First Published: 2002-12-07

PA uncovers Israelis posing as Al-Qaeda agents

Gaza security chief announces arrest of three Palestinians used by Israeli intelligence as al-Qaeda operatives.


Middle East Online

The Shin Beth has the means to do whatever it wants: Shbak

By Sophie Claudet - GAZA CITY

A senior Palestinian security official claimed Saturday his services had uncovered an Israeli plot to create a mock Al-Qaeda cell in the Gaza Strip, while an Israeli official dismissed the charge as "absurd".

Gaza head of preventive security Rashid Abu Shbak told journalists at a press conference that Israeli agents, posing as operatives of Osama bin Laden's terrorist group, recruited Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

"Over the past nine months, we've been investigating eight cases in which Israeli intelligence posing as Al-Qaeda operatives recruited Palestinians in the Gaza Strip," said Abu Shbak, referring to a series of e-mails and phone call conversations.

He added that three Palestinians had been detained.

Abu Shbak's revelations came two days after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon charged Al-Qaeda militants were operating in the Gaza Strip and in Lebanon, raising fears of an intensification of Israeli military operations.

A spokesman for Israel's foreign ministry branded the Palestinian claim "ridiculous" and "some kind of propaganda campaign," adding that "the Palestinian territories have become a breeding ground for terrorism.

"There is no need for Israel to make up something like this because (the hardline Islamic movements) Hamas, Islamic Jihad and (Lebanon-based militant group) Hezbollah are all the same as Al-Qaeda," spokesman Gilad Millo said.

"If... Sharon has made these allegations, he must be basing it on some evidence," he also said.

Abu Shbak said three Palestinians used by Israeli intelligence had been arrested, while another 11 were released "because they came and informed us of this Israeli plot."

He poured cold water on the theory that Al-Qaeda was operating in the occupied territories.

"Al-Qaeda doesn't recruit so easily and openly," Abu Shbak said.

The security chief said his services had traced back to Israel cellphone calls and e-mails in which Palestinians were asked to join Al-Qaeda.

He said the calls to the Gaza Strip purportedly came from Germany and Lebanon. One e-mail was even signed bin Laden.

"We investigated the origin of those calls, which used roaming, and messages and found out they all came from Israel," he told journalists.

"The Shin Beth - Israeli internal intelligence - has the means to do whatever it wants."

He said the Palestinians recruited were then paired unbeknownst to them with Israeli collaborators in Gaza.

He said they received money and weapons "although most of these weapons did not even work".

The money was provided by "Palestinian collaborators with Israel" directly to the new recruits or "was transferred from bank accounts in Jerusalem or Israel," Shbak said.

"We are sure that Israel is behind this and that there are absolutely no groups such as Al-Qaeda operating here," the security chief said, adding however "we can't say there will never be Al-Qaeda here, but at least not for now."

But neither did Shbak contest the fact that as many as 11 Palestinians had welcomed the call from Israel to join Al-Qaeda.

"Those who accepted were mostly members of the military wing of Palestinian organizations," he said.

International cooperation minister Nabil Shaath, who also attended the press conference, accused Sharon of trying to piggyback on the US-led 'war against terrorism' to justify "more attacks on the Palestinian people and violence in the Gaza Strip".

Sharon's announcement marked the first time Israel officially claimed that Al-Qaeda, held responsible for the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, was operating in the Palestinian territories.

It was considered a surprise because the Gaza Strip is virtually sealed off by Israeli troops.

The hardline Israeli leader also charged other members of the terror group were cooperating with Lebanon's Shiite militia Hezbollah.

The Lebanese government and Hezbollah had also dismissed the accusations.

Three Israelis and 10 Kenyans were killed in a suicide attack on a hotel near the Kenyan port of Mombasa last Thursday, shortly after missiles narrowly missed an Israeli charter flight taking off from there with 261 passengers.

The attacks were purportedly claimed by Al-Qaeda on an Islamic website.


Iran nuclear deal with six world powers gets parliament approval

Libya rival factions reject UN-proposed peace deal

Al-Nusra Front urges jihadists in Caucasus to target Russia

Wave of violence escalates in Jerusalem

Saudi to triple umrah visas

Ankara attacks raise Kurdish party's with Erdogan

German anti-Islam protesters demand Merkel resign

Palestinians accuse Israel of seeking ‘third intifada’

'Political coup' in Iraq Kurdistan as Barzani clings to power

Yemen PM meets President amid reports of growing differences

Libya factions reject UN-proposed unity government

Algeria orders closure of private TV over 'subversive' interview

Under Russia air cover, Syria regime fights ‘fiercest clashes’ with rebels

EU asks Russia to ‘cease’ air strikes on moderate rebels in Syria

Russian air force hit 53 targets in Syria in last 24 hours

Egypt court orders release of Mubarak sons

Iraq probing reports IS chief injured in air strike

Kurdish militia, Arab rebels join forces in Syria

Britain urged to accept more Syrian refugees

Thousands vent their anger against Erdogan

Putin meets Saudi Defence Minister on Syria

Barzani’s party asks opposition members to leave Arbil

Lessons from second intifada: Palestinian leaders seek to keep lid on clashes

Iran issues verdict on Washington Post correspondent

Iran lawmakers give partial nod to nuclear deal

Russia rules out Syria ground operation

Iran ‘successfully’ tests new long-range missile

Is Russia using cluster bombs in Syria?

Iraq air force ‘hits’ convoy of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Iran holds funeral for senior commander killed in Syria

Pregnant woman, two-year-old child die in Israel deadly strike on Gaza

Ankara bombings exacerbate climate of mistrust in Turkey

Thousands take to streets to demand departure of Barzani

Qaeda in Yemen executes four on suspicion of sorcery

Egypt agrees to buy two Mistral warships from France

Israel struggles to contain spreading unrest as death toll rises

'Terrorist' attack kills at least 86 people in Ankara

PKK Kurdish rebels declare ‘state of inactivity’

Bashir twists knife in Sudan wound as flawed dialogue kicks off

Syria Assad forces advance with Russia air support

Jordan parliament accuses Israel of 'state terrorism'

World leaders urge Libya rivals to sign long-awaited peace deal

Nobel Peace Prize boosts pluralistic democracy in Tunisia

UN chief hails Tunisian Nobel Peace Prize

Israeli troops kill 4 near Gaza border as Hamas praises 'Jerusalem intifada'