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The Yemen-based arm of Al-Qaida is examining the possibility of infiltrating terrorists into Israel disguised as Somali refugees crossing the border from Egypt or even as new immigrants from Ethiopia.

Shi'ite rebels yesterday sent another letter to Haaretz, the latest of several, in which they quote from a letter sent by Al-Qaida to members of a Salafist group in the Gaza Strip that is opposed to Hamas.

"We made great efforts to dispatch fighters from [Yemen] to the Gaza Strip but the Hamas government returned them, claiming that they do not need fighters. We did not know then that you [the Salafist group] are in Gaza but thank God we now have a link. Regarding what you mentioned in your message about us, we would like to emphasize an important issue, that your brothers in Yemen do not forget the cause of Al-Aqsa and our brethren in Palestine, all of Palestine, and there is no difference in our eyes between one and another area... We ask you for details on a number of things," the letter is quoted as saying.

"What are your military capabilities and what weapons do you need for these and how will the weapons be stored if there is war with the Jews or you will be persecuted by Hamas," the Al-Qaida figures in Yemen asked the Salafist group in Gaza.

"We would like to ask about the possibilities for infiltrating explosives into Israel and what is the possibility of detonating them - with whom are you in touch inside the occupied lands [Israel], because you have mentioned to us that you have contacts there.

"Moreover, we would like to know whether it is possible to kidnap a Jewish soldier as Hamas has done, and how much that should cost.

"Is there a possibility of infiltrating brothers from Somalia to Tel Aviv under the guise of immigrants from Ethiopia. You told us that there are Jews from Africa who emigrate to Israel through the Egyptian border [the writer confuses refugees and immigrants - Z.B.].

"We are asking that you make your presence in Sinai greater than your presence in Gaza without making this well known and without reporting on what you will do in Sinai. However it is essential that you document your activities so that we could make them public at the right time.

"We have one of the brothers who is studying at one of the universities in Egypt and he is supposed to return soon to Egypt. We can send some money with him in order to assist you to acquire what you need. Forgive us that we have not fulfilled our obligations to you in the past. We expect a letter from you in which you will detail how you can receive the money from the person in Egypt and also inform you how to contact him. What is important is that there is no security suspicions against him and therefore we are asking that the person who will be in contact with him will also be free of suspicions.

"Finally, I wish to remind you to avoid any confrontation with Hamas and you must act in order to gain popular support, which is the backbone for every Islamic movement. You must explain your differences with Hamas in a way that the public can understand. You must recruit people among Hamas but take care that no spies enter your ranks."

The Shi'ite rebels who passed this letter on to Haaretz are trying to demonstrate the fundamental difference between them and their cause, and Al-Qaida. While the latter is involved in international terrorism, they demand only that their rights as Yemeni citizens be honored and to enjoy freedom of expression and of political activity as an ethno-religious minority.

For the past five years the Shi'ite group, which belongs to a moderate stream, has been battling Yemeni government forces, with assistance from Iran. They deny Iranian involvement in their affairs.

The contact person for the rebels explained in an earlier letter that they believe that publication in Haaretz could influence U.S. policy toward the Shi'ites in Yemen.