Intelligence officials in Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority are tracking active al-Qaida cells in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Five years after the September 11 attacks in the United States, Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network now has expanded its tentacles deep into the Palestinian territories. Both the Palestianian and Israeli intelligence services report that terrorist cells with connections to al-Qaida have been established. “We have evidence of a Qaida presence in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank,” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas recently conceded.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II, whose secret service has solid West Bank intelligence, has also confirmed activity within the terror cells. And in Israel, six Palestinians from a refugee camp will soon be brought to trial on charges that they are members of the al-Qaida network.
The lion’s share of the al-Qaida sympathizers are young Palestinians who have visited Koran schools in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia or Yemen. Foreign al-Qaida agents then recruit the fanatics after they return home to the Palestinian-controlled areas. Bin Laden’s agents are believed to be infiltrating the Palestinian areas through the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip at Rafah, the only border check-point that is controlled solely by the Palestinians. European Union border patrols are also stationed at Rafah, but they only have observer status and can do little to stop the problem.