Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday admitted what Israeli security experts have been saying for over a year - that Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda terrorist network is active in the Gaza Strip.
Speaking to the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat, Abbas said that Al Qaeda cells were receiving assistance from Gaza's Hamas rulers in setting up a base of operations.
Abbas complained that the Hamas-Al Qaeda alliance would only hinder the overall Palestinian goal of gaining sovereignty over Judea and Samaria and declaring a sovereign state that includes the Gaza Strip.
Abbas' remarks were published a day after Israeli Military Intelligence chief General Amos Yadlin reported that a large number of Al Qaeda operatives - including snipers and explosives and engineering experts - had used last month's breach of the Gaza-Egypt border to enter the coastal strip.
Israel and the United States repeatedly urged Egypt to reseal the border, warning the breach would be exploited by terrorist elements. However, claiming that it had no choice but to assist the Palestinians in relieving themselves after months of Israeli blockade, Cairo failed to repair the border for nearly two weeks.
As Israel forcibly evicted Jewish communities in Gaza and withdrew its forces from the area in 2005, numerous Israeli opposition figures and defense experts warned that it was only a matter of time before a Jew-free Gaza transformed into the world's leading terrorist haven.