DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 21, 2003
In Damascus, Syrian president Bashar Assad picked up the gauntlets thrown down by the US - congressional legislation for sanctions against his country - and by Israel, whose government spokesman warned that the October 5 air strike near Damascus would not be the last if the Syrians continued to dabble in anti-Israel terrorism. Far from being deterred, the Syrian ruler called a terror summit to close ranks and launch a fresh onslaught. For the first time, the external Damascus-based head of the Palestinian Jihad Islami, Ramadan Abdallah Shalah, and Hamas chief, Khaled Mashal, came together this week for to launch without delay a joint massive campaign of suicide and multi-casualty attacks in Israel. Iranian, Syrian and Hizballah representatives at the unprecedented get-together consecrated the new coalition. It was Assad's way of showing contempt for Washington and stressing his commitment not only to keep up the flow of anti-American fighters through his country into Iraq, but to top it up with parallel incursions of terrorists into Israel and Palestinian-controlled areas.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 20, 2003
Four days after Palestinian bombers murdered three American security men in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian ambushers shot three Israeli members of the crack Duchifat unit on their nightly foot patrol at the Palestinian village of Ain Yabrud near Ofra in the Ramallah district of the West Bank. They were shot in the back. Before escaping the scene in a prepared getaway vehicle, the three Palestinian assailants went up to the injured soldiers, shot them dead and snatched their weapons. Minutes later, an Israeli force alerted by the gunfire arrived on the scene. Their attempts to resuscitate their comrades were unavailing. Equally fruitless was the air and ground manhunt for the terrorists who needed no more than a couple of minutes to drive away in the dark. This Palestinian attack, like the one in the Gaza Strip, was characterized by precise intelligence and split-second timing that could only have been achieved by several weeks of advance surveillance of their victims' routines.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 19, 2003
US officials in Tel Aviv are complaining about the "mixed" cooperation FBI investigators have encountered from Palestinian Authority security services in their inquiry into the remote-controlled bomb attack in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, October 15, that left three American security men dead and one injured. This was a polite expression of their frustration at being stonewalled by the Palestinian authorities who know exactly whom the perpetrators are. debkafile has obtained their names exclusively from high intelligence and counter-terror sources. The murderous bomb-attack was planned and executed by Yasser Zannoon and Mohammad al-Baba, heads of a Khan Younes militia in the southern Gaza Strip.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 15, 2003
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The explosion that blasted a CIA vehicle outside Beit Hanoun just after an official US embassy convoy entered the northern Gaza Strip through the Erez checkpoint represents a dangerous escalation of Palestinian terrorist aggression. It is a milestone, akin to the August 19 suicide strike against UN headquarters in Baghdad which claimed 24 lives including special UN representative in Iraq Sergio Vieira de Mello. He was the linchpin of American efforts to restore normalcy to the country. Since then, the security situation in Iraq has deteriorated disastrously as international bodies assisting those efforts quietly withdraw themselves and their services from Iraq. The Palestinian assault on an American convoy in the Gaza Strip had the same objective.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 14, 2003
The latest flurry of diplomatic, political and military activity surrounding the Palestinian question is the product of the sharp decline in Yasser Arafat's health. A tense waiting game is now in progress, one surface symptom of which is Ahmed Qureia's hesitant hand on the reins of government. Monday, October 13, he led his emergency cabinet in its first working session while indicating he would not stay on the job beyond a month. Nabil Shaath said a new Palestinian government would be presented in mid-November. At the same time, the Saudi paper Al Watan reported the Bush administration is seeking to set up an "alternative" Palestinian leadership to govern until elections can be held.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 1, 2003
Ahmed Qureia's plan to set up a broad 24-member national emergency government under Yasser Arafat's guidance is dead in the water. It drowned in a wave of disapproval from the United States and the European Union, internal squabbles and open opposition from the outgoing Palestinian security chief, Mohammed Dahlan. Scrambling to salvage what they could, Abu Ala and Yasser Arafat, decided at a secret brainstorming session at Ramallah headquarters early on Tuesday, September 30, to try for a narrow government and have it in place with hours. Even so, US secretary of state Colin Powell said in Detroit that if Abu Ala doesn't make a solid commitment to the road map and clamp down on terrorists, "it is not clear how we can go forward."
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 27, 2003
The politicians are wholeheartedly dedicated to fighting terror - with words. Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon has declared Arafat at various times irrelevant and removable. After Arafat purged Abu Mazen, both the US and Israeli governments vowed to have no truck with a successor Palestinian government if it spoke for Arafat. At the United States General Assembly last week, President George W. Bush called on the Palestinians to change their leaders for the sake of peace. US secretary of state Colin Powell declared Saturday morning September 27 that the onus is on the new Palestinian government to fight Hamas, disarm terrorists and create a single Palestinian security body.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 17, 2003
The story behind the call issued Tuesday, September 16, by Yasser Arafat's adviser, Jibril Rajoub, for a ceasefire is a typically devious one, according to debkafile's exclusive Palestinian sources. On the advice of his European friends, Arafat decided to adjust his short-term game plan; before unleashing his terror campaign, he thought it would be wise to capitalize on some of the diplomatic mileage awarded him after the Israeli government's decision in principle to "remove" him. A Palestinian government under Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala) will now go forward. One of its first acts will be the declaration of a unilateral ceasefire of unlimited duration. The two steps are calculated to make a good impression on the Middle East Quartet when its members meet later this month. They may even be persuaded to pressure Israel to halt its military actions against terrorist leaders, suspend settlement building activity and give up the security fence.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 13, 2003
Yasser Arafat has been basking in the attention showered on him from far and wide following the Israeli cabinet's declaration Thursday, September 11, that he should be removed. Since then, he stands at the window of his battered Ramallah office, beaming and waving the victory sign. Saturday, September 13, he summoned foreign consuls and Israeli peace activists to pay their respects on the 10th anniversary of the failed Oslo Peace Accords (for which he won a Nobel Peace Prize). He told them that the UN Security Council members' warning to Israel not to expel him was an international guarantee for his safety. This has encouraged him to go for a starring solo role on the Palestinian stage and go for a mega-strike that beats everything the Palestinians have thus far inflicted on Israel.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 12, 2003
Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon came marching into an urgent cabinet meeting called on Thursday, September 11, over the latest terrorist crisis and Palestinian threats of escalation, determined not to give into ministers' and popular demands to deport Yasser Arafat. debkafile's political sources report he pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket as the session began and told the worried ministers in effect: There is nothing I want to hear from any of you. I have drafted my own resolution and you will approve it. What he read out was this: "Arafat is an obstacle to peace and Israel will take action to create the conditions for his removal." The ministers were not told what conditions, how the "obstacle" was to be removed or when. Some read the text as a recipe for Arafat's deportation; others for doing nothing at all. None had any idea what they had voted for.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 7, 2003
In the space of a few hours, Yasser Arafat had his chosen candidate for next prime minister, Ahmed Qurai (Abu Ala), approved by ruling Fatah and PLO institutions Sunday night, September 7, and is expected to gain endorsement at the same high speed from the Palestinian legislature. He wanted Mahmoud Abbas, who resigned the post Saturday, September 6, amid a bitter power struggle, replaced fast before the scale of the earthquake entailed in the changeover was fully appreciated in Washington, Jerusalem and Cairo.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 7, 2003
The opportunity to remove the entire top strategic level of the Hamas terror group presented itself by chance on the day of Mahmoud Abbas's resignation as Palestinian prime minister - Saturday, September 6. That morning, Israel's defense minister Shaul Mofaz, army, air force and intelligence and Shin Beit chiefs reported to prime minister Ariel Sharon that eight top Hamas leaders were meeting later at the home of one of their number Marwan Abu Ras, a director at the Islamic University of Gaza, to consider how to beat the Israeli air and ground blockade on the Gaza Strip and carry out a fresh wave of terror assaults. The Hamas meeting was also scheduled to discuss how to deal with "Israeli collaborators". debkafile's intelligence sources report that this is a Hamas euphemism for the preventive security officers under the command of Mohammed Dahlan, internal security minister and partner of Mahmoud Abbas.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 6, 2003
It took Yasser Arafat 100 days to knock over the linchpin of the Aqaba peace strategy plotted by US President George W. Bush and Israeli premier Ariel Sharon at the Jordanian Red Sea resort; Abu Mazen aka Mahmoud Abbas submitted his resignation on Saturday, September 6, for lack of any other option. Arafat's blow was a double-headed one, striking at two key sections of he Bush administration's master-plan: the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and Iraq.
The statistics of the ill-fated Abu Mazen experiment are horrendous - in 88 days from the June 6 Aqaba summit up until Saturday September 6, 64 Israelis were murdered by Palestinian terrorists and more than 1,000 wounded, i.e. 0.7 dead and more than 10 injured victims per day. It is hard to imagine any government continuing to base its policies - especially one that declares the security of its citizens is paramount - on the regular slaughter of its citizens day after day by a declared enemy.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 3, 2003
Yasser Arafat celebrated the death of the Middle East road map in an interview Wednesday, September 3, blaming Israel and the US. His main butt, Palestinian prime Mahmoud Abbas, declared his supported the US peace initiative, but threatened to quit unless given more powers. Arafat chips away at these powers day after day. Having retained his grip on the bulk of Palestinian security forces, he is now seeking to take over Abu Mazen's diplomatic prerogatives as well. A pretty forlorn attempt to repair the disarray at the top of the Palestinian leadership was initatited earlier this week by Egyptian security chief general Omar Suleiman, architect of the first Palestinian ceasefire that broke down in August.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 31, 2003
Washington's stern warning to Yasser Arafat to beware of toppling Mahmoud Abbas' government at the Palestinian legislative council worked surprisingly well. The council session - called by Abbas himself to report on his first 100 days in office - was put back five days from Monday, September 1, to Thursday. The scheduled confidence vote was then cancelled in the nick of time to save Abbas. Arafat had worked the phone and managed to raise a majority for voting him down. The formal US Note delivered Thursday, August 28, by the American consul-general in Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority, the first since the body was established in 1994, stressed that if Abbas is ousted, the United State will withdraw its support for the road map and a Palestinian state, a process already stalled by the steady escalation in Palestinian violence over the past few weeks.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 22, 2003
Israel's decision to hit a senior Hamas terror chief was taken in the small hours of Thursday, August 21, in reaction to yet another postponement of a Palestinian Authority crackdown on Hamas and Jihad Islami - even after the deadly bombing by a Hamas suicide killer of a Jerusalem bus packed with Israeli families returning from the Western Wall. Twenty Israelis died in the blast and 150 were injured - many of them children. debkafile's military sources reveal that Palestinian internal security minister Mohammed Dahlan, confronted with a demand for action by the US president's senior Middle East monitor, John Wolf, begged off again. This time, he came up with the lame excuse that his men were grounded by "a shortage of vehicles."
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 20, 2003
The tragically high proportion of children and babies among the 18 dead and 120 injured in the latest Palestinian terror atrocity appears to have shocked prime minister Ariel Sharon out of his uncharacteristic meekness in the face of rising Palestinian demands and surge of terror. Two Palestinian suicide attacks went by last week without response. But Tuesday night, August 19, a Hamas imam, Ra'ad Misak from Hebron, detonated his bomb belt in the middle of a busload of families returning from the Jerusalem's Western Wall. The Sharon government finally roused itself to freeze talks with Palestinian leaders over the handover of four West Bank towns and suspended all exchanges and contacts with Palestinian representatives. Israel had been on the point of turning over the first two towns, Jericho and Qalqilya, by the end of the week, after dropping its basic demand for tight surveillance over wanted terrorist murderers.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 12, 2003
mg class="picture" src="/dynmedia/pictures/ARIEL1.jpg" align="right" border="0">The fact that the two Palestinian bombers, both from Nablus, who carried out separate terrorist attacks on Tuesday, August 12, belonged to two different Palestinian terror groups is irrelevant. debkafile's counter-terror sources all agree that both were directed by the same hand in Ramallah, shared the same objectives and were funded from the same pocket. What the participation of two separate groups demonstrated was a distribution of labor meant to mislead. Israelis, many on holiday and enjoying a relative lull, were stunned by the two terrorist attacks executed in quick succession: A Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up at the Neve Afek supermarket of Rosh Ha'Ayin 20 miles north of Tel Aviv, killing one Israeli shopper and injuring at least 10. The attack took place a few hundred yards from the Israeli police commissioner's home. Only 75 minutes later and 15 minutes drive away, a second bomber struck a group of hitchhikers outside the West Bank Jewish town of Ariel. They spotted him in time to open fire but not to stop him detonating his bomb belt and killing another Israeli and injuring two.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 30, 2003
mg class="picture" src="/dynmedia/pictures/Swall.jpg" align="right" border="0"> Both Mahmoud Abbas and Ariel Sharon did their best to put a good face on their carefully choreographed visits to the White House on July 25 and July 29, respectively. debkafile's Washington sources have confirmed that both came away disappointed. While both received warm pats on the back, progress on the road to peace is clearly bumpy. Palestinian internal security minister Mohamed Dahlan who accompanied the Palestinian prime minister in his talks with the US president last Friday, was busy Tuesday, July 30, sneering at the notion of dismantling terrorist infrastructures as an "Israeli invention". He said he had no intention whatever of arresting terrorists. His remarks preceded his conference with Israeli defense minister Shaul Mofaz on the next two West Bank towns to be turned over to Palestinian security.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 27, 2003
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General Omar Suleiman, head of Egyptian intelligence - best known of late for his ceasefire efforts with Palestinian terrorist factions - arrived secretly in Tehran last Tuesday, July 22. There, he joined a group of his officers who have been cooling their heels in the Iranian capital since early July. (See earlier article: Tehran Plays Hide and Seek over al Qaeda Fugitives.) According to debkafile's counter-terror sources, the Egyptian intelligence chief hopes to fulfill a long-cherished ambition: to lay hands on his most wanted quarry - Showqi al-Istambuli. This Egyptian Jihad Islami-al-Qaeda terrorist may not be the most notorious Islamic network fugitive held in Iran, or as celebrated a catch as al Qaeda commander Saif al-Adal, but he is the one the Egyptians want most.