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Friday, August 06, 2010

Who was behind Eilat/Aqaba rockets?

Zvi points out two separate Ha'aretz reports of who was behind the rockets that were shot towards Eilat on Monday.

One says that Hamas was behind it - but not Hamas in Gaza, rather Damascus leader Khlaed Meshaal, possibly itching to get back in the action:

The commander of Hamas' military wing in Rafah, Raed al-Atar, is responsible for ordering the firing of Grad-type Katyusha rockets at Eilat and Aqaba from Sinai earlier this week, Palestinian security officials say.

Security sources told Haaretz that according to an investigation by Palestinian intelligence, Atar was behind the rocket attacks authorized by the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip, without the knowledge of the Hamas military commander there, Ahmed Jabari.

But Palestinian security sources said Atar carried out the attack with the approval of the Hamas leadership abroad and with the backing of Iranian intelligence agents, who appear to have initiated the mission.

The sources said the attack had been approved by the Hamas politburo chief, Khaled Meshal, based in Damascus.

Atar, who in recent years has greatly increased his power and influence in the Gaza Strip, particularly in Hamas' armed wing, is now asserting greater authority over the tunnels in which goods are smuggled from Sinai into Gaza.

According to intelligence sources, a number of militants under his control crossed into Sinai through the Rafah tunnels, where they were met by Egyptian drivers and the Grad-type Katyusha rockets. They drove in off-road vehicles toward Taba on the Red Sea coast, avoiding security checks by the Egyptians.
Jordan has its own theories: an Al Qaeda offshoot.

A Jordanian political source told Haaretz yesterday that Jordan has exchanged intelligence with Egypt; the information Jordan now has suggests that it was not Hamas that fired the rockets, but a radical religious group that opposes the Palestinian Islamist group in charge of the Gaza Strip.

The assessment is that the group is Al-Tawhid wa al-Jihad, which collaborates with Sinai Bedouin who are at odds with the Egyptian authorities. The Jordanian source says Egypt is also not blaming Hamas but mentions "Palestinian factions" as responsible for the rocket attacks.

In May, a group of Shi'ite separatists in Yemen sent Haaretz documents claiming that Sami al-Mutairi, a Kuwaiti citizen known as Abdullah al-Hajj, is in charge of Al-Qaida's activities against Israel from Palestinian territory. Mutairi was convicted of killing an American in Kuwait several years ago.

Mutairi, who was released from prison in 2007, sent to his supporters in the Gaza Strip a total of $850,000 through a Saudi citizen, Abdullah al-Dusri, who visited Gaza from Sinai carrying the money in a suitcase.

Mutairi gave orders to buy weapons in Sinai for militants in the Gaza Strip, and to purchase apartments in Khan Yunis and Rafah where the militants could hide.

The militant leader ordered his contacts in Gaza to hide the arms so they would not be confiscated by Hamas. One letter mentions that Al-Tawhid wa al-Jihad had already acquired 25 Grad-type Katyusha rockets, which it hid in plantations in Sinai and Gaza.

Meanwhile, Hamas says that they would have been happy to take credit for the attack if they were behind it, but that they refuse to do any operations outside of "historical Palestine" - the entity that they define according to lines drawn less than a hundred years ago.

Palestine Today says that the Ha'aretz article blaming al-Atar is a pretense for Israel assassinating him, and that no Palestinian Arab officials said that.