming dangerous for both Israel and the United States to allow the Palestinians to use Gaza for an Al Queda base which can not only attack Israel, but recruit disaffected Palestinians to become suicide bombers in Iraq.