DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 7, 2005
The assassination of Moussa Arafat was obviously well-planned and carefully staged. According to debkafile's counter-terror sources, the crime bears the hallmark of Palestinian minister for civilian affairs Mohammed Dahlan and his sidekick, Gaza preventive security chief Rashid Abu Shebak, two would-be Gaza strongmen who are no strangers to violence. Suspicion is strong that they contracted the Popular Committees' Salahedin Brigades for the slaying.
Scores of armed men dragged the former Palestinian military intelligence chief and head of national security forces in the Gaza Strip from his home, shot him dead and abducted his son Manhal. The fact that a large band of armed men was allowed to pump 23 bullets into Arafat's body - whereas none of his bodyguards suffered a scratch - bespeaks betrayal and conspiracy.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 30, 2005
US president George W. Bush, Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas are certain the Israeli government did the right thing in uprooting Israel's civilian presence from the Gaza Strip ahead of the final pullback of troops on Sept. 15.
But their gratification is likely to be short-circuited. The level of Palestinian terror is climbing day by day, and the first post-evacuation suicide attack has already taken place in Beersheba. Israeli troops are still in Gaza demolishing Israeli homes and dismantling their installations - and already they are targeted by the gunmen of the first outside Palestinian terror group to arrive from Lebanon.
Palestinian violence will fuel Netanyahu's chances of toppling Sharon - unless the government shows it can fight back.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 17, 2005
United Nations Headquarters in New York has quietly ordered all foreign staff, especially UN Refugees Works and Relief Agency personnel, to depart the Gaza Strip by Wednesday, August 17. The world body estimates any workers remaining in Palestinian areas, especially those adjoining Gush Katif, face extreme danger after the evacuations begin first thing Wednesday morning. Most significantly, Washington reversed its 20-month ban on US diplomats' visits to the Gaza Strip to urgently dispatch a top official, US assistance secretary of state David Welch, for a surprise visit to Gaza Tuesday night. US intelligence confirms the UN estimate of the extreme security danger prevalent in the Gaza Strip. It stems from Palestinian Authority chairman Mahamoud Abbas having fallen completely under the sway of the Hamas and the Jihad Islami, which are vying with each other for first grab of evacuated Israeli properties ahead of any claim by the Palestinian Authority. Both have especially drilled guerrilla units lurking close to Gush Katif ready to pounce on their prey, each other and above all, Israeli targets.
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 July 23, 2005
Al Qaeda's first coordinated bomb attacks on London's public transport which shocked Britain on July 7 were mounted at the same time as the G8 summit in Scotland. this was the closest al Qaeda terrorists had come to key Western leaders gathered in one place. Yet, strangely enough, all those leaders lined up to consign the attack to the British arena. Al Qaeda chose its moment to devastate the Sharm paradise when the US, Britain, Egypt and Israel were immersed in an intense effort to clear away obstacles to Ariel Sharon's evacuation of Israelis from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank, and make sure it will be free of Palestinian terrorist violence. By hitting Sharm al Sheikh, Osama bin Laden hammered home to Egyptian, British, American and Israeli leaders: Just as our fighting men reached Iraq from all over the Middle East and the Muslim world, nothing will stop us pouring into the Gaza Strip from Egypt the moment Israel hands the border crossing over to the Egyptians and the Palestinians. We will then be in forward bases for fighting Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority just as we fight the Americans in Iraq.
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.
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 18, 2005
The US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice undertook tough, some would say impossible, missions in the first stops of her current Middle East tour - Ramallah and Jerusalem - although her projected trip to Cairo will not be a bed of roses either. She held heart-to-heart talks Saturday, June 18, with Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qureia and chairman Mahmoud Abbas to demand that the Palestinians stick to a state of "partial calm" for the duration of the Israeli pullback from the Gaza Strip in August. She sought their promise to cooperate with Israel to ensure it takes place in a "secure environment." debkafile's Washington and Cairo sources say that her work will really be cut out in her second mission: to haul Egyptian-Israeli relations out of the mud. This issue will be broached in Jerusalem Sunday June 19, in her second round of talks with prime minister Ariel Sharon, vice prime minister Shimon Peres, foreign minister Silvan Shalom - and later in Cairo. The temperature between Jerusalem and Cairo has dropped so precipitously that Rice decided to place this crisis near the top of her travel agenda.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 12, 2005
US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice's overriding interest in Israel is to keep the Sharon government moving along its assigned track of disengagement from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank and make sure it takes place on schedule. But on the Palestinian scene, when she arrives next week her role will be more like a fire extinguisher. In his daily reports, US coordinator General William Ward, backed up by Middle East Quartet coordinator James Wolfenson, will have informed her that that Abbas is in big trouble, and in no shape to coordinate anything at all. Hence the latest notice from Jerusalem to Ramallah asserting that Israel will go ahead and evacuate 21 communities with or without Palestinian coordination. debkafile's Palestinian sources offer an eyehole into Abu Mazen's world to explain why he is on the point of washing his hands of a thankless job.
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 June 6, 2005
The bolt from the blue from Crawford, Texas, hit a slumbering Middle East overnight Sunday, June 5. The news agencies took down every careful word dictated by "senior administration officials." The Bush administration, they were told, is showing signs of easing its hard-line approach towards Hamas... It has acceded to the (terror group) running candidates in the Palestinian elections, even while they refuse to disarm and are still listed by Washington as a major terrorist organization. The "senior US officials" said they may be open to contacts with some Hamas political "affiliates" and left open the possibility of dealing with the group if it gave up weapons and ended violence. This was in contrast to past calls for its total dismantlement. This shift also implies a curtailment of the Middle East road map by omitting the dismantlement of terrorist organizations as a pre-condition for peace talks. This policy U-turn has major applications far outside the Israel-Palestinian arena. It is a portmanteau concept that allows for legitimizing (the already ongoing) US contacts with Sunni Baathist guerilla leaders in Iraq, Lebanon's Shiite extremist Hizballah, despite its refusal to lay down its weapons, and Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report May 26, 2005
In an exclusive report from Washington, debkafile`s sources can reveal that US officials, including national security adviser Stephen Hadley, made a point of seeing Sharon during his visits to New York and Washington in the first part of the week. They informed him that the forces assigned to execute the pullout from Gaza must be assigned directly to their next task: the dismantling of each and every "illegal settlement-outpost" in the West Bank. The evacuations would not end there either. Sharon was also told that further steps would be demanded, to be discussed at a later date. The US president was also preparing to warn Abu Mazen to stop trying to jump to the last stage of the roadmap for instant final-status talks. He will be told to stop attempting to put the horse before the cart. Either drop the roadmap or follow through on all its performance-related clauses including uprooting terrorism and reforms. In short, the Palestinians cannot hope to achieve a permanent state with permanent borders in one leap. The US, the Palestinians and Israel, in the Bush administration's view, share in interest in gaining a provisional Palestinian state with temporary borders before the end of Bush's term in office.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report May 20, 2005
Palestinian missile, mortar, rocket and shooting attacks on Israeli targets on both sides of the Gaza Strip border went into their third day Friday, May 20, placing the already leaky partial truce in terminal jeopardy. Instead of dying down, the violence is building up as the August date nears for Israel's pullout from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank. It brings to mind the solemn pledge offered by prime minister Ariel Sharon that the withdrawal would not take place under fire. If the violence persists therefore it will bankrupt the political and security concepts actuating the unilateral withdrawal. Neither Sharon nor defense minister Shaul Mofaz appears to know how to proceed in the light of this turn of events. Palestinian security forces are sitting on their hands. Their police officers watch the violations from afar, ignoring complaints by Israeli officers on the spot. No dialogue with the Palestinians is possible. Ramallah has emptied out.
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.