Military Intelligence Chief Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin said Tuesday that the al-Qaeda terror organization is seeking to widen its base in the Middle East by dispatching hundreds of operative to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt.
"Dozens, if not hundreds, of al-Qaeda operatives arrived in Lebanon. These operatives are trained and have terror knowledge. According to estimates, the organization's number 2, Ayman al-Zwahiri, gave orders to operatives to spread in Syria, Lebanon and Egypt," he told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
He said that Lebanon is the weakest link among the four Arab destinations as its security forces are relatively weak, warning that members of the United Nations peacekeeping forces in the country, as well as western targets, are most likely to be attacked.
In the Gaza Strip there are a handful of al-Qaeda operatives while a few operatives were arrested in Nablus.
The terror organization's intentions to launch attacks in Israel are no secret and al-Zawahiri has made public calls for Israel to be destroyed.
Yadlin said that Iran will not halt uranium enrichment and is using a 60-day ultimatum given by the United Nations Security Council to push forward with uranium enrichment.
He said Iran's policy is to convey the message that the international should stop calling on it to halt uranium enrichment because "it is too late."
He added that although the sanctions imposed on Iran are "soft," they are of great importance.
According to Israeli estimates Iran will be able to produce a nuclear bomb by mid 2009 at the earliest, barring technological obstacles and foreign interventions.
Syria's guns are down
Yadlin told committee members that Syria lowered its alert level to pre-war standings, easy fears that Damascus is preparing for war with Israel.
He said however that Syria continues to assist Hizbullah in replenishing its arms stocks.
Turning his attention to the Palestinian front he forecasted a continuation of violent confrontations between Hamas and Fatah, saying that Hamas will continue to gain strength.
He said that in 2006, 77 potential suicide bombers were arrested, 45 of whom were arrested with explosives belts strapped to their bodies.
He said that Israel's successful thwarting of suicide attacks led to an increase in Qassam rocket attacks from the northern Gaza Strip.
He added that in the course of 2006, 1,200 rockets were fired at Israel, 700 of which landed in the country.