|JERUSALEM – The
Palestinian cleric from one of the most popular mosques in the
Gaza Strip this weekend asked his congregation to pray for al-Qaida
chief Osama bin Laden and his deputy Abu Musab al-Zarqawi,
explaining the global terror leaders share the Palestinian goals
of destroying Israel and ending "American world
domination," WND has learned.
The reports are the latest evidence
of ideological links between Palestinian groups and al-Qaida, with
Israeli security officials saying bin Laden's network infiltrated
Gaza last month and is currently operating from the territory.
"May Allah guard and bless
Sheikh Osama bin Laden and Sheikh Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who are
both leading the jihad against the Zionist entity and against
American domination of the world. Pray for Sheikh bin Laden and
Sheikh Zarqawi," said Dr. Jamil Mutaweh, a leader of the
large Abu Dur Mosque in Khan Yunis, Palestinian sources in Gaza
Khan Yunis, a southern Gaza city,
is one of the most populated Palestinian towns.
Mutaweh made the comments during
his Friday sermon at the mosque, which was particularly crowded
this past Friday, Palestinian sources say, because it was the
second day of Eid al-Fitr, a three day Muslim holiday that marks
the end of Ramadan.
Sources close to the Palestinian
Authority told WND the PA has been made aware of Mutaweh's
comments and is deciding whether to investigate.
Mutaweh's sermon seems to stress an
ideological link between al-Qaida and Palestinian groups.
Reuven Erlich, director of the
Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at Israel's Center
for Special Studies, previously told WND the link can be
emphasized through Palestinian cleric Dr. Abdullah Azzam, who was
al-Qaida's ideologue and, until Azzam's death, Osama bin Laden's
"We found Azzam's picture on
Hamas posters from Gaza and a lot of Hamas' material," said
Erlich. "Azzam's portrait in materials reveal that he is
perceived by Hamas as one of the four 'outstanding figures' of the
Islamic 'struggle' in Palestine and around the world."
Mutaweh's speech also comes as
Israeli security officials tell WND al-Qaida is present in the
Gaza Strip and is seeking to attack the Jewish state.
"Al-Qaida operatives took
advantage of the opened Rafah border [with Egypt immediately
following Israel's withdrawal from the area last month] and
entered Gaza," said Maj. Gen. Aharon Zeevi Farkash, chief of
intelligence for the Israeli Defense Forces.
Following Israel's troop withdrawal
Sept. 12, Gaza's border with Egypt was wide open, with thousands
of Palestinians – including known terrorissts – passing freely
from one side to the other for a period of at least six days.
Egyptian officials attempted to
close the border several times, but Hamas and other terror groups
managed to reopen the crossing, once using a controlled explosion
along the border fence and another time ramming a dump truck
through the border wall.
Palestinian officials admitted to
reporters terror groups were able to smuggle tons of weapons into
Gaza, including explosives, ammunition and rocket-propelled
grenades that had long been stockpiled in Sinai, but denied al-Qaida
"These reports are
baseless," chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told WND.
"Egypt did a good job in cracking down on cells in their
country, and they wouldn't have allowed any al-Qaida people to get
An aide to Palestinian Authority
Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei told WND on condition of anonymity,
"It would certainly be against our interests to say al-Qaida
was in our territory."
Hamas chief Mahmoud al-Zohar went
so far as to accuse Israel of sending fake al-Qaida agents into
Gaza so it can claim the global jihad group was liaising with
"All these talks about the
presence of al-Qaida is Israeli talks and propaganda," said
al-Zahar in an exclusive
"We know that Israel tried
through its agents to have contacts with marginal activists in the
Palestinian resistance. The agents represented themselves as al-Qaida
members and tried to tempt these people with money and weapons.
This is part of the Israeli effort to represent things even though
they are not that way in order to say that al-Qaida exists in the
Gaza Strip," al-Zahar said.
reported last week some members of al-Zarah's Hamas have
become disillusioned with the terror group, renouncing their
membership and instead trying to form their own al-Qaida network.
Israeli prison officials said nine
jailed Hamas terrorists "with blood on their hands,"
including two militants trained in Afghanistan and Pakistan, tried
to set up the al-Qaida cell last month. Officials said the cell
planned to direct attacks on behalf of al-Qaida by sending
messages to terrorists outside the Israeli prison.
Said a prison official, "The
jailed terrorists renounced their membership in Hamas. They didn't
think Hamas was carrying out enough attacks. ... They thought
Hamas was too focused on trying to join upcoming Palestinian
legislative elections. So they joined with al-Qaida."