Kidnapped American reporter Peter Curtis who was held for two years in Syria by Al Qaeda was released to UN peacekeeping forces in the Golan Heights. He is now believed to be safe in Tel Aviv in the care of the American government.
Curtis was given a medical check at the United Nations peacekeeping base on the Israel-Syria border and then transported to safety in Israel. He will be debriefed by the F.B.I. before he returns home.
The circumstances surrounding Curtis’ release are unclear, as American policy prohibits paying ransoms to terrorist groups. There are still many hostages, among them Americans, held by various groups. More than 80 journalists have been kidnapped in the past few years in Syria.
There are significant repercussions to paying terrorist ransoms. A New York Times investigation revealed that $125 million has been paid so far to release European hostages held by Al Qaeda affiliated groups. Counterterrorism officials now believe Al Qaeda finances the bulk of its recruitment, training and arms purchases from ransoms paid to free Europeans.
The Israel Project, publisher of The Tower, hosted a media briefing with Israeli counter-terrorism expert Aviv Oreg today. (The audio of the briefing is available here.)
Oreg believes that it is only a matter of time before jihadist groups fighting in Syrian and Iraq turn their weapons on Israel.
I think it’s only a matter of capabilities. Targeting Israel is the very low common denominator of all these jihadist groups. As soon as they have the oppourtunity to attack Israel they will do so.
Especially if we talk about the ISIS…as soon as they have operational capabilities – if they get a launcher or if they will be deployed along the border they would not hesitate and fire rockets into Israel. The same goes for other groups that are operating in the region.”
I only think it’s a matter of operational opportunity for them to conduct such an attack.
Oreg, who formerly headed the Al Qaeda and Global Jihad desk in the IDF’s Military Intelligence Unit, is an expert on international terrorism. Oreg pointed out that while jihadists are moving closer to Israel’s borders with Lebanon and Syria, kidnapping of Israelis by jihadists is also a major threat posed by Hamas in Gaza.
The most important insight one can draw from the fact that they did not succeed to kidnap an Israeli soldier is that they will continue trying as much as they can.
In January the Shin Bet broke up an al Qaeda cell operating in the West Bank that was planning to target the American embassy in Tel Aviv. The cell was run by a Gaza based operative.
[Photo: Jabat Al-Nusra Youtube video]