Yadlin: Al-Qaida entered Gaza during breach

Yadlin says combat experts, weapons also brought in, nuclear-armed Iran likely by 2010.

Amos Yadlin 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Amos Yadlin 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
OC Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin said Tuesday that trained terrorists and al-Qaida operatives had entered the Gaza Strip through the recently breached border with Egypt. In a briefing to the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Yadlin said that "the breach of the border along the Philadelphi route has enabled Hamas to bring back to Gaza activists that were sent to undergo training in Syria and Iran, including snipers, explosives experts and engineers." Yadlin referred to the incident on January 23 in which Hamas members blew open the fence between the Gaza Strip and Sinai, allowing hundreds of thousands of Gazans to break the blockade on the Strip by streaming into Egypt. Yadlin estimated that large amounts of money and ammunition had also made their way into the Gaza Strip during the 12 days in which the border was open, and added that Gazans had spent more than $150 million on products that they purchased in northern Egypt. "They have also [set up] terror operatives in the Sinai, who could move into Egypt and launch terror attacks against Israelis," Yadlin said. MK Zvi Hendel (National Union-National Religious Party) said the situation in Gaza was reminiscent of Israel's silence as Hizbullah gained strength over the six years leading up to the Second Lebanon War. The same thing was happening in the Strip, he said, with bunkers being built and Hamas members assuming a military style of operation. Turning to Iran's uranium enrichment program, Yadlin said a nuclear Iran was "the greatest threat to Israel," and a threat that could become real by 2010. MK Silvan Shalom (Likud) said Israel must make the right diplomatic preparations to bring about the passage of new, tough sanctions against Iran in the UN Security Council. "Israel must prepare for the possibility of China and Russia trying to veto harsher sanctions," he said. "We must make it clear that Iran is developing long-range missiles that will be able to reach all European capitals, as well as southern Russia, and for this reason action against Iran must be decisive." Commenting on the assassination of Hizbullah's military leader Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus on February 12, Yadlin warned of a possible imminent retaliation against Israel. "From past experience, we know that many retaliatory terror attacks often come on the 40th day following such an assassination," he said. Yadlin said Hizbullah was having great difficulty moving in southern Lebanon due to the presence of the UNIFIL peacekeeping force, and that the terrorist group must also contend with unwanted comparisons to al-Qaida if it strikes targets abroad. According to Yadlin, Hizbullah is not interested in confrontation in Lebanon and does not want a "second round" with Israel, as it has yet to rebuild its forces following the Second Lebanon War. Neither does Hizbullah desire a civil war, because "it understands what the results would be," he said. Yadlin based his assessment on past instances in which the organization promised to retaliate for the slaying of a commander. He cited the 1992 truck bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, which followed the IDF's killing of then-Hizbullah leader Abbas Musawi. The embassy blast killed 29 people. Labor MK and former Mossad chief Danny Yatom responded that "Israel must be prepared prior to the end of the 40-day period, as well." Yatom also reacted to a report from Monday that Mughniyeh's widow blamed Syria for the killing. "The Syrian traitors are responsible for his death," Army Radio quoted her as telling a press conference in Teheran. "Damascus's refusal to allow Iran to investigate the incident is further proof," she said. Army Radio reported that in the months leading up to the assassination, there had been rumors of bad blood between Mughniyeh and Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah. Mughniyeh, according to the rumors, was trying to usurp Nasrallah and take over as Hizbullah leader. Immediately after the assassination, Syria declared it was leading an investigation and even went so far as to arrest a number of suspects. Damascus, however, has refused to allow the Iranians to participate in the probe. AP contributed to this report.