From a DEBKAfile Exclusive Report, December 19, 2005, 1:37 PM (GMT+02:00) ...
Since early December, a branch of Abu Musab al Zarqawi’s al Qaeda in Iraq has been running a forward base in Gaza City preparatory to in-depth attacks in Israel, according to DEBKAfile’s exclusive counter-terror sources. It joins the Al Qaeda-Palestine cell established some weeks ago in the Gaza Strip.
A high-ranking Israeli army officer confided to us: “For years, we fought al Qaeda in unpublicized encounters in remote places far from our borders. Now we have to admit they are here, on our very threshold ... The conjunction of al Qaeda and Palestinian terrorist structures confronts Israel with a grave strategic threat.”
... Intelligence chiefs informed the prime minister that the new cell linked up with the local branch of the Palestinian terror umbrella, the Popular Resistance Committees, which is headed by Shekh Khalil Kuka. The PRC welcomed the newcomer by making its publicity outlets available. Since Monday, Dec. 5, PRC Internet websites have been posting daily bulletins on Zarqawi’s attacks on US and Iraqi targets which often run to 20-30 communiques a day.
These bulletins are now released simultaneously in Baghdad, Gaza, Rafah and Khan Younes. In Gaza, they appear alongside a PRC statement declaring: “The Palestinian and Zarqawi’s struggles are one and the same.”
It is the first time that a Palestinian combat-terrorist organization has aligned itself directly and openly with al Qaeda’s commander in Iraq. Yet, although no attempt has been made to conceal this alliance, it has received no publicity in Israel.
DEBKAfile’s sources report that Israeli counter-terror agencies are quietly working on the premise that the Popular Resistance Committees of Gaza and the Fatah-al Aqsa Brigades of the West Bank plan to make their operational structures available to Zarqawi’s cell for in-depth attacks in Israel.
Meanwhile, the new cell is not letting the grass grow under its feet. Its leaders have managed to enlist the support of the Bedouin clans of southern Gaza, which number tens of thousands of tribesmen, thereby substantially expanding their logistical base. Al Qaeda’s Sinai cell, which Egypt has been unable to root out, already counts on northern Sinai’s Bedouin clans for logistical support.
The pledge of solidarity issued by Gaza’s Khan Younes and Deir Balah Bedouin chiefs declares: “We are now committed to following Zarqawi’s flag.” It condemns the Bani Hassan Bedouin tribe of Jordan for reprimanding and expelling members who joined al Qaeda and accuses their chiefs of capitulating to the rulers of Jordan.
...In July and August, 2005, ahead of Israel’s evacuation of the Gaza Strip, DEBKAfile warned that Zarqawi and al Qaeda’s terrorists were waiting for the pullback to establish forward bases in the Gaza Strip. Four months later, they are poised for action on Israel’s borders.