Covert Syrian intelligence arm in al Qaeda-Lebanon sets up shop in Gaza

DEBKAfile Exclusive:

Our counter-terror sources report that the radical Fatah al Islam, which fought the Lebanese army for almost four months from a stronghold in the Palestinian Nahar al-Bard refugee camp, issued a bulletin on al Qaeda web sites Sunday, Dec. 2. It announced the start of operations against Israel from the Gaza Strip.

A video tape attached to the notice shows a Qassam missile fired from Gaza on Nov. 25, two days before the Annapolis Middle East conference.

Israeli intelligence experts have picked out at least one Chechen voice from the background effects on the tape, indicating for the first time the presence on Israel’s southwestern border of al Qaeda fighters from the Russian republic.

Israel security forces say it is hard to determine who controls the new arrivals – Syrian military intelligence or al Qaeda. In general, it is hard to keep track of the terrorists moving in and out of Gaza from Sinai.

In Lebanon, Fatah al-Islam was backed with arms and fighters from Syria at the cost of many Lebanese army lives. In its Gaza bulletin, the group claims it is capable of manufacturing the arms needed to fight Israel, just as it did in Lebanon.

DEBKAfile’s military sources report that in Lebanon, Fatah al-Islam fired heavy 220mm Katyusha rockets at Lebanese forces. They were not manufactured but delivered by Syrian and Lebanese arms smugglers.

The announcement is signed by Abu Mussa al-Moqadassi, almost definitely an alias. The group’s leader is Shaker al-Abessi, whom the Lebanese claimed had died in the Bahar al-Bard battle – until he turned out to have escaped to Syria. Abessi, a Palestinian born in a refugee camp near Jericho, travelled to Tunis in Yasser Arafat’s party in the 1980s. He was sent to a Libyan flying school and qualified as a pilot on Russian Mig-23 warplanes for Force 14, the Palestinian air arm. In 1993, after the Oslo framework accords were signed with Israel, Arafat moved to the West Bank and Abessi to Damascus, where he joined the pro-Syrian Palestinian terrorist faction led by Abu Mussa.

December 3, 2007 | 3 Comments »

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