Bin Laden Boasts in June of Imminent Attack

By Joshua Ronen, The Jerusalem Post

JERUSALEM (June 25) - Osama bin Laden may be a threat to the United States, but according to Dr. Gil Feiler, a senior researcher at Bar-Ilan University's Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, he is little more than a nuisance for Israel.

"He has so many other things to support," said Feiler. "Really, Israel is not at the top of his priorities."

He bases his analysis on the assumption that, besides Bin Laden's having to support his own terror organization inside Afghanistan. The country's ruling Taliban is secretly trying to hand him over to the US, where he is wanted for two US embassy bombings.

Feiler's analysis runs counter to other Israeli terrorism experts' views that Bin Laden is actively involved in planning terrorism attacks against Israel.

Bin Laden, indicted by the US for planning bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 that killed 224 people, has often named Israel as a principal enemy. No concrete link has been proven between him and groups planning attacks against Israel.

Speaking on Channel 2 Saturday night, OC Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Malka revealed that a planned terrorist attack against Israel, sponsored by Bin Laden, was foiled a few months ago.

"Bin Laden has tried, will try to reach us, and may even reach us here in Israel," Amos said. "He will try to make use of various countries around us from which to infiltrate, and he will try various creative means."

Indeed, according to an AP report, bin Laden's aides told a Middle East Broadcasting Corporation reporter US and Israeli interests will be targeted in the coming weeks.

The reporter met with bin Laden and his aides in a desert area of Afghanistan a few days ago. The terrorist leader seemed "happy with the talks of his aides who said that the coming weeks will hold important surprises that will target American and Israeli interests in the world," the reporter said.

The Saudi-owned MBC, known for its credible reporting, showed footage of bin Laden's followers, dressed in black with their faces covered, performing military training.

MBC also showed bin Laden's old speeches in which he says: "(the) humiliation...that is prevailing in the Muslim world will only be undone with jihad and suicidal operations."

The report was aired two days after US military forces throughout the Gulf were put on a heightened state of alert in response to a terrorist threat. The threat, picked up by US intelligence agencies, was not specific about an intended target, US officials said.

The MBC report quoted bin Laden aide Abu Hafas Masri as saying that the terrorists were prepared for any form of retaliation for attacks. "We are ready for any surprises and we are ready to evacuate our positions in less than half an hour in the case the United States tried to shell our bases."

At a seminar last week, Yoram Scheitzer, a researcher on terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, contended that Bin Laden is actively planning terrorist attacks against Israel.

"Bin Laden is a professional, he takes a long time to plan," Scheitzer said. "It is not inconceivable that Bin Laden is planning terrorist attacks."

But Feiler believes that the Bin Laden craze, spurred on by the Americans - who recently indicted 13 Saudis and one Lebanese for the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia in which 19 US Air Force personnel were killed - has been blown out of proportion.

"We know that in the past years we didn't hear much about Bin Laden vis-a-vis Israel. Most activity has been against American targets," Feiler said. "I don't say that in the future he won't threaten Israel, but you can count on the fingers of one hand" the number of attacks being planned against Israel by his group. According to Feiler, the main worries for Israel are still Hamas and Hizbullah.

Last Update:June 26, 2001