First Sinai-based Al Qaeda cell to infiltrate the West Bank eliminated in Hebron hills
DEBKAfile Special Report November 28, 2013, 9:44 AM (GMT+02:00)
The three terrorists killed by Israeli forces in the southern Hebron village of Yata Tuesday, Nov. 26, were depicted officially as a band of “Salafi jihadists,” a vague term meant to cloak their real identity. debkafile’s counterterrorism sources disclose that the trio represented the first al Qaeda cell to infiltrate the West Bank from Sinai, either through Jordan to the east or the Gaza Strip to the south.
Hence the combined army, Shin Bet and special anti-terror forces deployed to expeditiously deal with the menace.
The Sinai-based cell is believed to have landed in the Hebron area of Judea and Samaria in the past month as the precursors of a major network. Their job was to build infrastructure to accommodate an al Qaeda offshoot of the Sinai organization fighting the Egyptian army. The trio’s first step was to recruit operatives for the launch of a big terrorist campaign against Israel as well as the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.
Those plans included a coordinated attack launched synchronously by the new cell on central Israel and non-al Qaeda allies from the Gaza Strip and Sinai.
In Ramallah, they planned to blow up PA offices and attack Palestinian security officers. Israelis and Palestinians were to be snatched as hostages.
The three terrorists, whose identities have not been released by Israeli authorities - unlike their usual practice - brought with them bags of money for the purchase of weapons, explosives, vehicles and radio equipment. They rented buildings in Palestinian villages in the Hebron area for use as command centers and safe houses. Before they were killed, Israeli forces rounded up a number of local Palestinian collaborators.
The discovery of the first Sinai-based Al Qaeda network on the West Bank for operations against Israel, has spurred an urgent Israeli investigation to find out how its vanguard reached Judea and Samaria, whether though the Gaza Strip or by means of a new route out of Sinai via Jordan. Since Israel completed its security fence along its border with Egyptian Sinai, smugglers and other infiltrators have been using an alternative gateway into Israel.
Using Bedouin smuggling boats to cross the Gulf of Aqaba by night, they steal into southern Jordan, lay up there for a day or two and then cross into Israeli at some point in the desert Arava region between Eilat and Yotvata. From there, the terrorists cross from Israel into the Hebron hills at the southern end of the West Bank, where sympathizers are waiting with cars to pick them up.
Prime Minister Binyain Netanyahu has given orders for another security fence to be set up along the 168 kilometers of the southern section of the Israeli-Jordanian border between Eilat and the Dead Sea. Meanwhile, the IDF is on the lookout to block the wide-open infiltration route used by the three jihadists.
The Israeli security authorities now suspect that Al Qaeda elements in Sinai, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon are working hand in glove to plant more cells in the West Bank for attacking Israel. In consequence of Middle East unrest and the Syrian war, Al Qaeda forces are currently embedded around Israel’s borders at jumping-off points in Sinai, the Gaza Strip, Syria Lebanon.