New al-Qaeda chief threatens wave of attacks on U.S. & Israeli targets as well as UN peacekeepers in Lebanon

Saleh al-Qaraawi, newly-appointed al-Qaeda chief in charge of Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and the Palestinian territories, is a Saudi national, aged 40, and is on the oil kingdon’s list of 85 most wanted terrorists.

Al Qaeda’s sites present Al Qaraawi as Commander of the “Abdullah Azzam Brigades,” named for Osama bin Laden’s precursor as the jihadi organization’s founding ideologue in the late 1980s.

He is thought to be a personal appointee of al Qaeda’s No. 2, Ayman Zuwahri, who is chief of operations for the Middle East region. In one of the interviews, the new man says the time has come to intensify attacks on Israel from two bases:  the Gaza Strip, where al Qaeda has established a stronghold, and Lebanon.

Computer profiling of the 85 men on the kingdom's new most-wanted list in the Saudi Capital Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Saturday, Feb. 7, 2009. One of the men on the kingdom's new most-wanted list is married to Osama bin Laden's daughter and had links to one of the men accused of orchestrating the Sept. 11 attacks. Another had a role in a plot to kill the U.S. ambassador in Yemen. And a third facilitated the infiltration of militants from Syria to Iraq

Our military sources report that the cluster of groups affiliated to al Qaeda, which have sprung up in the Gaza Strip under the Jalalat umbrella, keep their hand in with the occasional Qassam or mortar attack across the border into Israel. But most of their energies go into building up their power base in the southern areas of Khan Younes and Deir al-Balakh and pushing Hamas out. Building on Al Qaraawi’s rich operational experience in Saudi Arabia – high command of the Saudi arena is said to be on his resume – his new job is to inject fresh impetus into cross-border offensives from the Gaza Strip and Lebanon.

As for assaults on US targets in the Levant area, al Qaeda plans to use the Kingdom of Jordan as its main arena, as it has in the past. Al Qaeda’s most ambitious operation from Gaza was mounted eleven months ago, on June 8, 2009, when a large contingent of raiders, some on horseback, swept across the border at several points from north to south.

An estimated 10 gunmen attacked a Golani infantry patrol and tried to kidnap Israeli soldiers. In the ensuing battle, a back-up al Qaeda force fired mortars from inside the Gaza Strip. That operation failed in its purpose but demonstrated the scale of attacks the Islamist organization is planning to mount from the Gaza Strip against southern Israel.

Three months later, on Sept 11 2009, al Qaeda marked the date of its New York atrocity by firing two 122mm Grad missiles from the Qlaileh area in South Lebanon into Western Galilee, where they exploded on open ground near Kibbutz Gesher Haziv. DEBKA