TEL AVIV - Israeli intelligence agents have provided U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice with a phone transcript in which Damascus-based Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Abdallah Shalah authorized the suicide bombing at the Stage nightclub in Tel Aviv last month.
The report in London’s Sunday Times also says that Israel has marked Shalah as a legitimate target for an assassination attempt as a result of the attack.
Last week, Rice said there was solid evidence that Islamic Jihad was responsible for the suicide bombing that killed five people and wounded dozens.
"There is firm evidence that Palestinian Islamic Jihad sitting in Damascus not only knew about these attacks, but was involved in the planning," she told American ABC television.
Israeli spokesmen have also blamed Islamic Jihad for the attack, and said that Syria also bears responsibility for providing Hamas with protection.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said there is no question the attack can be traced directly to Islamic Jihad in Syria. In addition, Foreign
The Foreign Ministry also sent delegates to Washington, Paris and London with information about Jihad’s involvement in the attack. Intelligence chief Gen. Aharon (Ze’evi) Farkash provided similar material to Israeli representatives of other European countries.
In addition, the British newspaper The Telegraph reported that Shelah has been kicked out of Syria and has taken refuge amongst Hizbullah supporters in Lebanon. Another report said Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal recently left Damascus for Qatar.
One spokesman for Abu Mazen’s Fatah group said the organization in Syria has been completely shut down: “The government closed all our offices, cut off our phones, and disconnected our email service.”
At least one commentator suggested Syria has taken the steps in order to improve its image as a haven for Palestinian terrorists in Damascus.