Israelis alarmed at prospect of 'jihadist tsunami' on borders

Jan. 7, 2014 at 3:50 PM
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TEL AVIV, Israel, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- Israel's security chiefs are increasingly concerned about what one analyst terms a "jihadist tsunami" building up around the Jewish state for the first time as al-Qaida groups emerge in war-torn Syria, turbulent Egypt and even in the Palestinian territories.

The Palestinian Authority's intelligence service in the West Bank, most of which is still directly ruled by Israel, recently warned of the "high probability" of a new Palestinian uprising against the 48-year-old Israeli occupation if the current round of U.S.-backed peace negotiations collapses, the reported.

It said the assessment was contained in a secret Palestinian report that also warned of increased activity by jihadist organizations, which are expected to build a network of terrorist cells in the West Bank, which the Palestinians want as an independent state.

The renewed peace effort currently led by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has largely stalled on hard-line Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's reluctance to agree to relinquish the West Bank, seized from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast war, and withdraw some 400,000 Jewish settlers living there.

In a separate report, analyst Ron Ben-Yishal cautioned it was "reasonable to assume" the peace effort, the latest chapter in a faltering process that began with the historic Oslo Accords of 1993-94, "will end in failure or in an unstable compromise hiding the seeds of the next conflict. ...

"The implications are clear: The second half of 2014 will be an explosive period filled with dilemmas. ... A jihadist tsunami is piling up on Israel's borders, mainly in Syria."

Israel has largely escaped the ravages of al-Qaida's global jihad, mainly due to Israel's deep penetration of Palestinian and other Arab militant groups since it conquered Arab lands in the 1967 war.

But the political turmoil triggered by the so-called Arab Awakening in January 2011, when pro-democracy uprisings toppled longtime Arab dictators like Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, who cooperated with Israel, shattered the establish order and plunged the region into upheaval and uncertainty, conditions in which al-Qaida thrives.

The powerful jihadist forces that have emerged in Syria and Iraq, as well as in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula that borders southern Israel, and now increasingly in Lebanon, on Israel's northern border, and Jordan, which lies between Israel and Syria, are seen by Israelis as a potent and growing threat.

That threat is magnified if these groups succeed in establishing jihadist emirates within striking distance of the Jewish state.

The Israeli intelligence establishment's main focus in this regard right now is Syria where the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and the al-Nusra Front are the main jihadist groups who are fighting to take over the Damascus regime, or at least set up their own statelet from which to operate.

In July, Military Intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi identified Syria as the main danger where "thousands of radical jihadist activists ... are basing themselves, not only to topple Assad, but to promote the vision of an Islamist religious state.

"Before our eyes, a global jihadist center is developing on our doorstep, on a large scale, which might influence not only Syria, and not only the state of Israel, but also Lebanon, Jordan and the Sinai Peninsula, and could impact the whole region."

So far, the jihadists have been involved in limited anti-Israel operations only from the Sinai wasteland.

But concern that this may change has been accelerated by the terrorist campaigns and wars raging around the Jewish state and which could harness deep-rooted Palestinian anger.

In November, it was discovered Israel has secretly held a Palestinian al-Qaida suspect, Samer Abdel Latif al-Barak, supposedly recruited by al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahiri himself, in custody since 2010 for planning terrorist attacks.

The same month, Israeli Special Forces killed three suspected Palestinian members of a jihadist cell south of Hebron in the southern West Bank carrying explosives and weapons. They allegedly were planning to kidnap a soldier.

Israeli officials said the men were part of a local organization rather than a major jihadist group.

But the discovery, and the subsequent arrest of 20 other suspected members, rang alarm bells in Israel that al-Qaida may be gaining a foothold in the West Bank and exploiting growing discontent with the floundering peace process.

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