Israel Strikes at Heart of Arafat - Assad Plan : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

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Israel Strikes at Heart of Arafat-Assad Plan

27 August: Ali Abu Mustafa was the notorious George Habash’s successor as secretary general of the PFLP, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which hit the headlines in the seventies and eighties as the radical Marxist super-terrorist, hijacker of international airliners and hostage-taker. His liquidation by two Israeli missiles that crashed through the window of his Ramallah office near Arafat’s headquarters Monday morning is the most meaningful and audacious operation Ariel Sharon has thus far ordered since becoming prime minister last March. DEBKAfile ’s political and intelligence sources describe the hit as a military threat to Syrian president Hafez Assad to keep his hands off the Palestinian intifada and a warning to Arafat that he takes his Intifada across the border at his own personal peril. It raises Israel’s targeted campaign against Palestinian terrorists to the regional level for the first time. Its object - to ward off an emerging regional menace. Reading this new dimension correctly, Damascus radio and TV immediately interrupted their broadcasts Monday with news of the assassination, followed shortly after by the Hizballa media. Abu Mustafa died as Yasser Arafat was coming closer than ever before to being received in Damascus. The Syrian president Bashar Assad’s price for his invitation was steep – too steep for Israel to countenance. According to DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources, Israel learned that - first Arafat’s deputy Abu Mazen, then Nabil Shaat, Palestinian Authority foreign affairs executive, were dictated Syria’s terms for Arafat to officially visit Damascus on September 12: 1. He must agree to coordinate all Palestinian military operations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with Damascus. Syria, in other words, seeks a situation similar to that prevailing in Israel’s former security zone in South Lebanon, where Hizballah actions were fully controlled by Syria. Assad wants the Palestinian and Hizballah to confront Israeli shoulder- to- shoulder under the Syrian aegis and command. 2. He must accept the PFLP chief Ali Abu Mustafa as senior Syrian military coordinator and liaison with the Palestinian Authority. Had Arafat bowed to Assad’s terms – and it is far from sure that he meant to – Abu Mustafa would have become the most powerful political and military figure in Palestinian Authority territory. One of his primary functions was to pull together under a single command in Damascus all the forces fighting Israel in those territories, the Palestinians, the Hizballah cells and the Iraqi military intelligence operatives planted there by Baghdad. This would have been tantamount to a Syrian takeover of the Palestinian Intifada. As to Arafat, Abu Mustafa’s elimination acted as the first personal threat Israel has pointed at his head since he went to war 11 months ago.

DEBKAfile’s political analysts explain: The Abu Mustafa hit warned him: first , Israel will not let him go to Damascus; second, Israel will not let him sign a military pact with Syria; third, Israel will not stand by if he pushes ahead with his plans for a Baghdad-Damascus-Gaza-Hizballah anti-Israel axis; and, fourth, defying Israel on all three points will place his life in peril.

The Syrians are unlikely to take the Israeli action lying down. Assad is bound to respond to the blow either by direct military action or through the Lebanese Hizballah in Lebanon.

As for Sharon, he will be assailed predictably by his usual critics inside and outside his unity government, particularly the pro-Oslo faction, led by foreign minister Shimon Peres, former minister Yossi Bailin and opposition leader Yossi Sarid, all of whom persist in regarding Yasser Arafat as Israel’s sole Palestinian “peace partner”. On the other hand, according to DEBKAfile’s political sources, Sharon was quietly backed in his action from Washington and possibly even from Cairo. ______________________________________

-- Robert Riggs (, August 27, 2001

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