Somewhere in the middle of trying to winterize a drafty bathroom window, I caught a brief interview on MSNBC with terrorist expert Evan Kohlmann. He was talking about something no one else seems to be discussing in relation to the increasing violence between Israel and Hamas in Gaza – the presence of al Qaida in Gaza. According to Mr. Kohlmann, what Israel ignored about the shells being launched into Israel from Gaza is that there is a third player in this flashpoint of the Gaza/Israeli border, the same people who have been setting up camps in the Sinai Desert – al Qaida affiliated Jihadists.
Allegedly, Hamas in Gaza launched rockets that reached the city of Be’er Sheva. Be’er Sheva is 25 miles from the nearest point of Gaza, and 30 miles from Sinai, which is Egypt. There is virtually nothing between Be’er Sheva and the Sinai but desert and wadis, and a couple of roads going from one small town to another. In the past few months, Egypt has been dealing with too much activity between Gaza and the Sinai, terrorist trying to enter Israel from the Sinai, arms being smuggled into Gaza from the Sinai. Mr. Kohlmann discussed evidence that it is these al Qaida groups who have actually been lobbing the first shells that start the retribution from Israel and that Hamas has no control over them. They apparently have done it before.
This is not an idea that should be ignored, not by the media and certainly not by the governments of Israel, Gaza, Egypt and the United States. We have certainly seen an increased confidence in extremist groups since the beginning of the Arab Spring two years ago, with whole sects like the Salafists suddenly exerting themselves into politics and attacking Sufi communities in Tunisia, Libya and Mali. Why couldn’t they be capable of launching a few mortars and starting the war they hope will destroy Israel?
Whether it was Hamas in Gaza or these al Qaida affiliates who started this, the best course is for the United States and Egypt to influence Israel and Hamas to call a cease fire immediately. Things are far too unstable in the region right now for Hamas or anyone else to start a war with Israel. A war between Israel and anyone serves the interests of the Jihadists. It gives them strength and importance. It justifies their rise to political power in the nations that are throwing off their dictators.
And Israel must be made to understand that as long as they refuse to work out a two-state solution with the Palestinians, the Jihadists will continue to grow in power. The best way to defuse the Jihadists is to deny them their favorite victims and oppressors, deny them their excuse for recruiting fools to die for their cause.
Sometimes the best person to listen to is the one saying something unique. Though Evan Kohlmann does not command the kind of respect other “terrorism experts” do (he’s actually been called the ‘Doogie Howzer of terror’), when you look at everything that has been going on along the Israeli-Egyptian border and not just at Hamas, what Kohlmann is saying makes sense.