Wednesday, March 02, 2005

As the World Turns

This caught my eye - I particularly like the denunciation of sinister outside forces.

Whatever else that Iran and Syria can do, probably the biggest vulnerability for the US and its allies lies in the main arena of combat in the region, namely Iraq. Bad as the situation there is now, for the Americans and the locals, Hezbollah's weapons and experience - although their experienced fighters in Lebanon probably only number in the dozens - would allow them to cause terrific chaos.

Palestinian militants denounce Tel Aviv bombing
By Harvey Morris in Nablus,West Bank
Published: February 28 2005 18:21
Palestinian militants, including a leader of the Islamic Jihad group claimed to be behind Friday's Tel Aviv nightclub bombing, on Monday denounced the attack and said it was the work of outside forces.

As Israel announced a diplomatic offensive against Syria, which it alleges was behind the bombing that killed five Israelis, a wanted Fatah militia leader said: "It is clear that some resistance cells are infiltrated. We are not in a position to name Syria or Hizbollah but probably there is money coming from abroad."

Mohamed Dandan, leader of Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in Nablus's Balata refugee camp, said individuals claiming to be linked to Lebanon's Hizbollah organisation had made intensive efforts to contact Palestinian militants to persuade them to break the present ceasefire.

He said a man identifying himself as Qais Obeid, a Lebanon-based Israeli Arab said to be behind the October 2000 Hizbollah kidnapping of an Israeli businessman, had been in touch with West Bank militants.

However, Mr Dandan would not confirm a report that the caller had offered them money to take responsibility for Friday's bombing.

He said Palestinian factions refused to be tools in the hands of any outside force. "We understand the difference between the local and the regional struggle against Israel," he said. "We can see an end to our struggle but perhaps Hizbollah and Syria and Iran cannot see an end to theirs."

Mr Dandan and a West Bank leader of Islamic Jihad said their organisations were committed to the ceasefire declared between Israel and the Palestinians three weeks ago.

The Israeli killings of militants seem to have encouraged a newfound reticence on the part of the terrorist groups. Viral marketing perhaps?

As Islamic Jihad leaders went to ground for fear of Israeli reprisals, its spokesman, a well-known figure in Nablus who has served time in Israeli jails, declined to be identified by name.

Regardless of the bloodshed, the political situation seems to have turned a corner, with the hard men realising that violence will ill-serve Palestinian interests.

"Frankly, it's the first time I've been distressed to hear about a suicide bombing in Israel," he said. "It came at a time when we had a consensus to preserve quiet to allow the Palestinian Authority to pursue a political breakthrough with Israel."

Although the Palestinian bomber said in a video he was acting for Islamic Jihad and a claim of responsibility was posted on an Islamic Jihad website, the Nablus leader rejected Israel's assertion that the bombing was ordered by the group's exiled Damascus leadership.

Both militant leaders said the situation in Lebanon supported a theory of Hizbollah involvement. They said Israeli retaliation against the organisation could give Syria a pretext to keep its troops in the country in the face of international and increasingly vocal Lebanese demands for their withdrawal.

The Israeli government on Monday gave foreign ambassadors an intelligence briefing on Syria's alleged involvement in the bombing. A foreign ministry spokesman said the aim was to try to ensure that today's London conference on Palestinian reform was not limited to economic issues but also stressed the necessity of a war against terrorist organisations.

Mahmoud Abbas, the PA president who will head the Palestinian delegation in London, said at the weekend that an unnamed third party was behind the Tel Aviv bombing.