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.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 23, 2005
Attended by a flock of legal advisers, senior Shin Bet security service officers have been engaged in talks with a prominent member of the Fatah young guard in Gaza, Abdel Fatah Hamail, on rules regulating weapons licenses for 500 Palestinian terrorist fugitives. These fugitives, including some of Yasser Arafat's most notorious terrorist masterminds, have already won an Israeli pledge to stop pursuing them, a reprieve made to further peace efforts. Now, on behalf of Palestinian chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and interior minister Nasser Yousef, Hamail working with Israeli security officials drew up a set of new Palestinian Authority criteria governing their "right" to stay armed. debkafile`s informants have seen the 10-point pledge they hammered out and handed Nasser to present to the terrorists for their signature. debkafile's informants disclose its terms for the first time here:
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 22, 2005
The only way Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon can ward off a final Likud split is to put the evacuations on hold and call an early election before the fissure becomes irreparable. An early election will become automatic if the budget is not passed by March 31. The government will fall and a poll must be called within three months. In the interim, Sharon will face another ordeal: the April 15 Likud primaries for prime ministerial candidate and parliamentary list. As things stand now, nothing is certain - neither Sharon's nomination to head the list, that of his rival, finance minister Binyamin Netanyahu, or rebel leader MK Uzi Landau. One dark horse is the coalition and party whip Gideon Saar. Aged 38, he shot to prominence in the last 24 hours by riding roughshod over Sharon's resistance to a referendum measure and putting together a package that held the party together for the moment: Likud standouts in the finance committee agreed to support the budget in return for its members on the law and constitution committee backing the referendum bill. While neither measure may survive a vote in the plenum, Saar's maneuver fended off the evil hour for his party.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 16, 2005
The Palestinian revolt staged against Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) by radical terrorist groups is taboo around Ariel Sharon. The Israeli prime minister and his following have invested too heavily in Abu Mazen's survival to allow any doubts to creep in that might deflect them from their chosen course of disengagement, starting in Gaza Strip. Israel is therefore doling out concessions and confidence-building gestures to help Abbas gain his feet. They are also turning at least half a blind eye to the armed strength building up in Palestinian areas by the same forces that are challenging the new Palestinian leader. As time goes by and Abu Mazen proves incapable of a strong hand, the rebels are pulling ahead of the game and have reached the point where he is their hostage. It is these extremists, heads of 13 Palestinian terrorist groups, who are dictating terms for a ceasefire at the round table free-for-all Abbas and Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman have been leading near Cairo since Tuesday, March 15. They are also holding Palestinian-Israeli negotiations captive.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 14, 2005
Two days of ceremonies inaugurating the New Holocaust History Museum in Jerusalem take place Tuesday and Wednesday, March 15 and 16. It is part of a challenging project to lend Holocaust remembrance a new sense of relevance for younger people as historic memories fade and the number of actual survivors with personal testimonies declines. The event is attended by a large international gathering of world leaders from 40 countries - ten presidents, six prime ministers and assorted high officials led by UN secretary general Kofi Annan, as well as survivors and scholars. Designed by world renowned architect Moshe Safdie, the museum is in the form of a gigantic prism carved into and directly through a hollowed-out limestone hill overlooking the city of Jerusalem. The natural design of the museum takes the visitor on a journey through time, and deep inside the hill. Feeling the weight and isolation of this subterranean tunnel, the visitor walks through the developing horror of history, moving from one gallery to the next leading off from the central corridor of the prism.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 2, 2005
Mahmoud Abbas knew his vow was hollow when he promised the March 1 London conference on Palestinian Reforms a 100 percent effort to prevent the recurrence of attacks like the February 25 Tel Aviv suicide bombing that killed five Israelis. He therefore tossed the ball to Israel, saying that without direct talks and progress towards a state there would be a return to violence. That statement contained three major fallacies: One, the Palestinians do not possess the most rudimentary institutions for statehood. Two, Palestinian violence never stopped; nor was the Sharm el Sheikh ceasefire really observed. Three, even if progress were made in direct talks, Abbas is incapable of preventing violence. debkafile's Palestinian sources report that Saturday, February 26, a day after the Tel Aviv suicide attack, Abu Mazen dispatched his newly-appointed interior security minister, Gen. Nasser Yousef, to the bomber's home district of Tulkarm on the West Bank to report on the security situation there. His findings were shocking.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 26, 2005
The dark days of Palestinian terror returned to Israel Friday night as a savage reminder that the three-and-a- half months of apparent lull were a pleasant fantasy. Israeli security forces were not surprised. Throughout the phony calm, between 50 and 60 threatened bombings were constants on their screens. And although the military had drastically cut down on its counter-terror operations and precautions to give the new Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas a chance to rein in Palestinian terror, still ticking bombs from all the Palestinian terrorist organizations were caught almost daily in the West Bank. The suicide bomber who blew up a crowd waiting to go into The Stage nightclub on Tel Aviv's beachfront Friday night, February 25, was no lone killer. He was just the first to slip through the Israeli security net after many of his fellows had tried and failed. He murdered at least four people - one woman is still fighting for her life - out for an evening of singsong and karioki. More than 50 were injured. The most serious allegation leveled against Sharon is his failure to respond to a development revealed exclusively by debkafile's military and intelligence sources. Instead of cracking down on terrorists, Abu Mazen and his sidekick Mohammed Dahlan have secretly applied to more than 20 world governments with urgent requests for large quantities of heavy weapons.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 23, 2005
Israeli military commentators came up shooting blanks when they took a searching look at the deputy chief of staff and former air force commander, Dan Halutz, who was picked to replace the forcibly retired Moshe Yaalon as Israel's 18th chief of staff. However, the new man will pretty soon find himself embattled with more pressing problems. Even if the planned Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank goes smoothly in the summer, there is a very real threat that Halutz will hardly have time to take a breath before the Palestinians go back to war in the fall, confronting Israel with a changed enemy. Palestinian terror, which died down after Yasser Arafat's death November 11, is set to resume in earnest in late September or early October.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 22, 2005
debkafile's exclusive military sources disclose that Israel and Egypt are in the last stages of drafting protocols that set the time table and arrangements for Israeli military units to abandon the volatile Philadelphi border route cutting Rafah between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Armed Egyptian troops will move up to the border and be deployed along their side of the Philadelphi route. General Amos Gilead, diplomatic coordinator in Israel's defense ministry, and the Egyptian General Staff's operations director are working on the final details. Israel therefore is not only evacuating civilians from Gush Katif, but turning over its Gaza border with Egypt to the Palestinians. The new Israel-Egyptian border will thus relocate northward up to the town of Sderot and the western Negev. The final troop withdrawal will follow soon after the evacuations and take place in late August.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 20, 2005
Israeli prime minister finally managed to elicit two momentous decisions from his cabinet on Sunday, February 20. The hard one was the evacuation of 26 Israeli communities from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank, one of the most polarizing in Israel's history. The second decision confirmed by Israeli ministers later in the session approved the southern section of West Bank defense barrier after its route was amended. The revised route encloses 7% of West Bank territory instead of 16% in the original blueprint. When the prime minister told the ministers at the critical voting session that disengagement is an "essential step for the state of Israel's future," he did not share with them certain facts that might have altered the way they voted. Friday, December 11, three days before the well-publicized Sharm el-Sheikh summit of Israeli, Palestinian, Egyptian and Jordanian leaders, the opposite camp met secretly on ways to disrupt it at a Hizballah base near Hermel in the Lebanese Beqaa Valley. On the agenda: the organization of a fresh terrorist offensive to accompany Israel's withdrawals.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 16, 2005
The non-extension of Lt.-General Moshe Ayalon's tour of duty as Israeli armed forces chief of staff is unprecedented. The one-year extension has always been automatic for every one of his predecessors, a routine that crossed party divisions and assured the country that the army serves the nation as its supreme defender and is above and apart from the political schemes of the government in office. This virtual sacking hit Israel like a thunderclap after midnight Tuesday, February 15, the more shocking since it followed shortly after the announcement that Shin Beit Director, the second top czar of Israel's war on Palestinian terror, will also not be asked to stay on when his stint is up in May. Both of these experienced veterans, widely acclaimed for their achievements in cutting down Palestinian terror, are being dropped ahead of the evacuations of Israeli civilians and troops from the Gaza Strip and northern West bank in the coming July. Both have spoken out against the step - each in his professional capacity. By Wednesday morning, a vocal chorus from the extreme political left to the right had condemned the step as irresponsible. The Knesset foreign affairs and defense committee will be called into urgent session.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 10, 2005
Not 48 hours after Israeli and Palestinian leaders solemnly united in Sharm el Sheikh on a reciprocal ceasefire, a powerful coalition of Palestinian terrorist groups made a mockery of the occasion by two swift strikes. Their contempt was directed not only at their own elected leader Abu Mazen and Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, but also at Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah who endorsed the ceasefire and the meeting. Early Thursday, February 10, Hamas mortar crews and Qassam missile launchers unleashed more than 30 rounds against Gush Katif. The barrage that lasted two hours and was continued later left no casualties, but damaged a house. However, during the night, the terrorists struck again. Dozens of armed Hamas-Fatah al Aqsa Brigades- Palestinian Fronts-Popular Resistance Committees gang pre-empted Israel's prisoner release gesture by storming the Palestinian Authority's central prison in Gaza City. They murdered three inmates and a policeman and released all their comrades from the PA installation.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 6, 2005
The usefulness of the hastily-called summit next Tuesday at the Egyptian Sinai resort of Sharm al Sheikh is being progressively eroded. By the time it comes round, the event may end up as little more than a photo op for its participants. The Egyptian venue was to have been the stage for Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' first tete-a-tete with Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon after his election last month. Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak is hosting the event, accompanied by Jordan's King Abdullah, to give it Arab and regional weight. It is Dichter's intention to go on the record before Sharon and his aides with his professional evaluation of the gravity of the situation. He will voice his conviction that the Sharon government's negotiating strategy vis-a-vis the Palestinians is leading the country into great danger.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 29, 2005
An offer of immunity for 300 wanted Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip and West Bank will be put by Israeli defense minister Shaul Mofaz before Mahmud Abbas's informal representative Mohammed Dahlan Saturday night, January 29 - according to debkafile's exclusive counter-terror sources. The beneficiaries, members of Hamas, al Aqsa Brigdes, Tanzim, Jihad Islami and the Palestinian Fronts, include also wanted murderers. Israel's provisos are that the men withdraw from active orchestration and execution of terrorist attacks and refrain from crossing into Israel. If caught outside Palestinian territory, they will be put on trial. The Israeli government led by prime minister Sharon and Mofaz is taking Abbas unreservedly on trust although it is not clear on whose behalf he and Dahlan speak - the more so since Friday, January 28, when a landslide municipal election victory was announced for Hamas.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 26, 2005
Under the bewitching spell of a week-long temporary and partial lull in Palestinian terrorist attacks from the Gaza Strip, the Sharon-Peres government is capitulating to radical conditions for its continuation laid down by the extremist Hamas. Indeed, Israel is in effect negotiating with the Islamist terrorist group dedicated to the Jewish state's destruction. Handling the process through the newly-elected Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) provides a patina of respectability. Hamas overseas leader Khaled Mashal said bluntly that a ceasefire is not on the cards, only a temporary calm - and that too must be paid for by meeting tough conditions. Abbas faithfully passed the conditions on to Jerusalem. Therefore, notwithstanding his failure to procure a ceasefire from any terrorist group, Israel agreed Tuesday night, January 25, to suspend targeted assassinations of wanted terrorists.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 15, 2005
This time, Israel turned aside from its standard knee-jerk response of massive military punishment and targeted assassinations to Palestinian terrorist outrages - at least for the moment. Instead, prime minister Ariel Sharon resorted to diplomatic retaliation: he ordered preparations for a meeting with new Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas broken off, government contacts with the new Palestinian administration cut, support for European economic aid to reach the Palestinians withdrawn, and the Gaza Strip sealed off from its vital supplies of food and medicines. Postponement of a meeting with Abbas was inevitable anyway because of the long list of Israeli concessions he demands to buy his consent to this meeting. This was the comment of the outgoing US secretary of state Colin Powell's comment on Sharon's steps late Friday, January 14: What Sharon did, I hope temporarily, is to say we welcome you, Abbas, but you've got to get these terrorists under control. debkafile's political analysts believe that the key word here is "temporarily." The prime minister is not expected to withstand the pressure to retract the punitive measures he announced Friday for more than a few days.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 4, 2005
The two Lahava Hill outpost's mobile homes adjoining Yitzhar near the West Bank Palestinian town of Nablus were not chosen for evacuation Monday, January 3, on the spur of the moment. debkafile's political sources report that the time and place were selected and prepared days in advance by prime minister Ariel Sharon. He ordered defense minister Shaul Mofaz to carry out the engagement as an object lesson for those who would resist his plan to remove 21 Gaza Strip settlements and four in the northern West Bank starting July. Tuesday, December 4, Sharon received the most explicit warning so far of the perils inherent in his evacuation plan from Israeli Shin Beit intelligence director Avi Dichter, one of the few counter-terrorist executives anywhere with a proven success record. In his annual report to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Dichter pointed out that for Israel to withdraw from the Philadelphi route that follows the border with Egypt made no security sense. Without an Israeli military presence there - even if Egypt takes over - Gaza-based Palestinian terrorists will transform southern Israel into a second South Lebanon.