Jerusalem – The fates of two Israel Defense Forces’ members became clearer yesterday as new information came to light.
French lawyers representing the family of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who was kidnapped by Islamist militants in June 2006, claim he is being held in a tunnel in the Gaza Strip.
The lawyers, Emmanuel Altit and Stephan Zerbib, received information during a meeting held in Egypt that Staff Sgt. Shalit is being held in the tunnel by two Hamas-related groups, which are in a state of perpetual movement and don’t maintain contact with the outside world.
According to the same information, only Hamas’ most senior officials know where Staff Sgt. Shalit is being held. This vagueness has made all efforts to contact Staff Sgt. Shalit complicated and dangerous.
The lawyers told the Israeli media yesterday efforts to bring about the kidnapped soldier’s release were continuing and that delegations from the Israeli and Palestinian sides would be traveling to Egypt to hold talks in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, a Hezbollah report about its efforts to discover the fate of IAF navigator Ron Arad, missing since October 1986, was received yesterday in Israel. Hezbollah claims that Mr. Arad was killed in captivity.
The contents of the report will be discussed by the committee of Israeli secret service directors in advance of tomorrow’s cabinet meeting. Hezbollah’s report already has been translated into Hebrew and has been distributed among the various intelligence services, which are poring over its contents.
The report contains the testimony of Lebanese nationals who came into contact with Ron Arad in 1988, before he disappeared. The report includes a detailed sketch of the building in which Mr. Arad was held and maps of the area in which he was held.
Hezbollah claims Mr. Arad was probably killed either in the course of an attempted escape in 1988, or he was shot dead by his captors.
The Iranian-backed group ruled out the possibility that Mr. Arad had been transferred to Iran.
However, the revelation concerning Mr. Arad’s fate didn’t deter his supporters’ hopes.
Attorney Eliad Shraga, the chairman of the nonprofit organization Born to be Free, whose purpose is to bring about Ron Arad’s return to Israel, said yesterday, “From our perspective Ron Arad is alive and no report is going to make any difference to us until we receive scientific proof as to what befell him.”
US Imposes New Sanctions On Syria
The Middle East Newsline has confirmed that the United States has imposed additional sanctions on Syria.
The U.S. Treasury Department has imposed sanctions on a Syrian mobile-phone company as well as a duty-free shop network. The department said both companies were linked to the family of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The companies were identified as SyriaTel and Ramak, banned from doing business with the United States or Americans. The cellular-phone provider and the duty-free shops were said to be controlled by Mr. Assad’s cousin, Rami Makhluf.
“Rami Makhluf uses his access to high-level Syrian government insiders to enrich himself at the expense of the Syrian people,” Adam Szubin, director of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, said. “We will continue to target Makhluf and his commercial empire as well as others who follow in his footsteps.”
The Bush administration has decided to impose sanctions on Mr. Assad’s family. It claims the family reaps hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues from drugs, weapons smuggling and official corruption in Lebanon and Syria.
This marked the second set of U.S. sanctions on Mr. Makhluf in 2008. Treasury said Mr. Makhluf held at least 50 percent of SyriaTel and Ramak.
“Makhluf, a maternal cousin of Syrian president Bashar Al Assad, has exploited his relationships with Syrian regime members to amass his commercial empire,” Treasury said. “Makhluf has manipulated the Syrian judicial system and has used Syrian intelligence officials to intimidate business rivals.”
Al-Qaida On The Internet
Al-Qaida, according to Middle East Newsline, has designed techniques that have eliminated direct recruitment into the Islamist militant group.
A U.S. Senate report said al-Qaida has established Web sites indoctrinating visitors into conducting attacks on the United States and other Western countries. The report said the high-tech Web sites recruit and train viewers in Islamic holy war without any direct contact by al-Qaida.
“Its objective is to gain wide Muslim support, empathy, financing, and future recruits,” the report by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “To help al-Qaida target U.S. citizens, several radical Web sites in the United States have re-packaged al-Qaida statements with American vernacular and commentary intending to sway U.S. Muslims.”
In testimony to the committee on July 9, Maajid Nawaz, a former member of a pro-al-Qaida group in Britain, listed several types of Islamists. A former member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, Mr. Nawaz cited a political activist assigned to infiltrate democracies, and the revolutionary, who aims to stage a violent overthrow or military coup.
The May 8 report said several would-be al-Qaida attackers had been recruited or indoctrinated through the Internet forums that were said to have converted viewers into self-styled Islamic warriors eager to prove their mettle.
“In a way, recruitment is self-recruitment, which is why we cannot stop it by trying to identify and arrest ‘recruiters,'” Homeland Security Department intelligence chief Charles Allen was quoted as saying in the report. “These self-recruited upstarts do not need any outsiders to try to join the terrorist social movement. Since this process takes place at home, often in the parental home, it facilitates the emergence of homegrown radicalization, worldwide.”
The report said al-Qaida has decided to increase production of online propaganda and its accessibility to English-speaking audiences. Al-Qaida was said to have recruited English translators and added subtitles to videos that appeal directly to Americans.
“Indeed, as the terrorists’ Internet campaign bypasses America’s physical borders and undermines cultural barriers that previously served as a bulwark against Al-Qaida’s message of hate and violence, the threat of homegrown terrorist attacks in the United States increases,” the report said.
The report said the threat by so-called “homegrown” Islamic extremists would increase over the next year. The Senate committee did not rule out the prospect that Internet training could improve to the point where Muslim novices could be taught how to conduct major attacks in the United States.
“These lone-wolf actors are a particular challenge for local law enforcement – the organizations increasingly relied upon to help prevent homegrown terror attacks,” the report said. “First, most local law enforcement agencies do not have the resources and capabilities to know what is happening on the ‘virtual street corner.’ Second, the increased opportunity to radicalize online without the knowledge of law enforcement is not just a threat to the community where the terrorist lives and plots, but to other communities that may be targeted.”
David Bedein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com
©The Bulletin 2008