Jerusalem – The Middle East Newsline has confirmed that the U.S. military has assessed that al-Qaida has infiltrated and taken over vast areas of the Sunni community in Iraq.
U.S. officials said al-Qaida has developed methods to rapidly take control of Sunni neighborhoods and cities in Iraq. They said Islamic operatives employ intimidation, bribes and indoctrination.
“They don’t generally have, actually, a high degree of support from the population,” David Kilcullen, a senior U.S. counter-insurgency adviser, said.
On Monday, Iraqi and U.S. troops killed and captured members of a network that facilitated the transport of weapons and explosives from Iran to Iraq. The network, based in Baghdad, also brought insurgents from Iraq to Iran for training.
In a May 25 briefing, Kilcullen, based in Iraq, outlined al-Qaida’s methods. He said al-Qaida relies on intimidation of Sunni communities and attacks on neighboring Shiite areas to ensure a cycle of violence.
“The very fabric of Iraqi society was torn as a result of that,” Kilcullen said.
The first step in the al-Qaida campaign has been to infiltrate Sunni areas. The infiltration begins with the arrival of al-Qaida-aligned clerics who demand a pulpit and take over mosques and schools.
With a base of operations, al-Qaida then attacks neighboring Shiite communities. The strikes, usually suicide bombings in public places, result in retaliation by Shiite militias.
“Those sectarian attacks polarize the community,” Kilcullen said. “They create tensions that make it very difficult to make progress on political reconciliation, and they further intimidate the Sunni communities, which tend to sort of close ranks in the face of the external threat.”
At that point, officials said, al-Qaida helps establish militias to protect against Shiite attacks. These networks, financed by al-Qaida, include criminals, foreign fighters and the unemployed.
Kilcullen said the U.S. military has sought to halt the flow of funds from smuggling and black market operations to al-Qaida networks. He said the effort has been focused on Baghdad, which contains a major al-Qaida presence in Sunni neighborhoods.
“Even if the extremists do manage to infiltrate, we’re trying to make it harder for them to attack the neighboring Shia communities,” Kilcullen said.
Kilcullen said the U.S. military has gated Sunni neighborhoods to secure them from al-Qaida infiltration. He said the walls constructed around these areas have reduced the flow of insurgents and weapons and increased the feeling of security.
Two Weeks Of Strife
During the past two weeks, the Gaza area has seen such violence:
* 280 missiles have been fired from Gaza into Israeli collective farms and villages.
* 2 Israelis have been killed.
* 164 Israelis have been injured.
* 40 percent of Sderot residents have left town.
* 58 sorties have been carried out by the Israeli Air Force.
* 19 artillery attacks have been carried out.
* 47 Arabs have been killed in Gaza.
* 98 Arabs have been arrested in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
On Monday and yesterday, a total of 20 missiles were fired from Gaza toward the Negev in southern Israel.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that no one who supported terrorism would be immune to Israeli attacks, prompting Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to go underground.
In doing so, Haniyeh joined a list of other Hamas officials who have taken precautionary measures lest Israel decide to launch a targeted killing operation with them cast in the role of the designated target.
While the current arena of Palestinian-Israeli warfare is generally perceived to be the Gaza Strip, Israeli troops have been exceedingly busy and successful operating on the Judea and Samaria in recent days, with particular emphasis on Monday.
Undercover Israeli Border Police troops operating in Ramallah Monday arrested Khaled Abu Shawish, a prominent Fatah terrorist who had been on Israel’s most wanted list for seven years. Abu Shawish is believed to have been involved in numerous suicide bombing attacks and shooting attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers. Israeli troops also arrested the commander of Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades in the Jericho area, the brother of Zakariya Zubeidi from Jenin and the daughter of Jamal Abu al-Hija, a Hamas terrorist who is serving nine consecutive life-term sentences in Israeli prison. The daughter, aged 21, is reportedly suspected of having been planning to carry out a suicide bombing attack.
Can A Leopard Change Its Address? Leopard Makes Surprise Visit To Israeli Family In The Negev
At around 3 a.m., the members of the Di-Mush family from Sde Boker, located in the heart of the Negev region of Israel, woke up to the sound of growling. On the floor beside the bed, they saw the family cat fighting with another cat – one that was big and spotted. Only upon second glance did the sleepy family realize that they had a leopard in the house.
Without hesitating, Arthur Di-Mush jumped on the leopard and woke up his wife, Anat, and demanded that she call an Israel Nature and National Parks Protection Authority official. A few minutes later, the battle was over, and the leopard was stuck inside a large green garbage bin, waiting for the veterinarian.
“I heard our dog barking and I thought it was a cat fight,” recounted Arthur Di-Mush Monday. “Suddenly, I felt our cat jump up onto our bed. I sat up and I saw that it wasn’t our cat but something a lot bigger.”
Arthur grabbed the animal by the scruff of the neck, “just like you pick up a kitten, only a lot stronger,” he explained. “I wasn’t afraid. I like to live on the edge, that’s probably why I caught him. That was a long 20 minutes until the folks from the Nature and National Parks Protection Authority arrived, and another 10 minutes until they got me a garbage bin to put him in.”
Until help arrived from the Nature and National Parks Protection Authority, Arthur’s wife and son stood by his side. “My wife was a little uptight, and my 5-year-old son only asked if the leopard had also eaten his butterfly cocoons.” The leopard was exhausted and hungry, but that didn’t stop it from trying to free itself from the clutches of Di-Mush. “I’m sorry he reached a situation in which he needs to prey on cats, and I hope that he feels better and is released back into the wild soon.”
Nature and National Parks Protection Authority officials have received a number of calls in the past two weeks about a leopard that has been roaming about near the campus at the educational center in Sde Boker, preying on the house and street cats. “We noticed that the number of cats has been dropping as a result of the preying, and we realized that we had a leopard in our area,” said Raviv Shapira, the director of the Nature and National Parks Protection Authority’s southern district. “We put ourselves in a state of readiness with teams that were spread out in the community to keep it away. I suppose that his appetite was stronger than his fear was.”
It was that same rumbling tummy that sent the leopard into the Di-Mush home. “He looked exhausted at first glance,” said Shapira, “the leopard didn’t scratch and didn’t fight for his life, and that means that he’s old, sick and miserable, and can’t manage in the wild. That’s regrettable.”
The leopard was taken to the veterinary hospital in Beit Dagan unconscious. He has recovered and was sent to the outdoor wildlife preserve near Yotvata for continued recuperation. Once it grows stronger, it will be released back into the wild, with a chip in its neck for monitoring purposes. The Di-Mush family cat, whose name is Zehava, was given veterinarian attention for the bite injury it was given by the leopard.
“I don’t want to think about what would have happened had the leopard gone to a different house,” said Anat Di-Mush. “My husband simply loves animals, and I’m glad that this nocturnal drama had a happy end to it.”
Fewer Than 10 Leopards
Live In Israel
According to the Nature and National Parks Protection Authority, the leopard species is in grave danger of extinction. Recent studies show that there are between seven and 10 leopards that roam the Negev, and another single leopard in the Ein Gedi area.
In the past, leopards were common throughout the Land of Israel, and up until the 1920s, they could be spotted in the Judean Desert, the Judean hills and the Carmel.
Between 1925 and 1956, a total of 14 leopards were hunted in the Galilee, at which point they disappeared entirely. In recent months, leopards have been spotted in Sde Boker, Mitzpe Ramon and Ein Gedi, but no one is certain whether the spottings were of different individuals or of the same leopard. Beyond hunting, the greatest danger to leopards is the dearth of food, which forces them to come near inhabited areas where they are liable to be hit by a car or get otherwise killed.
David Bedein can be reached at Media@actcom.co.il. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com
©The Bulletin 2007