Al Qaedaâ€™s No. 2, Ayman Zawahri issued a declaration of war on the Palestinian Authority and Hamas in a videotape aired by the Arabic TV Al Jazeera.
An hour later, the Islamic Brotherhood of Justice (another name for al Qaedaâ€™s operational branch in the Gaza Strip) announced the launching of its Operation White Land, targeting the political and military leaders of Fatah and Hamas.
DEBKAfileâ€™s military sources also reveal that a rebellion has sprung up against the top Hamas leadership.
Olmert and Abbas nonetheless continue to act out a Pan-Arab diplomatic process at Washingtonâ€™s behest (see separate item on this page), which has as much chance of getting off the ground in Gaza as Fatahâ€™s Abbasâ€™ assurance that the kidnapped Israeli soldier, Gilead Shalit, would be freed very soon.
The Zuwahri statement assailed the legitimacy Saudi Arabia extended to moves for a Palestinian unity government at the Mecca peace conference as recently as Feb. 8. Negotiations between the two factions are bogged down anyway.
â€œThe leadership of Hamas government has committed an aggression against the rights of the Islamic nation by respecting international agreements,â€ thundered Ayman Zawahri Sunday. â€œI am sorry to have to offer the Islamic nation my condolences for the Hamas leadership as it has fallen into the quagmire of surrender.â€
The Gaza al Qaeda cell then defined the four missions of Operation White Land:
1. Targeting the most senior figures of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas leaders.
2. Focusing on group abductions rather than individuals, especially symbols of political corruption.
3. Beheading is ordained for members of these groups. Their executions and confessions will be videotaped and aired as they are in Iraq.
4. Blowing up Internet cafes and businesses selling alcohol; putting prostitutes to death to cleanse the streets of Gaza of prostitution.
Announcing these missions have won the sanction of Palestinian religious scholars, the communiquÃ© ends with the words: â€œOperation White Land has begun.â€
As for the revolt in Hamas, its Executive Force chief Jemal Jarah and his deputy, Yusouf a-Zahar (brother of Hamas foreign minister Mahmoud a-Zahar), accuse prime minister Ismail Haniyeh of being too soft with Abbas and Fatah and failing to follow through to victory on the battles they fought for weeks against Fatah. Determined to finish the job, Hamas rebels were back on the streets of Gaza this week, shooting and abducting their rivals, the Mecca Reconciliation Accords already a dead letter.
DEBKAfile adds: Shalit, who was abducted in June 2006 has become a counter in internecine Palestinian rivalries. He is guarded by two of the groups which kidnapped him, including members of al Qaeda. With the control of affairs in the Gaza Strip slipping out of the hands of prime minister Haniyeh, it is hard to see how any progress can be achieved towards gaining his freedom.