24 Season Zero: Day of Reckoning

Chapter 14

HAMAS COMPOUND, KHAN YUNIS, GAZA

"Area clear!" Jack said as he swung his gun around the room one more time. He then nodded to Rachel and motioned toward a side hallway. "Over here. We should find a secure spot while we make contact."

She nodded as Jack picked the Saudi-made cell phone from next to Ihim's dead body. The two of them stepped over the bodies of the two Hamas fighters and into the hallway with windows overlooking the front of the Hamas compound. Jack took a quick look out through the torn shades to see what they were up against. There were at least six Hamas men visible at the main entrance of the terrorist property. The street outside was lined with old storefronts with faded Arabic lettering and steel bars on the windows with bullet holes visible on many of the walls. Whether it was a battle that Hamas fought against Israeli troops or against the Palestinian Authority during the last flare up was anyone's guess, but this was clearly a neighborhood which had seen its share of violence.

Jack and Rachel went into a small room and closed the door. Jack's first though was to use the heartbeat sensors to see if any terrorists were approaching but quickly realized all his equipment was gone and all they had were the inferior Russian weapons taken off the bad guys they had just killed. Jack pressed the main button on Ihim's cell phone and was glad the jihadist thug wasn't smart enough to have a password.

"How secure do you think this is?" asked Rachel. "What if the terrorists are able to track us? We can't underestimate the level of material support Hamas is getting from the Iranians."

Jack had thought about that too. Hamas wasn't an especially high-tech enemy by any stretch of the imagination but they obviously had connections. It was certainly possible that Iran had provided them with satellite technology that could be traced. There might well be Iranian agents right here in Gaza but Jack of course had a better plan. "It won't matter if they send reinforcements. We should be outta here by the time they get here. Besides, Nakkash will never think we're still hot on his trail."

Should be secure. Rachel didn't like that too much, but Jack had gotten them this far, hasn't he? Besides it was Jack who had the specialized training and the battle instinct, not her. She was naturally a good shot and learned quickly on the range, but that was about it. Besides that her training was in identifying suspicious luggage and passengers and how to direct people to the bomb shelters in the event of a rocket attack. It was Jack who had been trained in urban combat, counterterrorism, and how to operate in enemy territory. Oh well, I guess I'll leave it to Jack.

While Jack couldn't read Arabic as well as he spoke it he used the graphics to guide him first to GPS map programmed into the phone. For once he was thankful this Saudi technology was at least up to date as he saw the blue dot indicating their location. He zoomed out and revealed their location.

"Shit, we're all the way in Khan Yunis, that's Egypt right down there," Rachel commented. She was able to deduce the position from the location on the map since she obviously knew the local geography better even if she didn't know any Arabic. She pointed to what looked to be a concentrated urban area to their northwest. "That's Gaza City right there by the northern coast. I have no idea where the Ibrahimi Mosque is and its not like we can just go call a cab to take us there."

Jack began dialing a number. "If we're lucky for once today, they'll find us a way."

HENDERSON'S OFFICE – US FORCES SECTION, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES BASE, GIVITAYIM DISTRICT, TEL AVIV

Christopher Henderson rubbed his eyes and began to doze off after the long events of the day. The stolen nukes seemed to be beyond his control right now. He still could not believe what Jack Bauer had done. The girl had certainly been Jack's weakness. He understood why Defense Minister Doron had made the call to sacrifice Rachel to prevent her prolonged captivity while ensuring that Nakkash Bin Rahal's lifelong reign of terror didn't continue beyond the high school bloodbath. Now not only was Rachel still a hostage, so was Jack, and one of the world's most notorious terrorists was still on the loose. There would certainly be hell to pay if Bauer ever got out of Gaza alive. He was jolted awake by the secure emergency line ringing on his desk. He didn't recognize the number on the caller ID though he could see it was a Palestine country code.

"This is Captain Henderson," he said simply, his guard up.

"It's me, Captain," Jack voice came on the line. Speak of the devil.

"Where the hell are you, Bauer?" Henderson motioned for two of the other soldiers on duty to start tracking the phone to confirm Bauer wasn't duress.

"Rachel and I are holed up in a Hamas compound in Khan Yunis." He read off the coordinates to his commanding officer. "Sir, I know this is my fault and I have no excuse for it but…."

"Damn right it's your fault!" Henderson cut him off. "I'm going to have to get in contact with Wasser, give the Israelis your location, they'll have to handle the - "

"We're out of time, sir!" Jack began.

"Maybe you should have followed orders, Bauer," Henderson said, "My hands are tied here. Think about the political implications if Washington sends American soldiers into Gaza to engage Hamas, what that would do for the peace process."

"Sir!" Jack finally interrupted, "This isn't about rescuing me or Rachel, it's about the five Jericho-7 nuclear warheads that were stolen from the Israelis last night."

Henderson was silent for a few seconds. "And how did you manage to obtain this alleged intel?"

"So you are aware of the situation, sir."

"You're saying these nukes are in Gaza right now? How the hell do you know this? The trail went cold hours ago after Israeli security forces responding to the theft in the Negev Desert was ambushed by IEDs and roadside bombs planted by the terrorists."

"Sir, I'm sorry and again I know this is on me, but Nakkash Bin Rahal blackmailed my father into giving him the guidance systems for the nuclear warheads. My father must have only thought it was for their regular rocket attacks against Israel. But Nakkash personally showed me one of the warheads as well as a computer chip from the guidance system and Rachel was able to confirm that the words Jericho-Seven were written on them in Hebrew. The chip confers stealth capabilities onto the warheads so they can't be tracked by our GPS systems."

"What else do you know?" asked Henderson. Maybe Jack's venture into Gaza had proved useful anyway, even if it was inadvertently.

"Nakkash isn't interested in making demands. He intends to carry out a nuclear attack against American military bases in the Middle East. He didn't mention any specifics but I think it's a safe bet that at the very least our bases on the Arabian Peninsula will be targeted. He mentioned that 'Mecca and Medina will be free', his exact words, Captain. We don't know where they're launching the missiles from but I interrogated a terrorist and he gave up someone who would be in direct contact with Nakkash regularly since there are so many levels of security within Hamas. It's an Imam Ravid, at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Gaza City."

"Jack, hold on to that phone for as long as you can. I need to call Langley right now and coordinate with them. They have assets over there in Gaza that may be able to extract you. I'll get back to you two as soon as we can."

Despite his calm voice, Henderson's blood had turned to ice. What Jack had revealed was a threat beyond anything America had ever faced before. He agreed with Jack's assessment that the US military presence in Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states would be the most obvious targets, and if the missiles were now armed with stealth technology it would be difficult if not impossible to intercept. Casualties would surpass the American death toll from Korea, Vietnam, and every other post-World War II conflict combined, not to mention losses to allied Gulf militaries and civilians. Of course they could try to predict the warheads' flight path, but as crazy as he was, Nakkash wasn't stupid enough to set a direct course from Gaza to his targets. He couldn't believe that Philip Bauer at BXJ Technologies had given in to Nakkash's blackmail, but Nakkash would probably have found a way to use the weapons anyway. At least this way, the trail was still hot. Philip would have to answer for this eventually, Henderson thought, but the crisis had to be handled first. In any case, he would inform the Pentagon as well as his Israeli counterparts that Nakkash was preparing to launch the missiles regardless of whether military strikes against Hamas began, and that it was time to take the gloves off.

AL-NAJAR HOSPITAL, RAFAH, GAZA

Rafi Latif stood in the dispatch room of the Palestine ambulance service detachment at Al-Najar Hospital, located a few dozen miles south of Khan Yunis in the overcrowded, hardscrabble town of Rafah on the Egyptian border. The hospital had never met Western standards, but it was much better before the economic devastation that followed Hamas's rise to power and the several rounds of fighting they engaged the Israelis in. Now it was in extreme disrepair and completely dependent on the generous foreign aid that poured into the Palestinian territories.

Rafi, the man in charge of the Gaza Health Ministry ambulance detachment at Al-Najar, knew that while Hamas often invoked Muslim honor in justifying their continued war against the Israelis, there was no honor in living like this, watching the hospital he worked in for the better part of twenty years crumble before his very eyes. If Hamas would only accept the fact that the Jews would never be driven into the sea after all, the fighting would be over.

But Rafi knew to keep his views to himself. One reason was that anyone in Gaza who spoke out against Hamas was immediately put to death publicly in the most brutal ways. Secondly, and more importantly, Rafi had to feign his deference to Hamas to maintain his cover, because in addition to working for the Gaza ambulance service, Rafi Latif was also employed by the Central Intelligence Agency. In fact he, his wife, and one of his closest friends, a young Arab Christian physician's assistant from the hospital named Minaj whom he recruited, were the CIA's most trusted source in the Palestinian territories. Hamas use of hospitals and ambulances for terrorist hideouts and operations was precisely why Rafi was such a valuable source with so many contacts among Gaza's Islamist overlords. He had passed information to Langley about the movements of Hamas militants in the area as well as possible terrorist attacks. His intel had already saved countless lives.

Two years ago, in support of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas had commandeered one of his ambulances for a suicide attack against a resort hotel in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. The CIA tipped off the Egyptians who killed the potential suicide bomber with a sniper shot, then closed off the highway and remotely detonated the vehicle so Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood would blame the failed attack on the incompetence of the bomb maker or suicide driver rather than a CIA agent in Gaza. No doubt his intel had also been used to assist Israel in the past two Gazan wars, but Rafi's primary motivation was to help his own family and friends in Gaza escape from this nightmare. If this meant helping the Israelis crush Hamas so peace could come, then so be it. While Hamas and its supporters continued to be obsessed about destroying Israel, all Rafi wanted was a better day-to-day life for his family, friends, and neighbors. There was a far deeper reason for doing what he was doing but he couldn't think about that at the moment.

And now came the call he had both dreaded and prayed for. His day of reckoning had finally come. It came on Rafi's regular personal cell phone that he carried with him at all times, but the caller ID uniquely stated "Gaza Same-Day Delivery" in Arabic lettering. Obviously that was not a real company, but sounded realistic enough in case someone else saw the phone. Rafi opened up the phone and motioned for everyone else in the dispatch office to keep working as he began walking toward the door.

AL-NAJAR HOSPITAL / U.S. EMBASSY, CAIRO, EGYPT

"Salaam aleikum," Rafi said the traditional Arab Muslim greeting. "This is Rafi. To whom am I speaking with?"

"Gaza Same-Day Delivery, sir," came the reply in perfect Arabic.

"I am sorry but you must have the wrong number. I…."

"The three washing machines that just came from Egypt. My partner spoke with your wife yesterday."

"Ah, yes, I'm sorry I thought they would not be ready until next week."

By this time Rafi had stepped through the hallway into his more private office and closed the door behind him. He was glad that the Hamas commandos guarding the hospital hallway didn't see him hence they ask any unwanted questions. Hamas was growing increasingly paranoid and had already executed dozens of suspected Israeli collaborators this very week on the flimsiest of evidence.

"Greg, what's the situation?" Rafi said in English after finally getting all the coded conversation done. He knew to cut to the chase when it was this caller ID which meant a unique emergency that required an immediate response and his own extraction from Gaza if at all possible.

"A nightmare scenario," his hander, Greg Johnson, said from his office at the American Embassy in Cairo. The Gaza operation was run out of Cairo due to the territory's intricate connections with Egypt and because Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood were a major threat to Egypt's pro-Western military government. While democracy was typically preferred, it so happened that in Egypt, the military junta was a much more enlightened, civilized bunch than the radicalized masses demanding sharia law according to the powerbrokers in the State Department. "I'm just now getting this from Langley I can't believe they gave me this short notice which means you have even shorter notice."

"What's going on, Greg? You know I'm ready to leave at a moment's notice."

"Intel must have just come down, but you need to believe me, Rafi. Nakkash Bin Rahal has five stolen Israeli nuclear warheads inside the Gaza Strip. He's also in possession of a stealth guidance system and we believe Bin Rahal is going fire these nukes against the US military. Your instructions are to meet up with two friendlies who are now holed up inside a Hamas compound in Khan Yunis."

"Two?" Rafi asked in surprise.

Johnson sighed as he paced around his office, looking out at the thick layer of dust and smog that perpetually enveloped the Egyptian capital. "Please hear me out before you panic. Your contacts will be Private Jack Bauer from the US Army's Tel Aviv quick reaction team, plus a Private Rachel Friedman from the IDF. Yes, but forget their rank. The two of them were at Ariel Sharon High School yesterday and they were the reason the standoff ended in a relatively successful way. They single handedly took out dozens of terrorists. They were the ones who reported that the nukes were in Gaza after Nakkash boasted about it to them. "

"So instinct, yes?" Rafi commented. "I hope this isn't suicide." Johnson wasn't known to bullshit him, and they had a close working relationship ever since Rafi joined the Agency, but he hoped his handler wasn't exaggerating anything to put him at ease in fear that he would reject the mission. With stakes this high, there was no other alternative though, and the Americans were clearly out of options. He just had to hope these fresh young soldiers, one of them a female no less, were good enough.

"With the time we have we don't have the option of inserting any additional personnel into Gaza. Israeli Predator drones are currently providing backup though the skies may get hairy soon as we believe Bin Rahal will mask his nuclear launch with a full-on rocket assault into Israel. However you'll also have air support from the Air Wing at Incirlik Air Force Base which has been given special presidential authorization to operate in Gazan airspace. We need you and your team to move out immediately and maintain contact with us. When the mission is complete you all will exfil back to Tel Aviv with them and your work will be at an end. You'll have earned a new life in America or anywhere else in the world you'd like to go."

"Yes, I understand. I just hope we can make it through today."

"The world is counting on you, Rafi," Johnson replied before disconnecting the call. "And for what it's worth, you're in my prayers."

Rafi immediately dialed his wife and fellow agent Merina's number also speaking to her in code. She worked upstairs as a nurse in the oncology department. Merina nearly dropped the IV bag she was holding but steadied herself, making sure not to rush too much as she set it up inside the hospital room of a crumpled old man desperately wheezing for breath. Merina quickly excused herself after the IV was properly placed and announced she had a family emergency she absolutely needed to attend to.

Rafi was making the same excuses as he dashed down the hallway toward the cluttered main entrance of the hospital where dozens of raggedly clothed adults and barefoot children were waiting to be triaged by the overworked nursing staff.

"You heading out? Something come up?" asked one of the Hamas militants in combat fatigues at the end of the hall clutching his AK-47.

"Yes, mujahid," Rafi replied respectfully in a quick voice, "My nephew Amir in Gaza City, his epilepsy is flaring up today, he has had three seizures since last night. I'm going to take some of the Red Crescent medications over to him." Outside of the hospital, the Latifs volunteered with the Red Crescent, the Islamic version of the Red Cross since the actual Red Cross was banned from Gaza as a non-Islamic organization. In actuality, despite the good that Rafi did for the people of Gaza in that capacity, it was also a cover for his CIA activities.

In fact there was no such nephew but it was part of the cover story and since Rafi had never done anything to suspect he was anything other than a loyal Hamas employee working for the health ministry they would never look into it. They were too busy looking into Fatah and PLO members.

"Good luck with him," the Hamas jihadi said. He then gave the Hamas salute. "Allah akbar!" he screamed passionately.

"Allah akbar!" Rafi acknowledged with feigned equal passion as he rushed out the door.

LATIF RESIDENCE, RAFAH

Fortunately, Rafi Latif's residence was located on the northern side of Rafah, in the direction of Khan Yunis so there would be no extra driving involved. They lived in a three story cement house set off a dusty side alley. The house, like much of Rafah, was worn and battered on the outside by a combination of the salty sea air and the harsh sandy winds of the Middle Eastern desert. The only modern thing about it was the satellite dish set atop the roof and the Red Crescent medical transport vehicle parked in the dingy carport behind the house.

Inside, though, the home was relatively comfortable by Third World standards with some Western furniture and appliances. Rafi's Toyota Camry screeched to a halt in front of the home and he was glad none of the neighbors were paying attention as he didn't want to waste time giving them his explanation and the story of Amir.

"I have always known this time would come, just not so suddenly," Merina said with some trepidation on her face as they entered their living room. "Greg did say we're being pulled out after the mission's done?"

"Yes," Rafi replied, "We'll be extracting with our contacts from the US military. I don't know if it's an immediate extract or we have to lay low somewhere else in Gaza for a few days but no doubt the situation will heat up. Hamas will begin a rocket assault on Israel the moment the nuclear weapons are launched so we must prevent things from reaching that stage or else the situation will get hot and the skies may become too hostile for them to fly in."

The two of them went into a closet where they shoved some clothes aside, revealing an arsenal of AR33's, MP5's , grenades, rocket launchers, Claymore explosives, secure cell phones and silencers all courtesy of Uncle Sam. They quickly moved the weapons down into the carport and onto the medical transport, which had its own mini-arsenal already on board hidden inside the interior walls. Five minutes later, they pulled up on the side of a road at the edge of a shantytown where Minaj was waiting for them.

"Rafi, you only gave fifteen minutes notice, I….."

"Not like you have much to lose in this godforsaken place anyway, I'll update you on the way. Our first stop is Khan Yunis."

HAMAS COMPOUND

"Shit, I hear something," Jack whispered to Rachel about fifteen minutes later. Soon enough, she could also hear Arabic voices approaching the main area where they had killed the hostages. Part of the patrol guarding the perimeter of the Hamas compound had returned. Rachel took a quick glance outside and saw that the heavy guard presence outside was still there.

As if on cue, the phone rang again and Henderson's voice came on.

"Sir, the terrorists discovered the bodies of the men we killed, they'll be at our position any minute now. We're going to have to fight our way out."

"Okay, Jack, we've been able to contact the Pentagon but you need to stay low the best you can for a little while longer. The Israeli Predator drone is approaching your position, ETA three minutes. The CIA team's also approaching the area from the south. They're in a green medical transport vehicle with the markings of the Red Crescent."

"Thank God," Rachel said, "But I just hope we have three minutes."

"Just make sure you're out of the blast radius!"

"The drone is in range," Wasser's voice came. He was looking at a live feed from the drone base in Ashdod, as well as a map of Khan Yunis and nearby areas of southern Gaza showing their location.

"We'll make a run for it now," Jack replied, "Have the drones fire on the concentration of terrorists in the central courtyard."

"You got it," Henderson replied.

Jack and Rachel dashed out of their hiding spot just as a Hamas gunman came up to check out the area after seeing more dead bodies of his comrades. Jack made sure this gunshot was unsilenced as he fired two bullets into the hostile, sending the Hamas fighter flying back down the hall where more terrorists saw him fall. "More hostiles are approaching the west side of the structure. We drew fire in that direction. Target another strike to that position!"

There was furious shouting in Arabic as four more terrorists came. The six Hamas militants in the courtyard all scanned the windows with their guns, seeing nothing. They began to move but suddenly the Predator appeared a few blocks overhead, its pilot getting a clear digital resolution of the armed terrorists in the central courtyard. The young IDF drone pilot operating safely from his base in Ashdod got a lock on the target with the specific coordinates set for the center of the courtyard. The drone pilot squeezed the trigger as the Predator sailed directly above the Hamas compound. Several Hamas militants on the surrounding rooftops opened fire on the drone, unleashing a hail of automatic gunfire into the sky that attracted the attention of the local civilians, sending many of them scrambling for cover.

A Hellfire missile from the American-made drone made a direct hit on the middle of the courtyard, leaving a deep concrete crater and immediately incinerating all six Hamas fighters gathered there whose eyes were all fixated on the sky thanks to the sound of the drone. Jack and Rachel tore down a stairwell just as three more hostiles appeared, heading up toward the roof to engage the drone. Both of them fired long bursts from the AK-47s, shooting down all three hostiles within seconds.

"They are heading downstairs! Come with me!" a Hamas squad leader screamed, running along the open-air corridor surrounding the smoldering ruins of the courtyard where a large crater now stood. He and three other jihadis were taken out as well as another Hellfire missile slammed into the corridor they were in, collapsing the second floor into the first. Rachel took a quick glance outside and saw that more terrorists were concentrating at the front gate.

"Shit, we need to find another way, Jack!" she said, "I count at least a dozen hostiles in and around the front."

"You copy?" Jack radioed Henderson. "I don't have satellite coverage on your phone, I need you to send me a visual of the surrounding area. The area in front is crawling with hostiles."

"We copy, we have a visual," Henderson replied, looking at satellite imagery of the opposition forces in front of the compound. "Jack, you and Rachel can take a go for it from the clothesline at the south end of the compound. There are hostiles in two elevated positions and they're rallying local supporters in the neighborhood to come after you but we still have air coverage. We're going to take out the hostiles in the front and keep them on their toes."

"Acknowledge, sir! Waiting for the satellite map now. How far out's the CIA team?"

"They're inbound from Rafah as we speak, should already be in Khan Yunis by now."

"Keep me posted!"

"They have your GPS positions. Just focus on getting the hell out of there!"

"Yes, sir!" Jack replied and disconnected the call.

Two more Hellfire missiles from the drone targeted the front entrance of the Hamas compound, leaving it a bunch of mangled ruins littered with the bodies of over a dozen jihadis. There was a secondary explosion as half the building collapsed on itself, burying even more Hamas terrorists in the rubble. One more drone missile struck a Hamas jeep approaching the area, sending the burning vehicle flipping over several times and crashing into a falafel shop, bodies of its occupants tumbling out in flames. Another Hamas vehicle, this one a Land Rover also suffered a direct hit, a blinding flash of light and heat covering the street. The five Palestinians in the vehicle were immediately burned beyond recognition. Suddenly, however, Jack heard the sound of a heavy machine gun open up from a nearby rooftop. The Hamas gunner fired furiously as the drone came around to target him while his partner stood watch over the street below looking for more movement. A lucky shot hit the drone and Jack saw it starting to lose altitude. Bullets hit the wall right next to Jack as he and Rachel emerged on the rooftop by the clothesline.

Suddenly a second gunner also opened up as the terrorists had unveiled their heavy weapons. The drone was still in action, however despite being crippled. The pilot fired one final missile that honed in on the first gunner's position in a high-rise rooftop a block away from the Hamas compound. The missile hit the roof right next to the Hamas gunner, sending him and his partners flying through the air, their bodies crashing down in the middle of the Khan Yunis traffic below, causing a multi-vehicle pileup that delayed the arrival of additional Hamas forces. Several men in a Hamas jeep stuck in traffic cursed loudly and got out of their vehicle, one of them pulling out his phone to call Nakkash while the other fired bullets in the air to disperse the crowd of drivers and bystanders. Trailing smoke, the drone now continued its uncontrolled descent, crashing into a rooftop billboard and causing it to fall into the street below in two explosions.

Jack saw Henderson's recommended escape route, a clothesline that linked the Hamas building with several single and two-story cube-shaped homes across a narrow alleyway.

Rachel shook her head. "Shit, Jack, are you sure about this?"

"No," Jack said, pointing to more Hamas forces appearing behind them, "But its better than staying put."

"Well that's real comforting, isn't it?" she remarked. "Well I guess this day really can't get any worse."

Jack held Rachel tight as they got on the clothesline and swung off the roof, falling and gliding rapidly across the alleyway where more terrorists opened fire on them. Jack kicked through a window, shattering it and making way for Rachel as they both landed on the dining table of a Palestinian family, sending food flying and the civilians scrambling. On the street outside, two groups of Hamas gunmen on opposite sides had both opened fire on Jack and Rachel but they were too quick. Instead, two terrorists were killed in friendly fire as bullet ricocheted off the walls and parked cars. A Hamas squad leader angrily walked down the alleyway, approaching one of his comrades responsible for the friendly fire.

"You idiot! Ibn shamoota!" he screamed and raised the gun to the gunman's forehead and pulling the trigger to avenge his two dead comrades. "The rest of you, come in pursuit and remember who the targets are!"

KHAN YUNIS, GAZA

"Get out! What is this?" the Palestinian housewife screamed in a panic. The master of the house came charging through the door screaming in Arabic in shock and anger at the disruption. He rushed forward at Jack, who tackled him, grabbing him and slamming his head against the wall, knocking him unconscious.

Heavy machine gun rounds tore through the house Jack and Rachel had taken cover in. They saw two kids crawling along the floor as the housewife continued to go around screaming wildly. "Get out of my house!"

"Stay down!" Rachel shouted to the kids who seemed to understand her hand motions pointing to underneath the couch even if they didn't understand English. "You'll be safe down there!"

Suddenly large chunks of the wall were blown away by the heavy machine gun fire from the Hamas position diagonally across the street above them. The gunner moved the machine gun back and forth, blindly strafing the home. The Palestinian housewife was cut down by the shooting, pieces of her flesh splattering onto the walls. The machine gun bullets also tore through the unconscious form of the husband, killing him. Jack was filled with rage at the site of the dead civilians despite their uncooperative nature. Rachel fired out the window through some of the bulletholes, killing two hostiles approaching the house.

"I'm gonna have to go out and take out that machine gun!" Jack shouted.

"Okay, I'll draw some fire away from you," Rachel replied, panting as she loaded another magazine into the AK-47. "Hopefully we get our Uzis back."

"Just make sure you're safe!" she he said. Rachel saw two hostiles through the window and took both of them down with well- placed shots to the chest then went over to the two Arab children, reaching out to them.

"Stay under the couch!" she said as she turned back to face the terrorists. "Don't move from there!" She wanted to tell them how sorry she was about what happened to their parents but lacked both the time and the language skills for such a conversation. In any case, the blood was on Hamas's hands, no theirs. More bullets struck overhead, the wall nearly demolished down. Jack went through the front door onto the street where several neighbors had gathered to watch the gunfight. A hostile engaged Jack from the middle of the street and Jack ducked behind a forlorn looking date palm in the small yard of the house. Bullets struck the palm, snapping it in half and sending the top of the tree falling onto the fence separating the tiny yard from the street. Jack whirled around with his pistol and shot the Arab through the heart.

The gunner now focused on Jack, firing a massive round of bullets through the yard and the nearby street. Three of the onlookers were ripped apart by the machine gun rounds. Jack pulled the pin off a grenade and hurled it as hard as he could toward the machine gunner on the roof. The grenade landed at the gunner's feet and detonated, blowing him apart into several pieces. Two Palestinian police motorcycles came speeding over a hill around the corner but the police markings were just a show, a false veneer of legitimacy given that Hamas was the ruling government and a mere two years ago these men wore kaffiyehs and ski masks. They were police the way the Hamas militants were an army. Jack aimed carefully and shot the first Palestinian cop through the mouth, sending him flying off the bike. The second Palestinian swerved and hit a parked car, the force propelling him forward and he struck him head on a stone wall, breaking his neck.

"Rachel, I just took out the gunner, come out now, I'll cover you!" Jack shouted. "Hurry, we got more hajis converging on the area." Indeed three more armed Palestinians had appeared the end of the street beyond the crashed Harley Davidson motorcycles. Jack fired a furious burst down the street, killing one of the attackers.

ROCKET LAUNCH SITE, GAZA CITY

The Jericho-Seven rockets were hidden under some camouflage tarp on the balcony set amid the labyrinth of the Qissariya Market in downtown Gaza City. Security was not as tight nor visible given the hidden nature of the operation but Khattab and several other armed terrorists were there. Nakkash's eyes glanced on the TV, which was tuned to CNB News.

The footage showed plumes of thick black smoke rising from a Gazan neighborhood and Palestinians firing guns into the air in celebration as the camera showed the crashed Predator drone in the middle of a busy Khan Yunis street. "So far we haven't received any word from the Israeli Prime Minister's office, the Defense Ministry nor American officials confirming this was retaliation against yesterday's brutal siege at a Tel Aviv high school but Hamas militants and local Palestinians claim that this was an Israeli drone shot down by Hamas forces after it had launched missiles against a residential housing block here in the southern Gazan town of Khan Yunis. Of course we are unable to confirm if the target truly was civilian in nature…."

"You still cannot reach Ihim?" Nakkash asked Khattab.

"No, he is not responding," Khattab replied. "Neither is Salim. I am trying to reach the police detachment but the circuits are overloaded, I do not know what in the Prophet's name just happened in Khan Yunis. Emir, we must assume Jack Bauer and the Jew bitch somehow managed to escape and called in the strike. With respect, exalted Emir, perhaps we should not have told them about our attack against the United States."

"Don't worry, Khattab. All of Hamas will be looking for them as the Zionists and Americans are not as invincible as they want us to believe, not even their fancy drones," Nakkash boasted, pointing at the TV which showed more cheering militants and their supporters on the street making the traditional Arab victory sign for the camera. Several of them also shouted "Death to Israel" and "Death to America".

Nakkash walked over to the Iranian engineer and terrorist Arya.

"Are the warheads ready for launch, Arya?" he asked, looking intently at the stolen Israeli weapons.

"Yes, they are fully armed and the guidance system from BXJ Technologies is operational and works exactly as expected. I am ready to program the targets and the flight paths on your command, Emir," replied Arya.

"Good work, Arya," Nakkash said.

"It is Allah that made all this possible, Emir," Arya replied devoutly. "Subhan Allah."

"Here are the targets we will attack. Prince Sultan, King Khalid Military City, Al-Udeid, the US Navy Base in Bahrain, and the Baghdad Green Zone. I want the last missile targeted directly at the Iraqi Parliament building, the den of Shiite apostates and Western puppets." Prince Sultan Air Base in Riyadh and King Khalid Military near the Kuwaiti border were two of Saudi Arabia's most critical military facilities, both housing thousands of American and British troops. Al-Udeid in Qatar was a major staging area for US pilots flying sorties against Islamic militants in Iraq and Yemen, and Manama, Bahrain was the headquarters for the US Navy Fifth Fleet, which was responsible for patrolling the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea. With the attack on Baghdad, Nakkash would strike a crippling blow against the West's biggest attempt at democracy in the Islamic world and pave the way for his allies in ISIS to seize power in Iraq. Nakkash might have targeted Bagram, the primary Western base in Afghanistan instead, but that was out of range for the missiles.

Arya typed in the coordinates one by one and chose a zigzagging path for each one so that the Americans wouldn't be able to intercept the stealth missiles based on flight path projections. For example, the warhead targeted on Bahrain would swing deep into the Empty Quarter of Saudi Arabia toward Yemen before curving back toward the Persian Gulf and the flight path to Baghdad circled through Basra and Mosul before heading to the Green Zone.

"Bismillahi-r-ramani-r-rahimi. In the name of Allah, the most gracious, the most merciful," Nakkash prayed, his hands turned upward in supplication.

"Fi-sabil Allah. For the sake of Allah," Arya chanted with a smile on his face. The two men embraced each other as Nakkash made the final check.

Moments later, not just five, but more than fifty smoke trails appeared in the skies above Gaza City and the rest of the Gaza Strip as warheads and rockets lifted up into the sky. Nakkash had coordinated the launch against the military bases with a massive rocket barrage targeting Israel to confuse the radars and satellites which no doubt were on alert for a launch. Soon, the Israeli retaliation would come, and of course Hamas had more rockets in its arsenal and more than a few surprises. The skies above Gaza would soon be too hot for them to extract Jack Bauer, Nakkash thought with a smile.

KHAN YUNIS STREETS

Jack and Rachel both took turns reloading and returning fire at the Palestinians shooting at them from down the street. Two, then a third man fell backward at the bikes.

"We need to make a run for it now, Rachel!" Jack shouted as he heard more Hamas police shouting and barking commands in Arabic. Several of them were on the rooftops along both sides of the street, which was lined with three and four story buildings, a mix of residential and commercial. Jack took a grenade and tossed it upward, the explosion sending two hostiles flying off the balcony screaming. Rachel backed up against a wall as bullets hit right next to her. She lifted her AK-47 and sprayed a hail of gunfire toward the building on the opposite site of the street, focusing on the third floor and the roof where enemy fire was coming from. A hostile fell out of a window, plummeting to the street below, then another followed him screaming as he was shot off the roof.

Jack threw another grenade behind him, forcing several pursuing Palestinians to duck and take cover, two of them being killed in the explosion. "Cover our rear!" Jack told Rachel as he charged forward, picking up another AK-47 and several magazines from one of the dead Hamas fighters that had fallen off the roof. Rachel continued to fire backward through the smoke, holding off the enemy. They could see the shadows of the hostiles emerging through the smoke.

"There's too many of them, I can't hold them back much longer," Rachel told Jack, who was engaging more hostiles at the intersection.

"We're almost here!" Jack said. Rachel opened fire again and saw an armed Palestinian fall face down on the street, tossing his automatic rifle in the air. Another Palestinian tried to pick it up and she ended his life with a bullet to the head, the man falling to the street next to his partner. Jack saw that one of the Palestinian police he had shot was simply wounded and that the man was still reaching for his weapon. Jack fired a quick burst into his chest, the man slumping over against a wall with a widening pool of blood appearing underneath him.

Jack quickly got on the bike with Rachel holding on behind him, speeding off. If Jack thought he caught a break, then he couldn't be more wrong as two Palestinian police vehicles, a jeep and a pickup truck appeared at the intersection with their tires squealing, one of them running over the body of a dead militant and the other crashed bike in its rush to get to their prey.

"Hold on!," Jack told Rachel as he picked up speed, weaving in and out of the Khan Yunis traffic, going around a mixture of private cars, taxis, a flock of goats and a cart pulled by a camel. Jack coughed through the dust being picked up on the street which looked like it haven't been repaved in at least a decade. Well at least the shifting desert sands filled in the potholes. The pursuing vehicles had no interest in weaving in and out of the urban clutter nor did they need to. A goat herder barely dove out of the way in time as the jeep went through several of his flock, then made a sharp turn crashing right through an outdoor textiles display.

STREET MARKET, KHAN YUNIS

Suddenly Jack felt his phone vibrate and asked Rachel to get it as she held on tightly. She first reached back and fired a long burst from her AK-47 aiming at the engine block and tires of the Jeep. The pickup truck made a turn somewhere, no doubt in an attempt to close in on them somewhere else. One of Rachel's bullets shattered the jeep's windshield and struck the Palestinian in the passenger's seat in the throat, blood spurting out all over the interior of the vehicle. The driver swerved onto the edge of the road, which functioned as both a sidewalk and shoulder and went bearing down straight on several fruit stands. Civilians scrambled out of the way yelling Arabic obscenities as the Jeep plowed through several crates of date palms and oranges then a display of watermelons, hurling the melons through the air and showering the entire street with its contents. The driver cursed in rage as he saw the now lifeless body of his Hamas comrade in the passenger seat then followed Jack into what was the central bazaar of Khan Yunis with its narrow lanes and traditional sandstone and clay Arabian buildings mixed in with more modern cement and concrete.

"Yes?" Rachel said into the phone, "We're on….I hope you still have us on the GPS we're in some kind of market area, Jack's driving to lose them, we're being pursued by at least two Hamas vehicles."

"We have your position," Henderson said, "The Langley team is ready to rendezvous at the other end of the bazaar. You have to throw those hostiles off your tail. I'm sending you an updated live satellite map of the bazaar and its schematics. You should be able to lose them in there."

"We copy," Rachel said, "What's the ETA for our contacts?"

"Two minutes," Henderson said.

Without warning, Jack spun the bike around, Rachel nearly falling off but Jack grabbed her tightly enough. With the surprise move, Jack opened fire again into the engine then as the driver swerved, shot another bullet straight into the jeep's gas tank, igniting it. The explosion carried the jeep several feet off the ground, flipping it over twice as it demolished several market stalls with vegetables, meat, and cookware. Then the pickup truck rejoined the chase from ahead, opening fire at them again.

Civilians scrambled away quickly but at least two were cut down by the automatic weapons fire unleashed by the Hamas police in Jack's direction. Jack drove the motorcycle through the front of a barbershop, crashing through the glass door and windows. Without a second thought the pickup driver followed, leaving a path of destruction through the barbershop and sending several chairs flying through the windows. They both emerged in another street on the opposite side of the market, this one also lined with open-air stalls. Jack saw a narrow alleyway atop some concrete steps and made a rush for it, the pickup truck in hot pursuit. Rachel shot back with her AK-47 but the hostiles came unfazed. Jack adeptly steered the bike in the alleyway, the handlebars within inches of both walls.

The pickup truck was forced to stop as it reached the top of the stairs, the Palestinian policeman at the wheel slamming on his brakes just as his vehicle was about to hit the wall. The Palestinian slammed his fist hard on the dashboard and cursed in Arabic then pointed to the two armed subordinates in the back, motioning them to pursue on foot.

"Get them on the other side! Cut off their escape! Yallah! Yallah!" he screamed waving his hands wildly.

The two Palestinians quickly exited the back seat with their firearms drawn, ready to kill their targets as they ran into a kabob shop and headed up a stairwell leading up to the roof which allowed unrestricted access for at least the next four blocks or so. They knew that the narrow lanes below would slow down their targets' progress on the motorcycle.

Jack was forced to slow down as they entered an incredibly crowded residential block with tangles of wires overhead and residents cooking outside on the street, where packs of stray dogs and cats also roamed. A bullet suddenly struck the bike and Jack found himself losing control, slamming into a street display of clothes.

Jack saw two armed men in the street in front and the two hostiles from the pickup now took positions above them. All of them opened fire at once.

"Allah ak-" the shout of one of the Palestinians in the street was cut short as a van with the markings of the Islamic Red Crescent struck him and his partner at full force. The first terrorist disappeared under the wheels of the medical transport vehicle, being dragged beneath it for at least thirty feet, and the other was slammed into a parked car so hard that the door was dented. It took him several long seconds to recover from the impact as he brought his gun back up, seconds that would cost him his life. Two figures, a man and a woman dressed in a black abaya emerged from the medical transport as it came to a stop. The woman quickly discharged two bullets into chest, the Palestinian dropping his gun and falling facedown before getting a shot off. The man from the medical transport fired two quick bursts at the hostiles overhead, sending both of them falling off the roof dead.

"Let's save time on the formalities, Jack Bauer," Rafi Latif said, getting out of the passenger's seat. "And you must be Rachel Friedman. Not as if you two can stick out anymore in Gaza. About time we fixed that." He held up an Arabian robe for Jack and an Islamic veil for Rachel.

Jack looked at the dead hostiles scattered around the area. "How many on your team?"

"What you see is right here, Jack. My name is Rafi, this is Merina and Minaj. My handler told me how capable the two of you are despite your ranks. I'm glad at least so far it appears they were correct."

MILITARY OPERATIONS ROOM, IDF BASE, GIVITAYIM DISTRICT

Henderson, General Wasser and their staff sat around glumly at the conference table once again, with the Pentagon and the Israeli Defense Ministry both on videoconference.

"Yes, we've confirmed the launch," Secretary of Defense Scott Adler said from the Pentagon, where the Joint Chiefs were also meeting. President Jack Ryan had already been evacuated to the bunker deep beneath the White House as a precaution, even though they ostensibly knew where all the nukes were located and none of them was anywhere near the United States. "Needless to say, the President's upped our nuclear readiness to Defcon-1. If the attack succeeds, this of course will completely change the balance of power in this region."

"In what way?" Defense Minister Doron asked. "We have warned your government of the terrorism coming out of the Palestinian territories for decades. Some of the previous American administration have thought Hamas could be reasoned with. Not only was that not the case, now its confirmed that have connections with Muslim terrorists far beyond this region and that Nakkash wants Palestine to be part of a larger caliphate."

"President Ryan has always recognized the threats," Secretary Adler countered, "And regardless, what I meant by my statement earlier is that if this strike succeeds, the President will be compelled to take unprecedented action in the region, not just like Palestine but against any other countries that have supported Nakkash Bin Rahal in his current endeavor as well as to prevent the rise of the Islamic caliphate our enemies are trying to create. Captain Henderson, what kind of damages are we talking about if these attacks can't be stopped in time?"

Henderson spoke up. "These are considered low-yield nuclear warheads, the Israelis designed it this way with the understanding that the regional battlefield is small and the fallout could fly back here, but these are still more powerful than the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Assuming they're targets, this will be more than enough to completely obliterate the US Fifth Fleet and the US Naval Forces Central Command in Bahrain with at least ten thousand American and allied sailors wiped out. Losing one or more bases in Saudi Arabia or Qatar would not only cripple out fight against Al-Qaeda and ISIS in the Arabian Peninsula, it will weaken our Gulf allies to the extent it will make them inviting targets for both Sunni extremists and Iran. We're also looking at skyrocketing gas prices and a global economic catastrophe if the Persian Gulf shipping lanes are contaminated with radioactive fallout and closed to oil tankers. Sir, we need the air support from Incirlik ASAP."

Secretary Adler nodded. "As predicted, the terrorists masked their launch with a major barrage of rockets into Israel, including more accurate Iranian models we didn't know they possessed. They're already reporting dozens of civilian deaths all over southern Israel. Hamas also has advanced surface-to-air weaponry supplied by the Iranians as well as Chinese armaments obtained on the black market. I need to let you right now that an immediate extraction either by Air Force Special Ops or Navy SEALs will be difficult. We need you to work on finding your team a way to either hunker down for a while or find an alternative way out of Gaza."

"I'm on it, sir. Jack Bauer can take care of himself."


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