With the Israeli government declaring early today that it will have no more dealings with Yasser Arafat, and as military forces step up attacks on Palestinian Authority positions following Wednesday’s terrorist blitz, security sources say there is growing evidence that Arafat has been working for some weeks to lead the Middle East into a major new conflict. They say this could be part of a larger effort to bring much of the world to war. Although the evidence is still mainly circumstantial at this point, they maintain it is substantial enough to be taken seriously by regional and international leaders.
The security sources point out that several recent Palestinian terror attacks appeared to be joint operations carried out by groups that Arafat is supposed to be suppressing, working with terrorists connected to his own PLO Fatah movement. More ominously, they seem to have coordinated their operations with the Iranian and Syrian backed Hizbullah militia stationed in southern Lebanon.
The December 1st twin suicide blasts and subsequent car bomb explosion in Jerusalem bore the marks of the radical Shiite Lebanese group, they said. That was even truer of Wednesday nightâ€™s ambush of a civilian bus outside the Judean town of Emmanuel, which left 10 people dead and around 30 wounded. They noted that the operation was obviously well planned and executed. Three camouflaged snipers detonated a roadside bomb to stop the vehicle, then opened fire on bus passengers and surrounding cars, and on rescue personnel who quickly arrived on the scene.
Security officials pointed out that the Fatah-run â€œAl-Aksa Martyrs Brigadesâ€ took initial responsibility for the militia-style attack, followed by the militant Hamas movement. They say it is very likely that both groups participated in the major operation. They say this decreases to near zero the chances that Arafatâ€™s security agents had no prior knowledge of the planned assault. A claim by Palestinian West Bank Security Chief Jibril Rajoub that the horrendous attack was carried out by a lone Hamas activist working with his friends to avenge his brotherâ€™s recent death was dismissed as patently absurd by Israeli officials.
Just before the deadly bus ambush, two suicide terrorists tried to kill Israeli civilians outside a Jewish community in the southern Gaza Strip. That attack was traced to the militant Islamic Jihad terrorist group. Israeli authorities believe it was deliberately timed to take place at the same hour as the bus ambush, increasing the political impact of the two attacks and thereby provoking a stronger Israeli military response (which is continuing today).
Security sources say that the typically weak condemnation issued by Arafatâ€™s office last nightâ€”denouncing the attacks while also decrying â€œthe continued Israeli escalation, bombardments and assassinationsâ€ in Palestinian-ruled zonesâ€”sent a mixed signal at best to the terrorist groups, and probably indicated Palestinian Authority approval, if not actual participation, in the assaults.
The informed sources say last nightâ€™s attacks add to growing indications that Arafat has decided to provoke an all out war in the region in an attempt to save his skin. They say this is the only explanation for his almost total failure to close down the terrorist networks operating in his midst.
They say Arafatâ€™s excuse for inactionâ€”that he is too weak to take on the popular terrorist movementsâ€”is ridiculous given that he has eight heavily armed security services and around 40,000 paramilitary policemen. They believe that the relatively small terror networks could be crushed within hours if Arafat really wanted to do so. The fact that he has basically defied the United States and the European Union (which provide most of his foreign aid) by arresting only a token number of known terrorists is a strong indication that he has something else up his sleeve, they warn.
Security officials suspect that Arafatâ€™s apparent war plan is being coordinated with Lebanese Hizbullah forces and Saddam Hussein, with probable knowledge and approval of Syria and Iran, and possibly also North Korea. They point out that the radical Lebanese militia and the Iraqi dictator both fear that they will be future targets of the American-led anti-terror campaign. If so, they may surmise that they have little to lose by â€œdefendingâ€ Arafat from the despised Ariel Sharon. Indeed, such action would surely bolster their images in the wider Muslim world, and thereby possibly help put off American military action against them.
An even graver scenario is worrying some Israeli officials, according to security sources. They fear that North Koreaâ€”which is closely allied with Syria and Iran, and has also provided weapons to Saddamâ€”may be willing to attack U.S. forces stationed along the border with South Korea in order to preoccupy the giant superpower as major fighting breaks out in the Middle East. Israeli leaders were said to be extremely concerned when the state-controlled Rodong Sinmun newspaper accused the Bush administration on Sunday of planning to attack the Communist country after it is finished with Afghanistan.
Israeli security officials say their worst nightmare is that Osama bin Laden will somehow escape from Afghanistan, carry out one or two more massive terror attacks in America and/or Europe, while certain Muslim countries and North Korea launch military offensives against Israeli and U.S forces. They say this frightening scenario has also occurred to Egyptian leaders, prompting the unusual visit by Egyptâ€™s foreign minister to Jerusalem last week. They warn that the tense regionâ€”and the entire worldâ€”could be sitting on a powder keg much larger than most people might imagine, with Yasser Arafat and his comrades possibly getting ready to light the fuse.