Thursday, December 29, 2011

What's this? Iran losing terrorists? Surprise: Jihadists may remain neutral during any Israeli strike

By Aaron Klein
2011 WND

TEL AVIV – Iran may be losing one of its key allies and sources of influence in the Middle East – the Hamas terrorist organization.

According to well-placed sources within Hamas speaking to WND, the jihadist group has been asked by the Egyptian military to stay out of any future confrontation between Israel and Iran.

For the first time in recent years, Hamas, feeling confident from major Muslim Brotherhood gains in the region, is considering distancing itself somewhat from Iran, the sources said.

The group may even remain largely neutral if Israel strikes Iran's suspected nuclear sites, the sources said. The sources added, however, that no decision has been made.

Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood belong to the Sunni stream of Islam while Iran's leadership espouses fundamentalist Shiite Islam. While Iran has long supported Sunni groups like Hamas, the major differences in Islamic ideology and practice have always caused some unease.

Indeed, one of the most senior Hamas officials, speaking previously to WND on condition of anonymity, once said he would ultimately be pleased if Israel strikes Iran's nuclear sites even if it means scaled-back Iranian funding to his group. The Hamas official said he fears Iran would use a nuclear umbrella to enforce a Shiite superpower in the Middle East at the expense of Sunni ideology.

According to several Hamas sources, there has been tension between the jihad group and Iran over Hamas' decision to not aid Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in fighting an insurgency targeting Assad's regime.

That uprising has been supported by the Muslim Brotherhood. Syria is a major Iranian partner in the region.

Some Hamas leaders even speculated the group may move their political headquarters from Syria. Hamas chieftain Khaled Meshaal currently resides in Damascus.

According to recent Arabic language news media reports, Hamas has been quietly scaling back its Damascus headquarters.

Speaking last month to WND, Ahmed Yousef, chief political adviser to Hamas' de facto prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, confirmed reports his group is looking to move the headquarters of its top leadership from Syria.

"There are many places in the Arab world [that would welcome the] Hamas politburo," Yousef said.

Asked specifically where Hamas headquarters can move, Yousef replied: "There are many other countries. Jordan is there. Sounds like they are trying to open dialogue with Hamas. They might offer a place. Turkey, Egypt, Qatar; there are many places where [Hamas leaders] can find a safe haven to work and try to help their people in Gaza and the West Bank."

While Hamas might not come to Iran's aid in the event of an Israeli strike, sources in the Islamist group told WND the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad terror organization in the Gaza Strip is still firmly in Tehran's camp.

The Hamas sources said Islamic Jihad has very similar weaponry to Hamas, including a massive rocket arsenal capable of causing much damage to Israel.

WND reported in October on Iran's missile training in Gaza. Egyptian security officials said Iran has been preparing Palestinian terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon to retaliate in the event of Israeli strikes against Tehran's nuclear sites.

The chatter about Hamas' allegiances come after the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamist Salafi movement's Al-Nour Party saw considerable gains in Egypt's recent parliamentary vote.

Why? WND IMAM, BASEBALL AND APPLE PIE Muslim leaders to boycott NYC mayor's breakfast Concerned by NYPD efforts to infiltrate mosques

NEW YORK – Several Muslim leaders have declined invitations to the mayor's annual year-end interfaith breakfast, saying they're upset at police department efforts to infiltrate mosques and spy on Muslim neighborhoods.

The imams and activists said in a letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg that they're disturbed at his response to a series of stories by The Associated Press detailing New York Police Department intelligence-gathering programs that monitored Muslim groups, businesses and houses of worship.

Bloomberg has defended the NYPD, saying last week it doesn't take religion into account in its policing.

Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser acknowledged Wednesday that about a dozen people turned down the breakfast invitation. But he said "a couple dozen" more said they plan to attend.

The letter to Bloomberg contained the names of several dozen Muslim leaders and organizations and said they believe such police measures "threaten the rights of all Americans, and deepen mistrust between our communities and law enforcement."

"Mayor Bloomberg, the extent of these civil rights violations is astonishing, yet instead of calling for accountability and the rule of law, you have thus far defended the NYPD's misconduct," the letter said.

The Muslim leaders said they appreciate the mayor's staunch support a year ago during an uproar over a planned Islamic center near the World Trade Center site. But they said they were disappointed by what he said after the AP stories since August about the police department's efforts to infiltrate Muslim neighborhoods and mosques with aggressive programs designed by a CIA officer who worked with the department after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The stories disclosed that a team of 16 police officers speaking at least five languages was assigned to use census information and government databases to map ethnic neighborhoods in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Documents reviewed by the AP revealed that undercover police officers known as rakers visited local businesses such as Islamic bookstores and cafes, chatting up store owners to determine their ethnicities and gauge their views. They played cricket and eavesdropped in ethnic cafes and clubs.

The AP stories also revealed that one of the CIA's most experienced clandestine operatives began working inside the police department in July as the special assistant to the deputy commissioner of intelligence.

The CIA is prohibited from spying domestically. Its unusual partnership with the NYPD has troubled top lawmakers and prompted an internal investigation.

Bloomberg in October defended the arrangement, saying it was necessary in a dangerous world.

"There are people trying to kill us," he said. "And if the CIA can help us I'm all for getting any information they have and then letting the police department use it as -- if it's appropriate to protect you and to protect me."

The letter noted that Muslims comprise at least 10 percent of the city's population. It said the Muslims leaders were seeking a meeting with the mayor to discuss the issues raised by the reports.

"We believe it is unequivocally wrong and fundamentally misguided to invest law enforcement resources in religious or racial profiling, rather than investigating suspicious activity," it said. "We seek your clear, unambiguous, public support for the rights and privacy of all New Yorkers, including Muslims; and a condemnation of all policies that profile and target communities and community groups solely based on their religion or the color of their skin."

It also said: "We are deeply disturbed that to date we have only heard your words of strong support for these troubling policies and violations of our rights. We are equally disturbed by (police Commissioner Raymond) Kelly's denials of what we know to be true as verified by the leaked documents."

Kelly, meanwhile, met Wednesday evening at a Bronx mosque with two imams who weren't listed on the letter and with young fans of an NYPD youth soccer league, whose winners were presented with a trophy.

Read more:

'Drive to kidnap IDF soldiers up since Schalit deal'

Warning Hamas it will be hit hard in a future conflict, a senior IDF commander said on Wednesday that motivation to kidnap Israeli soldiers has significantly increased since the prisoner swap for Gilad Schalit.

According to Col. Tal Hermoni, commander of the Gaza Division’s Southern Brigade, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip are working to abduct Israeli soldiers and are digging tunnels that could be used in such an attack.

IDF trains for soldier abduction scenario
'Hamas refuses to abandon policy of IDF kidnappings'

“We believe that since there are additional Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails that these groups are working to kidnap soldiers,” Hermoni said during a briefing to reporters along the border with Egypt.

Hermoni said the abduction of a soldier would have “strategic significance” for Israel, and the IDF was working on several levels to prevent such an attack and to thwart one if it were launched.

He said orders about how commanders and soldiers should operate in an abduction attack were being clarified and explained to all the relevant ranks within the IDF.

The Jerusalem Post recently revealed that the General Staff was working to codify procedures that soldiers will be expected to follow if they have the opportunity to thwart the abduction of a comrade, even at the risk of endangering his life.

Turning to the border with Egypt, Hermoni said the IDF was investing new resources and putting in place intelligence- gathering systems to prevent attacks from Sinai. In August, eight Israelis were killed when terrorists crossed into Israel.

“We are speeding up the closure of the border with the [Sinai border] fence and plan to compete it by the end of 2012,” Hermoni said. “The challenges along the border are great. We are facing an increase in African migrants seeking refuge and work in Israel as well as criminal smuggling of drugs in addition to potential terrorist attacks.”

Senior IDF sources said, though, that with the closure of the Egyptian border, there was a fear that terrorists would try to cross into Israel from Jordan.

Turning to the third anniversary of the Cast Lead offensive, Hermoni said the IDF believed the deterrence that was created following the operation was still in place, and that Hamas was currently not interested in a renewed large-scale conflict with Israel.

“The IDF created a new security reality after Cast Lead; before then dozens of rockets were fired daily. Today that is not the case,” Hermoni said.

The brigade commander stressed that the army was prepared to carry out a large offensive if needed.

“We are ready at all times” he said. “Hamas will be the one to pay the price.”