PALESTINIAN LEADERSHIP IMPLICATED IN ARMS SHIP SEIZED
by DEBKAfile, 9 January 2002

"DEBKAfileís military sources report that the Israeli intelligence officers due in Washington Wednesday, January 9, carry incriminating proofs of Yasser Arafatís direct complicity in all the stages of the foiled Karine-A gun-running operation. Headed by Lt.-Col Yossi Kuperwasser, head of Army Intelligence (Aman) Research Department, the group is charged with placing the evidence before the assistant secretary of state William Burns and US defense department and intelligence officials.

They will demonstrate that Mohamed Dahlan, the Palestinian Authorityís Preventive Security Chief in the Gaza Strip and one of Arafatís most senior lieutenants, was present in the emirate of Dubai when the Karine-A arrived and supervised the loading of the contraband munitions. He did not show himself to the shipís crew, relaying his orders through Iranian and Palestinian go-betweens in the emirate and the PLO representative in Greece, Adel Awadallah, named in Mondayís interview with the shipís captain Omar Akawi as his contact man, who also flew to Dubai. Dahlan stayed under cover in the emirate until the ship was fully loaded on the Iranian island of Kish. It was he who ordered the captain to set a course for the Suez Canal. The Palestinian security chief also made sure Akawi received the recognition passwords for the three smaller vessels to offload the cargo in the Mediterranean opposite Alexandria, Egypt.

The information laid before the US administration includes Dahlanís itineraries and timetables for setting up the smuggling operation through a network of operatives, intermediaries and contacts, from a base he set up in Libya.
According to DEBKAfileís military sources, the Gazan security chief left for Cairo early last week, after telling his associates that he would go on to Tripoli. Instead, he flew from Cairo to Dubai aboard the private plane of a Gulf businessman.

In the view of those sources, there is no way Egyptian security authorities could have missed Dahlanís frequent travels in and out of Cairo, which accounts for Egyptian foreign minister Ali Maherís vehemence in shooting down Israelís version of the affair.

The Israeli intelligence officers will also bare the involvement of the Palestinian tycoon who is Arafatís personal financial aide, Muhamed Rashid, in financing the purchase of the vessel and its cargo. This information is less detailed than the intelligence on Dahalnís role because the investigation is still in progress. But it is enough to link Arafat to the arms smuggling conspiracy and account for the blistering condemnations leveled at him by prime minister Ariel Sharon and chief of staff, Lt.-Gen. Shaul Mofaz on Sunday, January 6, in Eilat.

Senior DEBKAfile sources in Jerusalem say Sharon had had no intention of exposing the roles played by Dahlan and Rashid in setting up the arms-running operation but changed his mind when US State Department spokesmen cast doubts on the data Israel passed to Washington on the Karine-A affair.