DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 10, 2005
There is no doubt that Abu Mazen has done a lot better than the late Arafat who never dreamed of fulfilling so many dreams. When he spoke of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem its capital, Abbas was not talking out of his hat.
Although not a word of this has been leaked thus far, Orient House, the symbol of Palestinian Authority sovereign rule in East Jerusalem, has reopened for business for the first time in four years. In 2001, this symbol was demonstratively shut down on the orders of the first Sharon government. Now, the Palestinian leader has jumped the gun and set his brand on Jerusalem, the seat of the Israeli government, ahead of peace negotiations or any talks with Israel on the profoundly controversial Jerusalem issue.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 7, 2005
The big day for Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon is Wednesday, August 10. He will then find out if his huge gamble in pushing ahead, through thick and thin, with Israel's pull-out from the Gaza Strip and part of the northern West Bank, comes up trumps. He has staked painful concessions, national unity and personal credibility on winning a big prize, but clearly believes it is worth the candle. That prize is a US-British-French initiative for a UN Security Council resolution declaring the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip at an end. It all depends on the Quartet coordinator James Wolfensohn announce his mission a success.
But there is till one Palestinian demand that Sharon has resisted so far, upon which the entire scheme stands or falls: the Palestinians are holding out for the Gaza-West Bank corridor to be free of Israeli searches or the right to unload freight and travelers that hazard its security. Wolfensohn goes along with the Palestinian contention that Israeli authority to conduct such searches would nullify their sovereignty over the Gaza Strip and therefore not terminate the Israeli occupation
On the other hand, Israel's security chiefs, the Shin Beit's Yuval Diskin and AMAN's Maj-Gen. Aharon Zeevi, are aghast at prospect of forfeiting this vital anti-terror measure.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 3, 2005
Tuesday, August 2, Al Qaeda claimed the establishment of a Gaza branch called "Al Qaeda-Palestine, Jihad Brigades in the Border Land." (This is an al Qaeda locution meaning warfront.) The announcement, accompanied by a video tape, appeared on Websites normally reserved for releases on major al Qaeda strikes, such as the Madrid, London and Saudi bombing attacks and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's operations in Iraq. It is therefore to be taken seriously. The statement came out three days after the debkafile exclusive disclosure of al Qaeda's purported theological grounds for attacking Israel, as expounded in its new monthly magazine, From the Tip of the Camel's Hump.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 1, 2005
Shown above is the cover of al Qaeda's new print-Internet magazine Zerwat al Sanam, - Tip of the Camel's Hump. A lavishly produced, professionally-edited publication, it reads as though Iraq commander Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was dictating his operational creed - yet another indication of his high rank in al Qaeda's hierarchy.
A five-page essay appearing under the transparent alias of Abu Zubeida al-Baghdadi is titled: How should Islam relate to the Jews? This is the first time this question has been discussed in theological terms in any al Qaeda publication. The Jews have learned and must still learn, says al Baghdadi, that there is no victory without sacrifice. [Al Qaeda's followers, in contrast, are ready at all times to make personal sacrifices].
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 28, 2005
French president Jacques Chirac lavished brilliant fanfare and ceremonial warmth on a rare visitor to Paris, Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, when he arrived Wednesday, July 28, on a state visit to France. The ice-breaking symbolism was just that, no more than a thin veneer over the true state of Franco-Israel relations and the difficulties besetting the two leaders.Chirac's approval rating at home has plummeted to just over 33%, an unpopularity record unmatched by any previous French president in office. He is beleaguered at home and isolated in Europe.
US officials are privately referring to Disengagement B and Disengagement C which would entail the destruction of entire Israeli towns, Maaleh Adumim outside Jerusalem and Ariel further north. To soften up the Israeli government, sanctions have been in force for some months against Israel's security and military organizations whose performance has begun to show damage.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 19, 2005
Hamas operatives are under orders to fire on Palestinian Authority security officers coming to arrest them and call the local people out on the street to hem them in. Monday and Tuesday, July 18-19, saw a certain slackening of Palestinian attacks on Israeli targets, compared with the preceding five days. What the terrorist leaders, led by Hamas, are keeping their powder relatively dry for is a mass Israeli target in the form of the anti-disengagement march, which was supposed to reach the Kissufim checkpoint at the entrance to the Gaza Strip Wednesday, July 20.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 15, 2005
The disorders of this week in and around the Gaza Strip make talk of truce and Israeli pull-backs sound surreal.
From Thursday, July 14, Palestinian terrorists have kept up a steady missile and mortar bombardment of Sderot and the moshavim and kibbutzim of southwestern Israel while challenging Palestinian security forces in bloody clashes. The violence surged with the arrival in Gaza of Mahmoud Abbas for a hopeless effort to assert control and revive the shattered truce he guaranteed last February in Sharm al Sheikh.
As he stood by helpless to halt the violence, Israeli air force helicopters revived the discontinued targeted killings of Hamas terrorist leaders, striking in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. The Israeli army and police meanwhile grappled with acts of defiance on the part of the Gaza Strip's West Bank communities destined for evacuation.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 14, 2005
Clearly, the Palestinian leader, like the Israeli chief of staff, knows the identities of the hidden hands behind the Netanya attack. Yet no one brings them in. Mahmoud Abbas` arrival in Gaza was preceded by a further deterioration. Hamas leaders warned him that they have extended their protection to the heads of the Jihad Islami. Any Israeli or Palestinian action to harm them will invoke Hamas retaliation against... Israel. The Hamas is thus forcing its will - not only on the Palestinian Authority but also on Israel.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 11, 2005
The Israeli cabinet meets Tuesday, July 12, to dive into some troublesome outstanding issues in the operation to evacuate 10,000 people from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank 35 days away from its implementation. Prime minister Ariel Sharon won the votes of half a dozen Likud ministers by a pledge to execute the withdrawals in four stages with a cabinet assessment of current circumstances between each. Military and police planners attach the highest importance to the operation's unbroken continuity as a means of cutting down on risks - especially in view of intelligence incoming this week on the special new strategy the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas has designed for the evacuation.
Sharon Grants Egypt Military Rewards in Sinai, Is Outmaneuvered by a Secret UK-Egyptian-Palestinian Gas Transaction
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 5, 2005
Israel`s proposed military protocol with Egypt for Egyptian border police to man the Philadelphi border route is under challenge by Israel`s Knesset. However, debkafile`s sources reveal that the Sharon government has also agreed to Egypt's deployment of commando troops, APCS equipped with night-vision equipment and helicopters along the entire border. Moreover, the Egyptian navy will be allowed to use the northern Sinai Mediterranean port of El Arish as a naval base for warships. A separate deal behind Israel's back provides for British Gas and its Palestinian partners - through the Athens-based Consolidated Contractors Company - CCC - to resume drilling at the Gaza offshore field and sell the gas to Egypt over the same 15-year period as the contract with Israel. This contract stands to put $150-200m a year in Palestinian pockets.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 3, 2005
The deep seams in Ariel Sharon's coalition government cracked further at the cabinet meeting Sunday, July 3, as ministers and factions began striking pre-election campaign poses against their rivals. Netanyahu was clearly throwing down the gauntlet after telling his friends he would beat Sharon in the next Likud primaries for prime ministerial candidate. Labor ministers and Likud members of Sharon's fan club followed their scripts and flailed Bibi from all directions. The prime minister, for his part, is confident he will reach the Likud primary with the agonies of the pull-back behind him and then plunge into campaigning for re-election. He would prefer to see Netanyahu out of government beforehand.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 25, 2005
The 17-year old Israeli student, Avichai Levy, shot dead by a Palestinian drive-by killer squad Friday evening June 24 near Beit Haggai, Mt. Hebron, was the third pre-disengagement victim of four Palestinian terrorist attacks this week. Five Israelis were also injured, one seriously. Earlier, Sgt-Maj Avi Karuchi, 25, from Beersheba, and Yevgeni Rider, 28, from Hermesh, were murdered in a revival of Palestinian violence which is focusing again on the West Bank. This resurgence of violence erupted on June 19 as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made her foredoomed attempt to persuade Palestinian leaders to cooperate in Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Her quest for a diplomatic understanding was worse than fruitless; it was reciprocated by a dangerous new spiral of Palestinian violence and threats.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 22, 2005
The meeting Tuesday, June 21, between Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian chairman Mahmoud Abbas - their first since the February Sharm al-Sheikh summit - went badly, as all the parties admitted. There was an attempt to present the failure as emanating from Sharon's impossible demand of Abbas to crack down on terrorism, countered by the Palestinian leader's complaint that he would if he could, but lacks the necessary strength. But, all in all, debkafile's Palestinian and intelligence sources claim the published account is misleading. Nothing was settled between the Israeli and Palestinian sides because the interchange was dominated by a flat refusal by Abbas flanked by prime minister Ahmed Qureia and other cabinet ministers to budge on any of the points raised by the Israeli side. Instead they pressed hard on their own.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 8, 2005
Israel's new chief of staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz followed a given script when he declared firmly Tuesday, June 7: "Evacuation will not take place under fire. I say exactly what I mean." He was speaking to skeptical military correspondents outside Sderot, whose shocked citizens refuse to meet him after suffering waves of Qassam missile salvoes from the Gaza Strip throughout the day. Halutz's words did not reassure the inhabitants of Gaza, such as Ganei Tal, that they would be fully protected when they exited their homes in August; or that the Israeli town of Sderot would be safe from Palestinian missiles when it is left behind outside the Gaza Strip. Halutz's calm, assured demeanor did not impress Israelis living precariously between bombastic declarations, empty promises and Palestinian threats. Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland, head of the national security council, who ought to know what is going on, has exposed the true state of affairs, which is that nothing is ready - as debkafile revealed some weeks ago.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report May 29, 2005
Nine of Israel's top business executives and 11 heads of three leading inquiry companies - including Modiin Ezrahi -are in custody suspected of complicity in a massive computerized commercial espionage conspiracy. Sunday, Tel Aviv magistrate lifted gag order on the case which police code-named Horse Race. Prosecution is reported to have located a state witness. Michael Haephrati, who was arrested in London Thursday, May 26, with his wife, is suspected of designing the illegal raider software called Trojan Horse for the three inquiry firms. They offered clients business intelligence on their rivals, some of whom trade on the stock exchange, by illegally planting spy software in the targeted computers and downloading their classified data. The Scotsman reports that before he was arrested on the Israeli extradition warrant, Michael Haephrati, who also has German nationality, was questioned by detectives from the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit on a "separate matter."
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report April 25, 2005
The high terror alert declared over this year's Passover for the fourth year in a row was a grim reminder of the 2002 Seder massacre in Netanya, four months after Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas shook hands with Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon on a truce at Sharm el Sheikh. It was the direct outcome of the Sharon-Peres-Mofaz reversion to the Palestinian policy of their predecessor, Ehud Barak, in the face of the first stages of Yasser Arafat's suicide terror campaign - appeasement in the face of violence and the threat thereof. But now the lines of appeasement are broader. Israel's willingness to withdraw from the Gaza Strip is being treated not as a gesture for peace but an appetizer.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report April 18, 2005
Prime minister Ariel Sharon could no longer ignore the fact that nothing is ready for the July 20 evacuation of 9,000 Israeli men, women and children from the Gaza Strip and N. West Bank. That is what decided him to consider a month's delay - rather than sudden sensitivity to the date falling during the traditional three-week mourning period for the destruction of the ancient Jewish Temples. The special cabinet session that Sharon has called for Tuesday, April 19, to confirm the one month's delay cannot blink away the many obstacles to the pullback. In setting the date, Sharon bit off more than he could chew. According to a communique from Israel's high military command covering the last few days, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip fired eight mortar rounds at Israeli targets, injured three Israeli troops in nine sniper attacks and planted 7 explosive devices that were dismantled. The Palestinian force that Abbas "deployed" in the Gaza Strip when he took over melted away when the first mortar and missile firings were heard. Furthermore, the post-disengagement arrangements charted with Egypt to secure the Philadelphi border strip and control the massive arms smuggling traffic from Sinai have fallen apart.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report April 11, 2005
The big dilemma that most exercised the Bush-Sharon summit, according to debkafile's Washington sources, did not come up in the news conference. What to do about the Palestinian general election scheduled for July in view of the mortal threat it poses for Mahmoud Abbas's regime and the prospects of peace? A fresh piece of intelligence was a shocker for both leaders. debkafile's Washington sources disclose it consisted of a Palestinian decision to resume the terror war against Israel in the second half of June - from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip simultaneously. The heavy mortar and missile assault inside and outside the Gaza Strip from Saturday, April 10, again Sunday and erupting again Monday night after the Bush-Sharon news conference was but a foretaste of the offensive to come to be launched by Fatah to avert an election that Hamas could win.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report April 10, 2005
An intelligence report reaching the Israeli military command early Sunday, April 10, disclosed that the five Palestinian teenagers who crawled across the flashpoint Philadelphi route on the Egyptian border Saturday, April 9, were each paid IS1,500 ($348) by Mussa Arafat's Palestinian military intelligence and the Popular Resistance Committees in the Gaza Strip. It was a well-timed direct provocation to stir up trouble the day before Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon embarked on his American trip - and after. Three of the boys were killed by Israeli fire, sparking a Palestinian mortar-missile blitz Saturday night and Sunday against Gush Katif. The two Palestinians have in fact picked up the late Yasser Arafat tactics. He habitually raised the level of attacks whenever diplomatic initiatives were afoot for a fixed purpose: to force all parties and mediators to recognize that the Palestinians hold the whip-hand in any peace process and will determine its outcome by applying terrorism and violence to force Israel to its knees.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 30, 2005
The fourteen months since Ariel Sharon unveiled his unilateral disengagement have been for him a personal hurdle race to knock over the political and military opposition to his plan by fair means or foul. In the process, he trampled several values and mores that most Israelis had taken for granted. Critics were punished by the wrecking ball, champions and cronies lavishly rewarded with jobs and handouts. After losing their political battles in parliament, the anti-disengagement activists are deep in debate over their next steps. Whatever they do, they must reckon on facing a new chief of staff, new Shin Beit chief and new police commissioner - each handpicked for his willingness to carry out orders from the prime minister's and defense minister's offices. The six Likud ministers opposed to the removal of settlements - led by finance minister Binyamin Netanyahu - have vacillated throughout between their Likud loyalties and fear of losing their jobs. They finally opted for the latter.