“I didn’t join the navy to fight for al-Qaida in a Syrian civil war,” read one sign posted on Facebook.
They know that al-Qaida has become a leading force in the anti-Assad opposition. In Lebanon, al-Qaida is poised to overthrow Hezbollah as the Lebanese turn against the “Party of God” for their intervention in Syria on behalf of President Bashar Assad. In Sinai, al-Qaida cells are consolidating their hold and are preparing for future action.
Will we wake up to Israel-v-al-Qaida in in close combat in 2014? While the world’s attention is on Syria, al- Qaida prepares to take over power in Lebanon, on Israel’s northern border.
The Abdullah Azzam Brigade launched a rocket attack against Israel on August 22. Initially, Israel thought this was yet another Hezbollah attack. It turned out that this new terror group was responsible. The Abdullah Azzam Brigade was founded by Saleh bin Abdallah al-Qarawi, a Saudi-Arabian operative of al-Qaida. He fought in Iraq, and was badly wounded by an American missile in Afghanistan. Though no longer a fighter, he is still stirring up serious interference by forming cells close to Israel.
The group is named after a Palestinian Arab, Abdullah Yusef Azzam, who was assassinated in Pakistan in 1989, but whose ideology was adopted by Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida. The brigade has a branch in Lebanon located inside the Palestinian refugee camps, mainly Ein al-Hilweh near Sidon.
The Lebanese branch also goes by the name of Ziad al-Jarrah Companies, and its mission is to launch attacks against Israel from its positions within the country. It recently announced a jihad against UN peacekeeping forces there. Ziad al-Jarrah may be a familiar name to American intelligence as he was one of the 19 terrorists responsible for the September 11 World Trade Center bombing in 2001.
With Hezbollah in disarray in Lebanon, the Abdullah Azzam Brigade killed one of their leaders near the Lebanon-Syria border in July. A month prior to that, it released a statement condemning Hezbollah for its involvement in Syria. This al-Qaida affiliate will become one of the leading players in Lebanon’s domestic conflict that will surely spill over onto the Israel side of their border.
On September 1, Egyptian forces arrested Muhammed Ibrahim, the leader of al-Qaida in the Sinai Peninsula, in a bloody battle in which he attempted to explode two hand grenades while resisting arrest.
Egypt had previously arrested Ibrahim for the 2005 attack on the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh that killed 88 people. Ibrahim managed to escape in a planned major breakout from four Egyptian jails in March 2011, which was part of the 2011 revolution against the Mubarak regime. Many al-Qaida operatives, including Ibrahim, managed to escape capture and return to Sinai.
Ibrahim is accused of planning the Sinai attack in 2012 that killed 25 Egyptian soldiers.
Lawlessness has increased in Sinai since the removal from power of the Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi. Terrorists continue to infiltrate Sinai and join up with rival groups with al-Qaida being the most prominent.
Israel is happy to have the Egyptian army do battle with them but it knows that, eventually, Israel will be the prime target for a consolidated Sinai-based al- Qaida. There is little doubt that the terror group is itching to have a go at Israel and an IDF intervention may only be a matter of time.
Despite efforts on the Iraq-Syria border, hundreds of al-Qaida trained terrorists, and trucks filled with heavy and light weapons, have been flooding into Syria in a repeat of the Libyan scenario. One Iraqi official said that the ancient towns of Nineveh and Anbar have become “land bridges for the transportation of weapons and ammunition from al-Qaida’s huge arsenal built up over its years of existence in Iraq.”
The funding of the al-Qaida operations in Syria comes from Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf state who are increasingly disillusioned with America’s lack of leadership on Syria.
The Turkish military are training Syrian rebels many of whom are al-Qaida operatives. Turkey is also providing heavy weaponry including anti-tank and anti-aircraft rockets, mortars and heavy machine-guns.
Al-Qaida leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, openly urged “the free people of Syria and its mujahideen” to overthrow Assad “the leader of criminal gangs.”
Western impotence is allowing al-Qaida to play an affirmative role in the Syrian opposition to Assad. It is increasingly clear that any victory over the Assad’s Alawite coalition will be led by al-Qaida forces that will not then go silently into the night but will remain in Syria as a spoiler for other conflicts in the region, the prime target of which will be Israel just over the border on the Golan Heights.
Faced with the mounting evidence of al-Qaida successes in the region can anyone deny that Israel will not be forced to confront al-Qaida across its borders, or even within Israel, in 2014? The writer is the author of ‘Israel Reclaiming the Narrative.’