Arafat's Hizbollah Deal Cooks His Goose

by DEBKAfile

15 July 2002

The dozens of Hizballah operatives, members of the notorious Imad Mughniyeh’s security and intelligence networks, who have infiltrated the West Bank and Gaza Strip since late last year, significantly enhanced the capabilities of the Palestinian terrorist networks. They raised Palestinian organizational and training levels, contributed palpably to the unprecedented Palestinian suicide massacres of the second half of February and introduced extra-powerful explosives into the Palestinian arsenal, together with the techniques for using them.

Since Israel’s Operation Defensive Shield in April, the Hizballah interlopers have been marked men. They proved exceptionally elusive. One of the prime objectives of the long siege at the Hebron government compound in mid-June was the capture of a senior Hizballah operative known to have been setting up terrorist networks in this West Bank city. The Lebanese terrorist was indeed apprehended before the building was blown up. His comrades were taken in or killed resisting detention in the Palestinian towns of Ramallah, Jenin, Nablus, Tulkarm, Qalqilya and Bethlehem in the course of Israel’s current open-ended counter-terror offensive.

A similar operation is due in the Gaza Strip (as DEBKAfile has reported before), one of whose prime objectives will be to eradicate similar terror Hizballah cells operating in the territory’s cities and refugee camps.

According to DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources, Israel secretly handed over to the United States between three and five of the most senior Hizballah operatives netted in Palestinian areas, including the Hebron-based cell organizer. They were flown to a US-run interrogation center outside the United States. US terror investigators and intelligence officers have also sat in on Israeli interrogations of the Hizballah men. This is the first opportunity the Americans have had to access Mughniyeh-linked agents since the 1980s, when this wanted mass terrorist and hostage taker blew up US Marines HQ and embassy in Beirut, murdering hundreds of Americans.

The sharp downturn in Palestinian-Hizballah fortunes explains why Hizballah officials suddenly decided to announce negotiations for the release of the Israeli reserve colonel and businessman, Elhanan Tannenbaum, who was kidnapped in October 2000 shortly after the outbreak of the Israeli-Palestinian war. Mughniyeh ordered Hizbalah secretary-general Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah to make every effort to gain the release of his men from Israeli custody.

Proof was adduced from interrogating the Hizballah captives that Arafat had in return for weapons granted the Hizballah access to Palestinian-controlled areas and integrated its operatives in terrorist operations.

For Israel and the United States, it was the last straw. They decided that any more suicide assaults in Israel – and Arafat’s bloody reign would have to end. He and his minions would be sent into exile. One possible destination: Sudan.