Has Al-Qaeda moved to Syria?

relations between the USA and Syria are likely to worsen

The Israeli press published information that Damascus allowed 150 to 200 Al-Qaeda members to settle in the Palestinian refugee camp Ein el-Hilweh, not far from the port of Sidon in Lebanon. A group of commanders arrived there from Afghanistan via Damascus and Iran.

As the Israeli press wrote with reference to the information from Western intelligence services, the Al-Qaeda gunmen who arrived in Lebanon were also responsible for the recent mess in the refugee camps. The terrorists are trying gain the total control over the camp.

The Israeli daily Haaretz also wrote about new facts regarding Mohammed Atta. This man was the head of the Al-Qaeda group that hijacked the planes in the USA on September 11, 2001. As Washington believes, it was he who directed the first plane into one of the twin towers of the WTC. According to the version of the mentioned newspaper, Atta visited Syria two or three times. Osama bin Laden’s son, Omar, left Syria three weeks before the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington. After that, Omar visited Syria twice.

Western special services believe that Syria was something like a staging post for Al-Qaeda gunmen. Unlike other countries, Egypt, for example, there were no restrictions in Syria for members of this group. The Israelis thought that Syrian President Bashar Assad believed that there would not be grand geopolitical changes in the world after September 11 attacks. However, after the Americans started their military campaign in Afghanistan, the president had to change his position.

Syria stated that it was ready to cooperate with the Americans in the field of intelligence, when it came to Al-Qaeda. Haaretz wrote that this was simply Syria’s game of tactics. They did not want to reveal all information to the Americans. For instance, Syria informed America regarding Al-Qaeda groups in Germany. Yet, nothing was said about what Al-Qaeda was doing in Syria.

Nevertheless, Syria managed not to be included in the “axis of evil” with the help of such a position. The Israeli paper wrote that Syria was changing its position again, due to the permission that the country granted to Al-Qaeda terrorists. The clashes in the Lebanese refugee camp were initiated by Al-Qaeda gunmen who were guided by Afghan commanders. The fight for the control in the camp has not been finished, but Al-Qaeda is reportedly creating its new infrastructure there, something like a state within a state.

About 75 thousand Palestinian refugees found shelter in the Ein el-Hilweh camp. The authorities divide various Palestinian groups against each other. Israel believes that Al-Qaeda has joined the fight as well. The message from Haaretz was indirectly confirmed by a spokesmen for the Israeli government. The Israelis believe that finding a comfortable shelter in Syria was simply a question of time for Al-Qaeda.

If the information in the Israeli newspaper is true, then this will most likely worsen the relations between the USA and Syria. The Americans proclaimed that they attack countries that offer shelter to Al-Qaeda gunmen.

Palestinian military men in Lebanon have not yet confirmed the fact that Al-Qaeda has moved over to Syria. The USA is not rushing include Syria in the "axis of evil." Israel maintains its position. As Finance Minister Silvan Shalom stated, if there were no peace in the region, then “we would have to act.” One of Israel’s acts was to protest against the sale of the new batch of Russian SA-18 Igla anti-aircraft systems to Syria. The Israeli government said that Syria had already sent an adequate inquiry to Russia, but the transaction has yet to be finished.

Israel fears that the mentioned emplacements could become the property of Hizbollah, which is based in south Lebanon, close to the Israeli border. If they get hold of Russian anti-aircraft defense technology, then Israel's Air Force will have severe problems.

It is interesting that the information pertaining Al-Qaeda's penetration into Lebanon appeared simultaneously with the Israeli protest concerning the sale of the Russian arms to Syria. Israel has its own interests that do not always coincide with America's. The Israelis know perfectly well what to say and how to make the Americans act in favor of their interests. Russia will also have troubles if the information about Al-Qaeda in Lebanon is proven. It will be difficult to execute the arms transaction, as Russia is a member of the anti-terrorist coalition.

Sergey Borisov PRAVDA.Ru

Translated by Dmitry Sudakov

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