SECURITY WILL BE TIGHT FOR POTUS VISIT TO THE MIDDLE EAST
Excerpted from: ERRI DAILY INTELLIGENCE REPORT-ERRI Risk Assessment Services-Saturday, December 12, 1998-Vol. 4, No. 346
SECURITY WILL BE TIGHT FOR POTUS VISIT TO THE MIDDLE EAST
By Steve Macko, ERRI Risk Analyst
WASHINGTON (EmergencyNet News) – In what is being described as a massive three-way security operation will surround POTUS (President of the United States) when he meets Israelis and Palestinians on his venture into the traditional lion’s den of Middle Eastern violence this weekend. On the eve of the three-day visit to Israel, White House officials kept a tight lid on the plans for protecting the President from the suicide squads, car bombs and assassins who have bloodied the region’s history for decades.
National Security Council spokesman P.J. Crowley said, “Every trip has security challenges, and the president will have the security he needs.” But with tensions high in Israel over the faltering peace process and POTUS a potential target for both Jewish and Palestinian extremists, security experts said precautions would be at least as tight and elaborate as on any previous trip anywhere.
Joe LaSorsa, a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Secret Service, who now runs an executive protection service in New York State, said, “You’re talking about being in the heartland of terrorism. We’ve experienced so many previous threats and incidents in the region is that you’re always at a heightened sense of awareness.”
Two Palestinians were shot and killed by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank on Friday during violent protests. About 50 protesters were wounded, two seriously, in the clashes near the northern West Bank town of Qalqilya during Palestinian riots over Israel’s handling of the release of Palestinian prisoners under the Wye River peace deal.
The deaths brought to four the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces this week in widespread disturbances in the West Bank. More than 200 have been injured. Both of the male youths who were killed on Friday were 18-year-old. One Palestinian doctor said, “They were shot in the head with live ammunition.”
Three Israeli soldiers were slightly injured by stones thrown at them. One witness said demonstrators had held a sit-in following Friday Muslim prayers, then proceeded to an Israeli checkpoint near the 1967 border between Israel and the West Bank where they clashed with the soldiers.
ERRI senior analyst Clark Staten reiterated warnings that he has voiced all week. Staten said in a statement disseminated to U.S. military intelligence services: “Although we are sure that appropriate protective measures are being taken, possible retaliation for these two shootings only reinforces our concerns about security during the POTUS trip to this region. Add to this a “threat statement,” published in Al-Hayat by Egyptian Jihad, within the past 24 hours. At the very least, the OPFOR (those opposed to Wye or Oslo) could pick the coming days as a time for a peripheral terror act, which would generate major publicity. Great caution and preparedness is urged at this time.”
The Egyptian Jihad “threat statement” Staten was referring to was published in the Arabic-language Al-Hayat newspaper on Friday. Egypt’s banned Jihad threatened a prolonged war against the United States, which it accuses of being an enemy of Islam, and said the most potent weapon in the hands of Moslems was an economic boycott.
The Jihad statement said: “Let the Americans know that we have resolved to fight them in a severe and long, drawn-out battle to be passed on to generations.” The terrorist group is led by Ayman el-Zawahri, a close ally to Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden.
The statement urged Moslems to boycott the United States which it said was “the biggest enemy aiming to undermine Islam.” It also said: “The most dangerous weapon in the hands of the Moslem community is an economic boycott.”
The United States is sending several batteries of Patriot missiles, which take out incoming missiles, during the visit as a partly-symbolic gesture to ward off attacks from other regional states, including hostile Iraq, during the visit.
In Jerusalem, National Police Commander Yehuda Wilk said although police had received no specific warnings of attacks, “the working supposition is that there will be an attempt to carry out a terror attack in order to upset the event.” He told reporters the huge media coverage would give added incentive for an attack by militants who have killed scores in bombings in Israel in recent years.
Thousands of Israeli and Palestinian police and other paramilitary groups are engaged in a web of protection centering on the President and his own close guard of U.S. Secret Service agents. Most of Clinton’s travel outside of Jerusalem will be done by helicopter, including visits to Gaza and Bethlehem, with security forces alert to the possibility of missiles.
Gaza is seen as a playground for violent anti-American groups. They range from Iranian-backed groups in Lebanon and elsewhere, Kurdish separatists, Islamic fundamentalists in Egypt and Afghanistan-based Osama bin Laden. Palestinian and Israeli officials say there has been close cooperation with the U.S. Secret Service in setting up a protective web around the President.
LaSorsa said there would be a thoroughly professional, close cooperation between the three. He said, “It’s a hand-in-glove relationship — even with the KGB. There’s a very close-knit brotherhood between security agents.”
There are no plans of a POTUS meet-the-people outing on his visit. 500 police will be on duty round-the-clock at the Jerusalem Hilton hotel, where he will stay. Israeli police say that they have taken into account the recent surge in West Bank violence in drawing up their plans. At least 10,000 police will be deployed around Israel for the President’s visit — 3,500 in Jerusalem.
After spending Sunday in Jerusalem, POTUS will spend Monday in Gaza. There remains considerable support among the strip’s more than one million residents for the militant terrorist group HAMAS. The No. 1 HAMAS militant on Israel’s wanted list, Mohammad Deif, remains at large and is believed to be hiding in Gaza.
On Friday, a leaflet in the name of HAMAS vowed to bomb Israeli targets if the Palestinian Authority did not release the movement’s spiritual leader from house arrest by Christmas Day. The statement, sent to an, international news agency, also ridiculed the visit of POTUS to Gaza, saying: “The Palestinian Authority claims that Clinton’s visit reinforces Palestinian sovereignty, but this is a mere illusion. We condemn and reject this visit and consider it … a visit with ulterior motives that aims to dash real Palestinian hopes.”
A top HAMAS terrorist who asked not to be named confirmed the statement was genuine. The leaflet called POTUS “the enemy of the Arabs and Muslims.” The HAMAS statement was meant to put pressure on Palestinian President Yasser Arafat to release HAMAS founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin from house arrest.
Yassin was placed under house arrest on 29 October after a suicide bomb attack against Israeli children. The HAMAS leaflet said: “We give the leadership of the Palestinian Authority until December 25 to lift the house arrest on our leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin or else the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam brigades will be free to commit any new bombing attacks against the Zionist entity and their forces.” Izz el-Deen al-Qassam is the military wing of HAMAS.
The high-pitched voiced, 62-year-old, bearded Yassin is an icon for Muslim militant suicide bombers who have killed scores of Israelis since the first interim Israeli-Palestinian peace deal was signed in 1993.
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