The Christmas Day pants bomber traveled a well-worn path to global terrorism: through Yemen. From the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in the Gulf of Aden, to the role key Yemenis played in the September 11 plot, to the increasingly prominent role of Yemen-based leaders of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Gulf country has long been a terrorist hot-spot. Now, a small number of Yemeni jihadists have reportedly joined others from Syria, Egypt, France, and Belgium to fight a new war on an old battlefront: Gaza.
According to intelligence officials, up to a few dozen foreign fighters have entered Gaza from Yemen and other Middle Eastern and European countries. Some are experienced fighters there to provide training, while others seek to be trained and experience jihad. Some of the Europeans have even reportedly "come with their credit cards" and financed jihadist activities while in Gaza.
The influx is beginning to have an effect on what has traditionally been a local jihad. Groups such as Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade weave Palestinian nationalism and radical Islamism together but limit their operations to the Israeli-Palestinian front. Now, under the influence of more worldly jihadists, some Palestinian fighters are signing up for groups inspired by al Qaeda, fighting not for Palestine but for the whole Muslim umma.
Al Qaeda-inspired jihadist groups in Gaza have maintained a local operational focus on Israel and Gaza, but have tied their attacks to global issues like the Danish cartoon crisis or the incarceration of a jihadist ideologue in Britain. The fear among U.S. and Israeli intelligence is that such a "glocal" ideology is serving as a bridge between Palestinian nationalism and al Qaeda's global jihadist ideology. The former theoretically allows for a two-state solution; the latter requires adherents to wage violent jihad against all infidels and apostates until the creation of an Islamic state...They pledge allegiance to the jihad of the united ummah of Islam. And to the Prophet, and Allah's commands. One ummah, indivisible, with tyranny and injustice for all infidels.