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[ISN] Al Qaeda Web Site Calls Israel New Target


By John Mintz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 6, 2002; Page A36 

An Internet site claiming to represent al Qaeda says the terrorist
network has decided to launch suicide attacks against a new target,
Israel, and says its goal is the destruction of the Jewish state.

U.S. officials said they believe the Web site, www.mojahedoon.net,
indeed speaks for al Qaeda, and that intelligence officers have been
monitoring it for some time.

News of al Qaeda's new anti-Israel focus comes a week after two
terrorist attacks against Israeli interests in Kenya that U.S.  
officials believe were carried out by al Qaeda. A suicide car bombing
of an Israeli-owned hotel near Mombasa killed 10 Kenyans and three
Israelis, along with three terrorists, Nov. 28. In a separate attack
minutes earlier, several air-to-ground missiles were fired at an
Israeli passenger jet flying from Kenya to Tel Aviv. No one was

Terrorism experts say al Qaeda's announced entry into the struggle
between Palestinians and Israelis is a disturbing development that is
likely to set off new violence.

"The idea that al Qaeda is establishing a special cell to focus on
Israelis is horrifying news," said Rachel Bronson, director of Middle
East Studies for the private Council on Foreign Relations. Al Qaeda's
role could be extremely destabilizing, she added, because "it will be
weighing in on the side of Hamas," the Palestinian Islamic group that
launches suicide bombings against Israeli civilians and has been
deemed a terrorist organization by the U.S. government. Hamas
staunchly opposes peace with Israel and declares its entire territory
Muslim land.

The group's announcement came shortly before President Bush, meeting
at the White House with leaders of Kenya and Ethiopia, said that
progress was being made against al Qaeda. "Slowly but surely, we're
dismantling an al Qaeda network, and that inures to the benefit of all
the countries of the world," Bush said.

Earlier this week, the Palestinian Authority denied accusations by a
top Israeli military official that al Qaeda already is operating in
the West Bank and Gaza. "These are cheap and untrue allegations," the
Palestinian Authority said in a statement released after a Cabinet
meeting in Ramallah.

The Web site announced formation of a new branch of Osama bin Laden's
terror network, the Islamic al Qaeda Organization in Palestine, and
said it will work to undermine any talks between Israel and the
Palestinian Authority. The talks, now suspended, have been aimed at
arranging an Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank
in exchange for an end to Palestinian suicide bombings in Israel. The
al Qaeda Web site said it rejects this course.

"Islamic al Qaeda in Palestine joins its voice with the voices of the
mujaheddin in Palestine in its resistance to the partial and
submissive solutions [land for peace], and will accept nothing but the
full liberation of the Palestinian land," said the al Qaeda Web site,
which was originally brought to light publicly and translated from the
Arabic by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), a
translation and research service.

The new Palestinian arm of al Qaeda "will defeat the Zionist Jewish
invaders [and] return them to the place . . . whence they came," the
site said.

The site also advises Hamas that it should stop engaging in shootouts
with Palestinian security forces loyal to PLO leader Yasser Arafat, at
least for now. The two groups of gunmen have been fighting
sporadically for months over issues including turf control in Gaza and
vengeance for past showdowns between the two sides.

"We call to the mujaheddin in the al-Nusseirat camp in the Gaza Strip
to immediately stop the fighting between Hamas and the people of the
Palestinian Authority," the Web site says.

Bronson said that while al Qaeda appears in this case to be mediating
between the secular Palestinian Authority and the fundamentalist
Muslim Hamas, bin Laden's true sympathies lie with Hamas.

"This means that when the Palestinian Authority takes on Hamas, it
will also be taking on bin Laden, which could be a problem" for
Arafat, given the widespread admiration for bin Laden among many
Palestinians, she said.

For years bin Laden and al Qaeda spoke mostly of Muslims' obligation
to oust U.S. military forces and the Saudi royal family from Saudi
Arabia. In more recent years, bin Laden has begun mentioning the
Palestinians' struggle in his list of perceived humiliations of
Muslims worldwide, usually in the same breath with the plight of the
Kashmiris, Bosnians, Afghanis and Iraqis.

Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert with the Rand Corp. research group,
said that al Qaeda's new attacks on Israel stem from "terrorists
looking for work.

"Al Qaeda . . . wants to appear relevant, to be a player in Middle
Eastern politics," Hoffman said.

Al Qaeda grew in the 1990s, during the period of the most promising
Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, in part by fomenting rage among
Muslim radicals against any peace with Israel, Hoffman said. This Web
site builds on that agenda, he added, and "amounts to pure cynicism."

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