Hezbollah, al-Aqsa and Islamic Jihad Coordinating Attacks
With the Jewish holiday of Purim underway, Israel fears and Palestinian terrorist groups warn of attacks on civilians during their celebrations. As al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades relies heavily on suicide bombers, Qassam rockets and mortar fire into Israeli towns, Zakariya Zubeidi, al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades’ Jenin leader, said recently that the Palestinian terrorists have ‘a few surprises’ in store for the Israelis. One of those surprises may have been a bold new tactic of planting roadside bombs in advance on Israeli streets where Israelis gather to celebrate Purim.
Aaron Klein adds detail to reports that two teenage Palestinian would-be bombers were arrested at an Israeli checkpoint. They were not suicide bombers. In their car, they had 45 pounds of explosives meant to be planted along streets and detonated during the crowded Purim celebrations. The IED roadside bombings strategy’s success in Iraq is being parlayed now by terrorists groups, including a sharp rise in Afghanistan and now an attempt at employing the tactic against Israel. The key unique challenge to Palestinian terrorists is physically getting to the point of attack through heavy Israeli border security.
Zakariya Zubeidi, a man not without Israeli friends, is a young and powerful Palestinian terrorist leader who once kept Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas waiting outside the gates of Jenin in order to prove as much. While al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades is a wing of Fatah, power struggles are endless and ideologies far from monolithic. Vital Perspective has translated an interview of Zubeidi that appeared recently in the German publication, Welt am Sonntag. In the article, it is noted that, when Zubeidi finally carried Abbas into town on his own shoulders, the crowd chanted “Zubeidi, Zubeidi, Zubeidi!”, not Abbas’ name (Abu Mazen). ”Mahmoud Abbas got the message.” (Another interesting look at Zubeidi can be found at al-Ahram Weekly.)
It has been noted by many that, while Hamas remains in power, the burden of Israeli attacks will shift squarely to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Zubeidi confirmed this point blank, saying, “Hamas will not carry out military operations in Israel during the next weeks and months. We, the Brigades and Jihad, will take over this role.” He also noted his plans to tighten the alliance between the long-time Iranian-backed PIJ and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and proclaimed that, contrary to recent statements denying such, al-Aqsa is receiving material support from Iran via arms, money and training from Hezbollah. The denial may have come from the PIJ, but can there be any doubt that, if al-Aqsa is receiving training, money, and arms from Iran’s Hezbollah, that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad most certainly is? In fact, Zubeidi went so far as to confirm that al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades coordinates terror operations with Hezbollah. “Without the help of our brothers in Hezbollah we could not have continued our struggle. They give us money and weapons. We coordinate our military operations.”
Israeli Intelligence says that Iran is urging the Palestinian Islamic Jihad to increase attacks on Israel in the run-up to the March 28 elections. It also claims Hezbollah is planning attacks and announced a state of alert along the Israeli-Lebanese border.
Israeli towns, especially Ashkelon just north of the Gaza Strip and towns in the Negev to the east of Gaza, are under fire from Palestinian rockets and mortars on a daily basis. This goes largely unrecognized. Meanwhile, as Israeli forces storm a Jericho prison in an attempt to secure the murderer of an Israeli minister before security at the prison erodes further, more violent Palestinian demonstrations are afoot.
Add to the existing threat the specter of potential al-Qaeda involvement and escalation, and the scope and sheer scale of attacks on Israelis may be set to increase exponentially.
With both the Purim celebrations ongoing through Wednesday and the coming Israeli elections in two weeks, the probability for major attacks on Israelis is high. From the same interview, Zakariya Zubeidi pointed to prepared suicide vests and declared his intention to ”do everything in my power to bomb Netanyahu to victory,” preferring Netanyahu’s direct, confrontational style to that of Olmert or his predecessor, Ariel Sharon. Unquiet days lie ahead.