MKs take Qaida threats seriously

Government spokesman says al-Qaida operatives have been inching closer to Israel in recent years.

Bin Laden 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Bin Laden 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee are taking seriously a threat made by al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in a new video this weekend. "The threat of al-Qaida is real," committee chairman MK Tzahi Hanegbi (Kadima) said Sunday. "They've struck in Lebanon, Australia, Indonesia, Madrid, New York and London. They can easily target the Middle East and we need to be prepared for that scenario." In a tape released over the Internet, bin Laden assured the people in "Palestine" that "we will expand our jihad to you. We intend to liberate Palestine, the whole of Palestine from the Jordan River to the sea." Government spokesman Mark Regev said al-Qaida operatives had been inching closer to Israel in recent years, and Israel was aware of the danger. "Israel takes bin Laden's threats seriously," he said. "We have seen al-Qaida activity to the north of Israel, in Lebanon, to the east of Israel, in Jordan, and... in Sinai. There is also evidence of al-Qaida activities in the Palestinian territories... We [would] be irresponsible not to take this rhetoric seriously." Israeli intelligence officials have kept a close eye on al-Qaida operatives they believe may be operating in the Gaza Strip. According to a recent report given to the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, al-Qaida was training terrorists in the Gaza Strip. Also Sunday, committee members took a tour of Israel's northern border and met with high-ranking Northern Command officers. Hanegbi said the military had been effective in crippling Hizbullah during the Second Lebanon War. "We used to fear that [Hizbullah leader Hassan] Nasrallah would rise to power and eventually become president of Lebanon," he said. "But Israel's response has weakened him. Hizbullah now understands that Israel will not tolerate any infringement on its sovereignty." Likud MKs, however, said that while Israel was effective during the war, Hizbullah had managed to rearm. "The army is less vain and more prepared nowadays," MK Silvan Shalom said. "But despite the diminishment of Hizbullah's activities along the border, it is important to address the threat of their long-range missiles. UNIFIL [the multinational UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon] has no deterrent power." The current calm was a "ruse" to allow Hizbullah to rebuild its infrastructure, he added. In a report to the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee last month, IDF intelligence officials said Hizbullah had rebuilt infrastructure south of the Litani River, the same area that Israel had sought to clear of rocket launchers during the war. On Monday, the committee will release its official report on the IDF's effectiveness in the war. It will be available on The Jerusalem Post's Web site ( after 12 p.m. AP contributed to this report.