Apr. 10, 2003
Terror Groups 'SHOCKED AND AWED' By Fall of Saddam
By ERIK SCHECHTER
The fall of the Baathist regime in Iraq has hurt both the morale and organizational ability of Palestinian terror groups, according to ex-intelligence
"Right now, they are in shock," said Reuven Merhav, a Middle East commentator for Channel 10 and former Mossad official. "This a huge blow to the
prestige of those who backed Saddam Hussein."
During the war, the Palestinians turned out into the streets of Ramallah and Hebron by the thousands to demonstrate against the United States and
Britain. Families in Nablus even began naming their newborn sons after the Iraqi dictator, reported the London-based pan-Arab daily Al-Quds al-Arabi
in late March.
Hundreds of Fatah members went off to Iraq to fight for the regime of Saddam Hussein. On April 5, Sheikh Ikremah Sabri, the PA-appointed mufti of
Jerusalem, issued a fatwa banning British Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President George W. Bush from visiting the Holy Land.
Saddam had long styled himself the patron of the Palestinians, who showed him their appreciation in return. During the first Gulf War in 1991, he
fired 39 Scud missiles on Israeli cities, and despite crippling UN sanctions on Iraq, he sent a 40-truck convoy loaded with food and medicine to the
territories, in October 2000.
Iraq also donated some $30 million to the families of Palestinian suicide terrorists the "martyrs" of the current uprising. But the spigot has been
turned off on the cash flow.
"Without Saddam's money, the terrorist groups will now have a hard time buying equipment, enlisting people and funding missions," said Merhav.
Indeed, most security experts agree that at least in the short-run groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad will take a low profile. However, MK Ehud
Yatom, a former senior Shin Bet official, predicted that the respite from major acts of violence will last for just three of four weeks.
"Then they will strike out to prove that they have not been defeated," he said.