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Sources: Al-Qaida could use non-Arabs to attack Israel

Ze'ev Schiff, Haaretz | September 25 2006

Shin Bet and other intelligence units have been put on special alert after Ayman Al-Zawahiri, an Al-Qaida strongman and Osama Bin Laden's deputy, said Israel was on Al-Qaida's list of upcoming targets. Intelligence sources said Al-Qaida could try to execute a surprise attack using non-Arabs.

Zawahiri is believed to be taking over the leadership of Al-Qaida, due to Bin Laden's illness. Zawahiri and Bin Laden have apparently disagreed over whether Al-Qaida's next target should be in a Western state or in the Middle East. Bin Laden wanted to act in the United States and Europe while Zawahiri, who is of Egyptian origin, wished to achieve goals in the Middle East; namely, Israel and the Arab states that cooperate with it.

Zawahiri pushed to set up Al-Qaida cells in Sinai, taking advantage of the Bedouin economic plight to carry out terror attacks against Egyptian targets and Israeli tourists. He initiated terror acts in Jordan causing dozens of fatalities and was behind the idea to intercept an aircraft carrying Israeli tourists to East Africa and attack the hotel where Israelis were staying in 2002.

About two weeks ago, on the anniversary of September 11, Zawahiri warned in a video recording that Israel and the Gulf states could be Al-Qaida's next targets of attack. Such attacks would be aimed at destroying the Western economy. Israel increased its preparations for a preemptive strike following his warning.

Israel assumes that Al-Qaida will try to recruit non-Arabs to act against Israel, as it tried to enlist Africans for the attacks in East Africa. Israel knew of this activity, but had difficulty cooperating with the Americans to thwart it. However, Israel's cooperation with European intelligence brought about the arrest of Al-Qaida people in East Africa.

The most commonly cited surprise attack in Israel was the bombing of Mike's Place in Tel Aviv by two Britons of Pakistani origin who were sent by Al-Qaida.

The two, who smuggled explosives into Israel, moved freely between Israel and the territories with their British passports. About a month ago, British authorities exposed British-born Al-Qaida activists of Pakistani origin, who were planning to crash passenger airplanes over the ocean with liquid explosives.

Another possibility Al-Qaida is believed to be considering is infiltrating Israel via Lebanon.

Israel today faces two main fundamentalist groups - Sunni Al-Qaida and Shi'ite Hezbollah.

Hezbollah is set on harming Israel, but it is hardly likely at this stage to allow Al-Qaida to act independently in Lebanon without supervision.

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