Al-Qaeda is operating in the Gaza Strip and previously attempted to assassinate Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and other top leaders from Abbas' Fatah party, according to Palestinian security officials.
The officials, associated with Fatah, told WND assassination attempts against Abbas – including explosives planted in January along the route of his motorcade and reportedly intended for detonation while he was on its way to a meeting in Gaza and explosives found buried near his Gaza residence – were attributed to al-Qaeda cells in the Gaza Strip and to groups in Gaza working on behalf of the global jihad organization.
The Palestinian security officials said attempted assassinations of other top Fatah officials also were blamed on al-Qaeda, including the planting of explosives in a network of tunnels in Gaza in January that officials said were meant to kill Fatah's Gaza strongman Mahmoud Dahlan. At the time the explosives were discovered, Fatah blamed rival Hamas for the attempted bombings.
The security officials told said Abbas' Force 17 presidential guard units were in the process of undergoing advanced training to deal with the al-Qaeda threats.
They noted the increased activity of groups in the Gaza Strip claiming to work on behalf on al-Qaeda, pointing to recent attacks in Gaza against secular music stores, Internet cafes and a pool hall in which groups that state they work for al-Qaeda have claimed responsibility.
In October, a video of a masked terrorist claiming to represent "al-Qaeda in Palestine" was posted on the Internet threatening attacks against "those who blaspheme Islam, including "secular" Fatah officials. Statements made in the video also took credit for the assassination two weeks prior of Jad Tayeh, director of foreign relations for Fatah's General Security Services.
Al-Qaeda and Hamas: Ideological partners?
Last May, the al-Quds Islamic Army, a group claiming to work on behalf of al-Qaeda, distributed pamphlets in Gaza announcing it had set up shop in the Palestinian territories and would target Americans and "Zionists."
Also in May, Egypt announced terrorists who carried out a deadly triple-bomb attack in April in the Sinai resort town of Dahab trained for the operation in the Gaza Strip with local Palestinians. They said Gaza-based terrorists helped finance the attack, which was widely blamed on al-Qaeda.
In April, a new purported group, the Army of Islam, which claims to speak for al-Qaeda, announced an al-Qaeda leader as important as Osama bin Laden would soon reveal himself in the West Bank and Gaza and orchestrate local and global jihad from the areas.
In March 2006, Abbas became the first Palestinian leader to admit al-Qaeda infiltrated Gaza after Israel's withdrawal from the territory in the summer of 2005.
"We have indications about a presence of al-Qaeda in Gaza and the (West) Bank. This is intelligence information. We have not yet reached the point of arrests," Abbas said, after months of denying the global jihad group was able to infiltrate Palestinian territory.
Reuven Erlich, director of the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at Israel's Center for Special Studies, stressed the common ideological links between al-Qaeda and Hamas, which heads the PA government in a unity deal with Fatah.
The link, Erlich said, can be emphasized through Palestinian cleric Abdullah Azzam, who was al-Qaeda's ideologue and, until his death, Osama bin Laden's spiritual mentor.
"We found Azzam's picture on Hamas posters from Gaza and a lot of Hamas material," Erlich told WND. "Azzam's portrait in materials reveal that he is perceived by Hamas as one of the four 'outstanding figures' of the Islamic 'struggle' in Palestine and around the world."
Reprinted with permission of WorldNetDaily