ZOA: Report On Consolidation of Al-Qaeda In Gaza Underscores Need For Israel To Launch Counter-Offensive In Gaza
August 20, 2008



The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has noted the recent report produced by Lt.-Col. Jonathan Halevy, ‘Al-Qaeda Affiliate – Jaish al-Islam – Receives Formal Sanctuary in Hamas-Ruled Gaza,’ as underscoring the need for Israel to launch a military counter-offensive in Gaza to prevent the further consolidation of terror groups threatening Israel. The report, produced under the auspices of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, demonstrates the following:


·        Except for Fatah, the other Palestinian terror organizations in Gaza enjoy full freedom of movement under Hamas rule. These groups include Islamic Jihad (directly tied to Iran); the Popular Resistance Committees (an extreme Islamic organization with leanings toward al-Qaeda); Al-Ahraar (a terror organization established and controlled by Hamas); the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades (of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine of George Habash); and the offshoots of al-Qaeda in Gaza: Jaish al-Islam (the Army of Islam; an al-Qaeda branch in Gaza), the Army of the Umma (identified with al-Qaeda), and Fatah al-Islam (an additional branch of al-Qaeda). Jaish al-Islam strongly identifies itself with al-Qaeda, posting statements and videos on jihadi websites along with photos of Osama bin Laden, and adopting his agenda.


·        In a previous agreement between the two groups, Hamas had given Jaish al-Islam $5 million and more than a million Kalashnikov bullets in compensation for its freeing of BBC journalist Alan Johnston. Jaish al-Islam also received formal recognition from Hamas as a legitimate jihadi organization, and it was agreed that joint actions carried out in the past would not be revealed.


·        In surveys presented to the Olmert government in July 2008, the head of the Israel Security Agency, Yuval Diskin, pointed to the strengthening and accelerated arms buildup of Hamas under the cover of the cease-fire agreement with Israel, including Hamas acquiring longer range missiles that could strike Kiryat Gat and perhaps even Ashdod. Hamas is mining extensive areas in the Gaza Strip, is building bunkers, and is raising the level of training and preparation of Hamas forces. Diskin added that since the lull, four tons of explosive materials, fifty antitank missiles, light weaponry, and materials for manufacturing rockets (iron pipes and gunpowder) had entered Gaza.



Statements by senior Israeli government, defense and security establishment figures regarding Gaza:


·        Former Labor Party leader and Defense Minister, Benyamin Ben Eliezer: “I admit and confess – I was with those who strongly supported [former prime minister] Ariel Sharon, and today I say with my head held high: We erred, we made a very big mistake … [such a withdrawal can only work when territory is] handed over to responsible hands and anchored in agreements and international guarantees. Here we have a precedent — a territory we left turns into a base for terror ? period ? Israel must respond, what else? … Israel continues to say ‘I bind myself to ethical obligations,’ that no other country in the world binds itself to … There is a contradiction here between two disciplines … One nation is prepared to commit suicide and sees it as a mitzvah and an honor, and another wants to spare every ounce of blood” (Jerusalem Post, November 8, 2007).

·        Former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya’alon: “the unilateral approach that drove the disengagement plan has failed and Israel must abandon it. The disengagement is seen by the other side as Israel fleeing.” The IDF should launch a massive land deployment in Gaza in order to ‘cleanse’ the land of the rocket threat, without the need to establish long-term control or reoccupy the area. “The problem in Gaza will not solve itself and no one will solve it for us. It requires us to reach the terrorists and the areas in which they operate, and strike at the industry of terror. We did this during Operation Defensive Shield, and before that operation we were unsure about whether to proceed. Today, you must be blind not to realize the necessity of entering Gaza” (Haaretz, May 26, 2007).

·        Shin Bet Director Yuval Diskin: “in another two or three years, it will be very difficult to deal with the problem called the Gaza Strip” (Haaretz, March 13, 2007).

·        MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud) “The picture being drawn for us is grave … I call on the government to launch Operation Defensive Shield II, in the Gaza Strip” (Haaretz, March 13, 2007).

·        Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh (Labor): the government made a mistake by withdrawing from the Gaza area without an agreement with a responsible Arab authority (Israel National News, November 15, 2006).

·        MK Yuval Steinitz: the only way to keep Gaza from turning into southern Lebanon was to launch an “Operation Defensive Shield II” and to recapture the Philadelphi route, the border between the Strip and Egypt (Haaretz, November 14, 2006).

·        Maj.-Gen. Dror Almog, OC, IDF’s Southern Command, 2002 -2003): “From a military point of view, there’s no question it was a mistake to leave [the] Philadelphi [corridor]” (Jerusalem Report, November 13, 2006).

·        Pensioners Minister Rafi Eitan: “we need to sit on the Philadelphi Corridor for a long period of time” (Jerusalem Post, October 22, 2006).

·       Industry and Trade Minister Eli Yishai: Israel needs to find a way to reassert control over Philadelphi Corridor (Jerusalem Post, October 22, 2006).

·        Shin Bet chief, Yuval Diskin: Egypt has not combated World Jihad cells operating within Sinai and the peninsula is thus flooded with weapons smugglers (Haaretz, June 6, 2006).

·        Current Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman, Tzahi Hanegbi (Kadima) and former Officer Commanding Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Ground Forces, Maj.-Gen. Yiftah Ron-Tal, have acknowledged that last year’s Israeli unilateral withdrawal from Gaza was a mistake (Jerusalem Post, October 4 & 5, 2006).

·        Col. (ret.) Moti Yogev, Ex-Gaza Division Commander: short-term offensives against Gazan terrorists are ineffective, the IDF must conquer both northern Gaza & the Egypt-Gaza border: “It’s true that in general military activity must be accompanied by negotiations … but in this case, the Qassem rockets are a direct result not only of the terrorists who fire them, but of the wantonness, lack of professionalism and irresponsibility of this government and its ministers ? The government is not implementing the most basic effective measures to fulfill its basic responsibility to protect the citizens of Sderot and the western Negev” (Israel National News, April 25, 2006).

·        Former Israeli Defense Minister, Moshe Arens: “The security establishment must not forget … that the Qassem [rockets] being fired on Ashkelon are being fired from areas that were abandoned as part of the Disengagement. The army must therefore return and conquer these areas, and only in this way will we be able to stop the rockets from being fired at us (Israel National News, April 25, 2006).

·        MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud): “It is clear that our withdrawal from the Philadelphi Corridor and our reliance on the Egyptians has proven to be a failure. The Egyptians are not acting … in reality their behavior has drastically increased the amount of weapons smuggled into Gaza” (Jerusalem Post, January 10, 2006).


ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “The consequences of Israel’s 2005 unilateral retreat from Gaza and in particular its relinquishing of control over the Philadelphi Corridor are becoming plain for all to see – more weapons smuggling, consolidation of terrorist groups, more danger for Israel, less security and quiet.


“The ZOA and many seniors in the Israeli defense and security and political establishment has urged repeatedly that Israel undertake a major military operation in Gaza to deal with the consolidation of terrorist groups there and to stop the rocket attacks. We have particularly urged the retaking of the Philadelphi Corridor, along the Gaza/Egypt border, as the only effective means for Israel to end the smuggling of offensive weaponry into Gaza. Israel must also retake northern Gaza to put an end to the firing of rockets striking Israeli cities and towns like Ashkelon.


“We again strongly urge the Israeli government to stop ignoring the serious deterioration in security in Gaza and take action to secure Israel.”


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