Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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20 Ellul 5766 - September 13, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Qaida Criminal Threatens Israel; Attack on US Embassy in Damascus

by M Plaut and Yated Ne'eman Staff

Ayman al-Zawahri, reportedly al-Qaida's second in command, warned in a videotape aired Monday September 11, the fifth anniversary of the attacks on New York City and Washington, DC, that Israel and Persian Gulf countries are al-Qaida's next targets. On Tuesday there was an armed attack on the US Embassy in Damascus. Three of the attackers and one of the defenders were killed. No American casualties were reported.

Dressed in white clothes, al-Zawahri said American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan were "doomed to defeat" and pledged that the United States military would be expelled from the Persian Gulf region. He urged Muslims around the world to take up arms against the United States.

Several video messages were released recently, apparently in connection with the fifth anniversary of the al-Qaida criminal attacks on the United States. Also released on Monday was a video showing al-Qaida operatives planning the Sept. 11 attacks, as well as two of the Sept. 11 hijackers reading from their wills. According to news reports, al-Qaida has released close to 50 video messages so far in 2006, about three times its usual output.

According to the purely lunar calendar used by Moslems, the fifth anniversary of the criminal attacks fell on July 19 this year. According to our Jewish calendar which is based on a lunar month but a solar year, the yahrtzeit falls out this coming Shabbos, 23 Elul. Although five years have passed, the event remains emotionally charged in the United States and commemorations of the events were the focus of attention of the whole nation early this week.

Al-Zawahri condemned the UN peacekeeping force now deploying in Lebanon. "What is so terrible in this resolution . . . is that it approves the existence of the Jewish state and isolates our mujahedeen in Palestine from Muslims in Lebanon," he said.

"This is consecrated by the presence of international troops who are hostile to Islam," he said. "Anyone who accepts this resolution means that he accepts all these catastrophes.

"Your leaders are hiding from you the true extent of the disaster," he said to the West. "And the days are pregnant and giving birth to new events."

The video appeared to be new since Zawahri refers to Israel's bombardment of Lebanon this summer and the capture of Israeli soldiers near Lebanon and Gaza.

Since the video release was timed for the Western anniversary of the attacks, it was clear that their main intent was propaganda. Moslem leaders usually follow their own calendar.

Terrorism experts in Washington were examining the tape to find any coded messages that Mr. Zawahri might be sending, but US officials did not seem to be concerned that the tape signals an impending attack.

On Tuesday morning Islamic militants attempted to storm the U.S. Embassy in Damascus using automatic rifles, hand grenades and at least one van rigged with explosives. There was no word about the affiliation of the attackers, and no outside experts identified them.

The United States has not had an ambassador in Syria since it recalled its ambassador in February 2005 after the assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister Rafik Hariri in Beirut. The US blamed Syria for the killing.

The American embassy in Damascus is located in a neighborhood that is heavily guarded and includes many foreign delegations. A Chinese diplomat and two Iraqi nationals were injured in the fighting though they were not targets.

In the standard practice at most American embassies worldwide, a local guard force patrols outside the compound's walls while U.S. Marines are responsible for an inner circle where sensitive documents and personnel are located. According to news reports, the Marines were not involved in the fighting.

There were various reports of the exact sequence of events, and not all of them agreed. Syrian media said four armed attackers attacked the US Embassy using automatic rifles and hand grenades. The attackers came in two cars and parked one that was rigged with explosives in front of the embassy but did not blow it up. Syrian security guards attacked the gunmen, killing three and wounding a fourth.

According to some witnesses they did blow up a second car. Broadcasts showed a delivery van loaded with pipe bombs strapped to large propane gas canisters outside the Embassy. Had the explosives detonated as intended, there would have been massive damage.

As it is, the attackers did not penetrate the 2.5 meter walls that surround the embassy. They reportedly threw several hand grenades over, but did not cause any serious damage.


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