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Friday, 29 November, 2002, 12:46 GMT
Analysis: Al-Qaeda takes on Israel?
Israeli father and son prepare to leave Kenya in the wake of Thursday's attack
More than 200 Israelis were evacuated

If, as seems likely, al-Qaeda was responsible for the double attack on Israelis in Kenya, its motive could well be to rally Arab opinion against the "war on terror" declared by US President George W Bush by focusing more sharply on Israel as the target.

Al-Qaeda may be trying to reshape the battle into the west versus the rest.


Until now, Israel has not been a primary target for the al-Qaeda network

If that is so, then governments supporting Mr Bush will have to work even harder to maintain the support of moderate Arab opinion, and will also find themselves an ally of a man whose policies many of them abhor - Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

The entry of Israel into the war has important implications, both practical and political.

On the practical side, Israel will bring its own special tactics to bear.

The Defence Minister, Shaul Mofaz (until recently the chief of staff), said of the Mombasa perpetrators that "our hand will reach them".

This sounds like Golda Meir, the Israeli prime minister in 1972.

She ordered secret assassination squads into action against the leaders of the Palestinian Black September Organisation whose assault on the Munich Olympic games led to the deaths of 11 Israelis.

Western targets

Politically, Israel has lost no time in aligning its own war against Palestinian extremism with the wider war against Osama Bin Laden.

"The road from 9/11 through Chechnya to Bali and now Mombasa is a clear one", said an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman flown to Kenya to help in the bomb aftermath.

Israeli Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went even further, suggesting that the attacks showed the dangers of setting up a Palestinian state.

Now Israel has been touched, al-Qaeda can expect to feel the long arm of the Israelis which the Palestinians have experienced

Yet setting up such a state is seen precisely as the solution to the Middle East conflict by many western and other governments.

Israel has always been an enemy for Osama Bin Laden.

He compares it to the kingdoms of the Crusaders who were eventually pushed out of the Holy Land by the Muslim warrior Saladin (to whom, incidentally, Saddam Hussein also compares himself).

But until now, Israel has not been a primary target for the al-Qaeda network, which has concentrated on American and other western citizens and interests.

'Wrath of God'

The attacks appear to provide an answer to what Abdul Bari Atwan, editor of the newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi in London, described as the "anger" in the Arab world that Israel had not been touched.

Now that it has been, al-Qaeda can expect to feel the long arm of the Israelis which the Palestinians have experienced.

Israeli passenger faints after arriving back aboard the aircraft that was attacked
The holiday jet that was attacked was carrying 261 passengers
Just how the Israeli secret service Mossad will tie in with the many other intelligence services already in the field remains to be decided. But its history is one of seeking its own solutions.

The 1972 example might be instructive. After the Munich massacre, Golda Meir set up a secret cabinet group called Committee X.

It ordered Mossad to assassinate the leaders of Black September and this Mossad proceeded to do.

The operation was called "Wrath of God" by later writers - though probably not by Mossad itself, whose style is rather more discreet.

Independent actions

Over the following few years, a dozen Palestinians were killed all across Europe.

Mossad agents often used their favoured weapon, a Beretta .22 pistol. One victim was blown up by a booby-trapped telephone.


Israel also uses its armed forces to strike abroad

There was one notorious mistake when a Moroccan waiter was mistaken for a Black September leader in the Norwegian town of Lillehammer and paid for this error with his life.

An important aspect of the operation was the way in which the assassination squads were set up. They acted independently, being given only the names of targets and access to money.

In this way, they had much more freedom to act and could distance the Israeli Government from their actions.

But Israel also uses its armed forces to strike abroad as well. In 1985 it bombed the PLO headquarters in Tunisia.

In 1988, a commando team surrounded the villa used by the second in command of the PLO, Abu Jihad, and shot him.

In Palestinian legend, he fell with his gun in his hand.

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The BBC's James Reynolds
"Mossad will take on the search for those who struck in Kenya"

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23 Nov 02 | Country profiles
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