Middle East: Israeli attacks may lead to new terror networks, says expert

Gaza, 29 Dec. (AKI) - The latest Israeli attacks on Gaza could promote the growth of 'new Al-Qaeda' terror networks, a British terrorism expert warned on Monday. Kamal El-Helbawy, director of The Centre for the Study of Terrorism, said the raids had provoked widespread anger throughout the Middle East and many people, even children, were now talking about revenge. While stressing that the Islamist Hamas group was committed only to the liberation of the Palestinian territories, El-Helbawy said many others were not.

"There are people who will not be happy with that, they condemn Hamas as too soft," he told Adnkronos International (AKI) in a telephone interview from London.

"There is no difference in their minds between Mahmoud Abbas (Palestinian Authority President) and Ehud Olmert (Israeli prime minister). They consider Abbas unwilling to liberate his country."

Egyptian-born El-Helbawy, one of the founders of the Muslim Association of Britain, said if a solution was not found, he did not expect peace to prevail in the Middle East.

El-Helbawy who took part in an interfaith conference between Muslims and Christians in London on Monday, warned the conflict could worsen, particularly if Israel launched a ground invasion.

"It will get worse," he said. "The Palestinians will not stop, they will defend their country to the last citizen."

El-Helbawy's centre provides insights into global trends in Islamic resurgence, democratisation and extremism in the Muslim world.

Meanwhile, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak told Parliament on Monday that his country was 'at an all-out war' with Hamas.

"We have stretched our hand in peace many times to the Palestinian people. We have nothing against the people of Gaza," Barak said. "But this is an all-out war against Hamas and its branches."

Barak said Israel was not fighting the residents of Gaza, but wanted to deal Hamas a "severe blow". He warned that the Israeli operation would be "widened and deepened as needed".

The United States - Israel's strongest ally - has said it is up to Hamas to end the violence and commit itself to a truce.


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