Al-Qaida's new Internet TV channel on Wednesday branded Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas a "collaborator with the Jews," accusing him of assisting Israel in its war on Hamas.
The attack on Abbas is the first of its kind by Al-Qaida and is seen by some Palestinians as an indication of the terror organization's growing involvement in Palestinian affairs.
PA officials in Ramallah expressed fear that Al-Qaida was seeking to undermine Abbas by inciting against him through its broadcasts.
"This is a very dangerous development," said a senior official. "Al-Qaida and other Islamic terror groups are trying to replace the Palestinian Authority with a radical regime."
The new TV channel is called Sawt Al-Khilafah (Voice of the Caliphate), a reference to the Islamic empire that emerged after the death of the prophet Muhammad. One of Osama bin Laden's declared goals is to reestablish the empire that once stretched from Turkey to Spain.
The attack on Abbas coincides with reports that Al-Qaida has been trying to establish its own terror cells in the Gaza Strip following the Israeli withdrawal from the area.
A masked anchorman with a Koran at his elbow and a rifle next to him accused Abbas of "collusion" with Israel and said he was a man who was leading his people "from one failure to another."
The anchorman claimed that Abbas and Israel were responsible for the explosion that took place during a Hamas rally in Gaza City two weeks ago. At least 20 people were killed and more than 120 injured when a Kassam rocket exploded accidentally during the event, held to celebrate the Israeli withdrawal.
Referring to the recent Israeli clampdown on Hamas, the anchorman said: "What's happening in the Gaza Strip is being done with the help of Abbas and his aides, who are all collaborators with the Jews, with the aim of undermining the jihad [holy war]," he said.
Wednesday's news program began with a report about the kidnapping and killing of Israeli businessman Sasson Nuriel of Pisgat Ze'ev in Jerusalem. Hamas has claimed responsibility for the killing of Nuriel, whose body was found near Ramallah last week, four days after he was kidnapped.
The broadcast claimed that Nuriel was an Israeli "security officer" and that the kidnapping and murder was in response to Israeli "crimes" in the Gaza Strip. The report concluded with the following statement: "This is only a little of what the Jews deserve."
Item No. 2 was dedicated to the Israeli air raids on the Gaza Strip and tensions between the PA and Hamas. The rest of the broadcasts focused on Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as famine in Nigeria. The TV channel expanded on "heroic" anti-US attacks launched by "Muslim warriors" in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The report on Nigeria was exploited to attack the Saudi royal family, which rushed to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina in the US while ignoring the plight of Muslims in poor countries. In another report last week, the TV channel told viewers how "the wrath of Allah [Katrina] visited the city of homosexuals [New Orleans]" and "the entire Islamic world overflowed with joy."
By leading its broadcasts with reports on the situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Al-Qaida is sending a message that the Palestinian issue is now on the top of its agenda.
A PA security source pointed out that leaflets signed by a hitherto unknown group called the Palestine Branch of Al- Qaida had been distributed recently in various parts of the Gaza Strip. The source said the leaflets included threats to assassinate Abbas and other senior PA officials.