http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A15913-2002Dec5.html 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 injured. 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." - ISN is currently hosted by Attrition.org To unsubscribe email majordomoat_private with 'unsubscribe isn' in the BODY of the mail.
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