Israelis abduct Hamas chief [And account of Soviet upgrade of Syrian air-defenses]
- September 30, 2007
Israelis abduct Hamas chief
Marie Colvin and Uzi Mahnaimi, Tel AvivTHE SECRET Israeli raid into the heart of Hamas-controlled Gaza could hardly have been more audacious.It was still light when Mahawash al-Qadi, a senior officer in Hamass militia, drove home from Friday prayers three weeks ago at about 7pm. A broken-down lorry blocked his route so he turned into another track.Neighbours said he would have had no inkling of what was to come: his wife and mother were with him in the car, and his own men control security in the farms and orchards that stretch along Gazas eastern border with Israel.Al-Qadis path was blocked again after a sack of potatoes was spilt into the path of his Subaru. Suddenly four men dressed in the black T-shirts, blue camouflage trousers and black boots of the Executive Force, the Hamas police, leapt into the road ahead of him.
But they were no allies: they were Israeli special forces in disguise. They bundled the women out of the car and drove away at speed. The women said later they heard a helicopter taking off within moments. Al-Qadi has not been heard of since, but is assumed to be in Israeli custody.His capture nearly caused another rupture between Hamas which seized control of Gaza in June after five days of bloodshed that left 110 dead and Fatah, the secular organisation it ousted. Hamas mistakenly believed Fatah had reopened the conflict by kidnapping al-Qadi and orders were given to retaliate.Al-Qadi had been a senior operative in Hamas since the first Palestinian intifada, or uprising, in the late 1980s. He led nighttime patrols on the Israeli border, supervised Hamass explosives and rocket manufacture and had taken over as the local militia chief.To the Israelis, however, the most interesting thing about him was that he ran the zone where Palestinians had forced Gilad Shalit, 21, an Israeli soldier, through a tunnel under the border in June 2006. Hamas wants its prisoners in Israel released in return for Shalits freedom.The Gaza operation signalled a robust new approach by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) under Ehud Barak, the recently appointed defence minister. The raid was a success but its goal the release of Shalit failed. When Hamas realised they had been tricked, they raced to Shalits hiding place in southern Gaza, according to Gaza sources.Al-Qadi knew Shalits location so the captive was moved before a rescue mission could be mounted.The new approach has its roots in Baraks own unconventional career.In 1973 he disguised himself as a buxom blonde and led a commando unit into Beirut to kill Palestinian officials in their beds.He shows no sign of backing down in his hunt for Shalit. The moment of a large, complicated and prolonged operation in Gaza is approaching, he warned last week.Invisible jets outwit SyriaThe Russians have sent technicians to upgrade Syrias air defence system after Israel foiled it using stealth technology to remain invisible during an airstrike, writes Uzi Mahnaimi.The Israeli air force used a sophisticated electronic warfare system operated by F-15I jets and a fleet of specialist electronic warfare aircraft over the Mediterranean during the attack on a suspected nuclear facility near Dayr az-Zawr on September 6. They transmitted signals that jammed the Russian-made radar and the Syrian armys communications.The top-secret system was being used for the first time. It is believed to have been designed in readiness for a possible attack on Irans nuclear sites.