Thursday, September 08, 2011

8-Sep-11: Stopping the jihadists before they strike - some successes, some failures

The impending tenth anniversary this coming Sunday of the 9/11 massacres carried out by Islamists in New York and Washington represents a moment for reflecting on lessons learned and not learned. We plan to write about this in the coming days. But two news events, yesterday and today, illustrate the need for a deeper level of understanding (by governments, by the media, by ordinary people like ourselves) of the price the terrorists exact from civil society.

In India yesterday, a terror group called Harkat-ul-Jihad operating in the name of Islam claimed credit for a placing a bomb in a briefcase in a crowded reception area at the entrance of the High Court building in Delhi. Eleven people were killed, more than 80 injured. (A similar explosion in more or less the same place happened in May.) The Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh is quoted saying that anti-terror "mechanisms" have been put in place by the Indian authorities, but that "there are weaknesses in our system [and] we must work hard to plug the weaknesses."

Truer words have never been said, and the problems are not limited to India. The war of the jihadists is global. Every society is their perceived enemy. 

The Israeli authorities understand this, by and large. Also yesterday (Wednesday), the authorities responsible for public security - chiefly the police and the Security Service (the Shin Bet, in Hebrew) - disclosed that an undercover effort of several months has uncovered multiple terror cells and plans in various stages designed to cause death and pain at several locations in our country.

Here's the essence of what was revealed:
  • Though the terrorists apprehended in this campaign are mainly associated with Hamas which controls the Gaza Strip, the activities now disclosed are focused on the West Bank. 
  • Dozens of Hamas terrorists were arrested, including the person who carried out the "heroic" placing of a bomb at a bus stop outside Jerusalem's busy congress center in March 2011 that took the life of a British woman and injured 47 others waiting to catch buses.
  • Overseas Hamas bases - chiefly in Syria, Turkey and China - were involved in the co-ordination of these latest terrorist plots.
  • Also uncovered were attempts to smuggle weapons from the Gaza Strip into the West Bank.
  • Dozens of Hamas terrorists, organized in at least 13 terror cells, were arrested across the West Bank over the past few weeks.
  • Ynet says the planned terror attacks included an intended bombing - by means of a religious maniac who was ready to blow himself up in order to murder innocent Israelis - in the Pisgat Ze'ev community on Jerusalem's outskirts. In that plot, the bomb was found in a home in the Jerusalem neighborhood of  Ras al-Amud. It carried three kilograms of explosive, topped with a mound of deadly metallic shrapnel, and concealed within a fire extinguisher. The human bomb, a man of 20 called Said Qawasmeh from Hebron has been obliged to postpone his meeting with the promised 72 virgins.
  • Among their other goals: to kidnap IDF soldiers and hold them as bargaining chips in future prisoner exchange deals, which we think sounds especially chilling in view of the horrifying experiences of Gilad Shalit and his family. A terrorist from Hebron, Shaher Skaphi, provided his Israeli interrogators with copious details of the plot to kidnap and secure an Israeli serviceman and then negotiate for his release in exchange for Hamas prisoners held by Israel.
No one here is under any illusions that terrorism and its dangers were brought to an end by the breaking of this particular cluster of cells. The war against the jihadists and their enablers is never-ending, and includes numerous failures as well as occasional successes. There will be more such cells, and some will carry out their plans while others will be stopped. There are no silver-bullet solutions. 

But first you have to come to the conclusion that the threats are real and global, and the targeted victims are not always in far-off places like India and Israel. 

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