US strike on Bin Laden akin to killing of Sheikh Yassin

Analysis: Security establishment fears bin Laden's demise is "blow to terrorists' morale," may push cells to speed up their attack plans.

May 3, 2011 01:57
3 minute read.
A Palestinian boy looks at a photo of bin Laden.

boy looks at photo of osama bin laden_311 reuters. (photo credit: Abed Omar Qusini/Reuters)


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Seven Israeli Arabs who were arrested last year for murdering a Jewish taxi driver and carrying out a string of terrorist attacks against Jews and Christians never met Osama bin Laden or any of his deputies. The same was the case with the 24-year-old Hebrew University student Muhammad Najem who allegedly plotted shooting down former US President George W. Bush’s helicopter during his visit to Israel in 2008.

The Jaljalat al-Qaida-affiliated organizations that operate in the Gaza Strip such as the Army of Islam – which was involved in the 2006 abduction of Gilad Schalit – are also not organizationally connected to Afghanistan or Pakistan. They share an ideology, pass on technical information by the Internet and call themselves the same name.

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That is because while bin Laden was a leader at one point of a clear hierarchical organization, in the years since the 9/11 attacks the Israeli and US intelligence communities share the assessment that he has served more in a position of a symbolic figurehead.

Al-Qaida has in the meantime metastasized into a worldwide network of independent terror cells which might share the same ideology and browse the same websites but very rarely ever get to meet one another for joint terror operations.

As a result, his death is perceived in Israel at least as more similar to the 2004 assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the wheelchair-bound Hamas spiritual leader who was killed by an IAF missile as he left a mosque in the Gaza Strip.

So, while bin Laden’s death will most likely serve as a blow to the terrorists’ morale, it will not prevent them from continuing their attacks against the West and particularly the United States, Israel and Europe.

The al-Qaida cell behind the latest bombing in Morocco and the al- Qaida infrastructure in Yemen, which is believed to have been behind a foiled plot to send explosive parcels to the US last year, are not going to be affected by the loss of their spiritual leader bin Laden. On the contrary, Israeli assessments are that bin Laden’s death will more likely motivate these organizations to take immediate action and to speed up terror plans already in play.

Despite this assessment, the Counter-Terrorism Bureau in the Prime Minister’s Office decided to refrain from altering any of the existing travel advisories. A senior official explained on Monday that Israeli embassies, consulates and representatives were already on high alert amid fears of Hezbollah plans to attack them to avenge the 2008 assassination of its military commander in Damascus.

Nevertheless, the same assessment holds that Israel is one of the primary targets for al-Qaida and will continue to remain so for the coming years. Bin Laden repeatedly referred to Israel and Palestine in his speeches and al-Qaida-affiliated terror cells were behind the attempt in 2002 to shoot down an Israeli passenger plane in Kenya, a bombing of a synagogue in Djerba, the bombing of Jewish targets in 2003 in Morocco, of a synagogue in Istanbul that same year and additional attacks as well.

Recent years have also seen the proliferation of al-Qaida ideology among Palestinians in the West Bank and Israeli-Arabs, mostly via the Internet, which is Global Jihad’s greatest propaganda tool. At the same time, Israel has warned of the growing presence of Global Jihad terrorist infrastructure along its border.

Al-Qaida cells were believed to have been behind the firing of a Katyusha rocket into Eilat from Jordan in 2005 as well as the launching of rockets from southern Lebanon in recent years. They are also believed to be operating in the Sinai Peninsula.

These cells search for unstable countries, places they can operate freely without fear of capture. With the Middle East continuing to change and Syria sliding further into disarray, the threat against Israel will likely continue to grow with or without Osama bin Laden.

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