DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 27, 2006
On the face of it, conversion to Islam would appear to provide a painless escape device for any hostage who happens to fall into fundamentalist terrorist hands. After all, once free, the hostage can always revert to his real faith or non-faith. It is hard to blame the two Fox News journalists, the American Steve Centanni, 60, and the New Zealander, Olaf Wiig, 36, for taking that path on to buy their way out of an uncertain fate at the hands of Palestinian terrorists - especially as they later reported they were forced to make the gesture at gunpoint.
And, indeed the two journalists were released from 13 days of captivity in Gaza three hours after announcing their conversion on a new videotape released by the kidnappers in Gaza.
Various Palestinian middlemen were used by British agents at the request of the US to bring the Fox journalists home. They worked out a convoluted deal which entailed their public conversion to Islam, an anti-American harangue on air and a six-figure cash ransom paid under the table to their kidnapper, the Palestinian warlord Zakaria Dughmush.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 4, 2006
The raid was carried out amid fears of a new terror attack to coincide with the first anniversary of the July 7 London transport attacks, that left 52 commuters dead and hundreds injured. It was guided by "specific intelligence" that a bomb was assembled ready for use.
First, an explosive bomb vest was mentioned, then deadly sarin, which would be shot from a canister or flask. The railway attack in Tokyo which killed 12 people and injured 5,000 in March 1995 was cited.
The next day, when no bombs or the makings thereof were found at the first two addresses, the police moved on to the two brothers' workplaces.
Sunday, still nothing was found.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report May 14, 2006
Prof. Abdel al Sather Qassam, university lecturer at Nablus a-Najah University, is a little-known figure to the outside world. However Israeli intelligence rates him as Hamas' senior strategic ideologue and a highly influential voice in the Palestinian terror movement at large.
Last week, he gave a group of leaders of the umbrella terrorist coalition in Gaza, the Popular Resistance Committees leader, by video broadcast from Nablus, a stern talking-to with some important new guidelines. One member of his audience was Jemal Semhadana, the PRC chief who was recently appointed commander of the new Hamas security service. Israeli intelligence monitors routinely listened in to the broadcast. debkafile runs the gist of the Hamas professor's briefing - obtained from our intelligence sources - because of his unusual frankness and the relevance of his guidelines for the immediate future.
Hamas Hires Gang Chief to Muscle in on Palestinian Security Forces and Strip Abu Mazen of Real Power
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report April 23, 2006
Reconciliation gestures notwithstanding, Hamas is methodically peeling off the layers of authority from Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen).
The increasing violence and virulence between the two camps are deceptive; on his home ground, Abu Mazen has been reduced to a nonentity. The standoff between him and Hamas is illusory.
Four developments underline the changes Hamas has already wrought in the structure and direction of Palestinian government since its takeover in February.
The ministers whom prime minister Ismail Haniya appointed in February have not taken up their jobs, except for interior minister Siyam. He, too, rather than tackling the mundane tasks of bringing law and order to the chaotic, crime-ridden streets, is busy consolidating Hamas in the key positions grabbed from the PA's Fatah-dominated security, intelligence and civil services, which Abbas claims to be under his authority.
This is where the notorious crime and terrorist chief Jamal Semhadana comes in.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 8, 2006
Hamas campaigners, confident of a strong showing in the Jan 25 elections for the Palestinian legislative council, announced in Gaza City Sunday, Jan. 8, that, if elected, they will put an end to any Palestinian talks with Israel. Negotiations with the Zionist entity will only take place through the barrel of a gun, said the man topping the Hamas list, Ismail Haniya.
Hamas Gaza leader Mahmoud al-Zahar dismissed European threats to cut off funds if the terrorist group enters Palestinian government. If they do, he said, "We have our sources in the Arab and Muslim world." None of the West Bank local councils captured by Hamas is short of funds, he boasted.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 27, 2005
Thousands of copies of this photo, which was secreted from Ashkelon's Hadarim prison, were eagerly seized by ordinary Palestinians on the West Bank for whom Marwan Barghouti is something of an icon. The Fatah leader, jailed for life for the murder of five Israelis in terrorist operations, appears on the left. With him is another lifer, Samir Kuntar, a Druze from the Lebanese village of Baaklin, who is serving time for the 1979 Nahariya bloodbath.
In all his years behind bars, the Lebanese killer never showed the slightest remorse for his crime. His importance is such that Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah never misses a chance of raising his case.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 25, 2005
The Palestinians have smuggled in from Sinai to the Gaza Strip what military sources have told debkafile' is "a monstrous amount" of high explosives, to improve the precision and effectiveness of the Qassam missiles fired across the border against Israeli towns and villages.
Our sources reveal the new, lethal explosives come from military production factories in Slovakia and Serbia.
Palestinian workshops working around the clock to fit the military-grade TNT and Semtex on their Qassam missiles in place of the home-made, hit-or-miss warheads. These workshops have not been bombed by the Israeli air force for some weeks. The powerfully upgraded Qassam missiles with boosted destructive capabilities are therefore expected to start flying shortly
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 23, 2005
Mostafa Mohammad-Najar, brigadier general in the Revolutionary Guards, has packed a lurid, blood-spattered biography into his 49 years, according to the profile of Iran's new defense minister sketched here by debkafile's exclusive intelligence and Iranian experts. debkafile names him as the longtime senior controller of Imad Mughniyeh, one of Washington's most wanted terror masters, and notorious for his role in the earliest terror attacks on US targets in the Middle East. The first was the October 23, 1983, suicide bombing of US Marines headquarters in Beirut which killed 241 Marines. The second was the Khobar Towers blast in eastern Saudi Arabia on June 25, 1996. In October 2000, a month after the outbreak of the Palestinian suicide terror war against Israel, Muhammad-Najar took a hand in the Hizballah's kidnap of three Israeli soldiers. At the end of 2001, he helped prepare the 50-ton illegal weapons cargo for loading at Kish Island aboard the Karine-A smuggling ship.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 2, 2005
Wednesday, June 30, Steven Spielberg began filming in Malta the highly-charged account of the undercover Mossad team which was ordered by the late Israeli prime minister Golda Meir to hunt down and assassinate Palestinian terrorists after the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. The Palestinian Jihad Islami plans this week to commemorate the 10th anniversary of its founder, Fathi Shikaki's assassination in Malta. He took five bullets from two motorcyclists as he stepped out of his Malta hotel in October 1995. The killers identified their quarry although he had shaved off his beard and wore a large wig. Israel has never either confirmed or denied that the killers were Mossad.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 9, 2005
On a single afternoon, Tuesday, March 8, four key events took place - all them highly relevant to the landmark speech on global terror President George Bush was then delivering to the National Defense University in Washington. He was saying..."the Lebanese people are demanding a free and independent nation. In the words of one Lebanese observer, 'Democracy is knocking at the door of this country and, if it's successful in Lebanon, it is going to ring on the doors of every Arab regime.'" Almost to the moment, a huge crowd of Lebanese, modestly estimated at 200,000, packed Beirut central Beirut in support of Syria and roared after Hizballah's Hassan Nasrallah: "America out! Thank you, Syria!" and "Death to Israel!" Nasrallah yelled back: "We are not Ukraine! We are not Georgia! We are Lebanon!" And "Sharon, Mofaz, Shalom, forget your Lebanese dreams! Lebanon belongs to the Lebanese!"
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 9, 2005
Moderate Arab leaders aimed a damaging broadside at key US-sponsored election ventures, the more painful for its timing in the month when ballots were scheduled both in the Palestinian Authority and Iraq. It was fired inconspicuously by 21 Arab interior ministers gathered in Tunis last week and acted as a rude snub to the Bush administration's diplomatic efforts to recruit Arab friends for help in bringing reluctant Iraqi Sunni voters to the January 30 poll. debkafile's Washington sources report that, ahead of the event, Saudi and Egyptian governments promised Washington and Baghdad to initiate motions expressly condemning Iraqi terrorism and throwing a supportive mantle over the two January elections. What happened in Tunis left the Americans astonished and outraged by what they saw as a betrayal by their purported Arab friends. The key resolution said: "Arab interior ministers condemned all terrorist acts in Iraq targeting Iraqi security agents and the Iraqi police, as well as businesses and public, economic, humanitarian and religious institutions." There was not a single cross word for the acts of violence against American troops or coalition allies.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 5, 2005
The Qassam missiles and mortar shells raining down on Israeli civilian and military targets on both sides of the Gaza border in the last two weeks are beginning to look like the opening shots of a major Palestinian offensive across a broad front. It is clearly timed to peak as the Palestinian election date of January 9 approaches. debkafile's military and Palestinian sources report that orchestration is no longer in the hands of a single extremist group, Hamas. Seven Palestinian terrorist groups have formed an ad hoc coalition with a more far-sighted goal than drawing the Israeli army into an extreme reprisal so as to sabotage the vote and Mahmoud Abbas's election. Their eye is on the election's aftermath. Taking Abbas's win for granted, they are playing on his weakness to keep him running scared and make him too dependent to raise a finger against them.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 31, 2004
Hamas-Hebron claimed responsibility for the double suicide attack Tuesday, August 31, on two crowded Beersheba buses, which left 15 Israelis dead and up to 100 injured. The twin blasts hit passengers, passing vehicles and pedestrians on the busy main street of this southern Israeli town, the first such attack inside Israel in six months. The suicide bombers may not have come from Hebron; they could equally have reached Beersheba from the Gaza Strip or infiltrated the Israeli Negev from Egyptian Sinai. the Gaza Strip to undergo, almost unnoticed, a geopolitical transformation that threatens not only to fill the space left by Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon's fading plan to evacuate the Gaza Strip, but also to make the Palestinian terror war against Israel far more dangerous. The fallout is beginning to ripple out into further reaches of the Middle East.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 31, 2004
Russian-made S-5 unguided aircraft rockets were part of the Egyptian haul earlier this month of a large shipment of missiles, stopped before they were smuggled to the Palestinians through the Rafah tunnels. The S-5 would be an important boost to the Palestinian arsenal; some may still defeat attempts to stop them and reach the Gaza Strip - either through the smuggling tunnels or by other routes, especially after Israeli troops are pulled back. debkafile reveals the Palestinians are planning to convert these Soviet-era 20-25-km range rockets into surface missiles capable of hitting southern Israel's key cities of Beersheba, Ashkelon and Ashdod. The rockets were originally Soviet-designed for use by the Mi-24 helicopter, the Russian equivalent of the American AH-64 Apache, in Afghanistan. In Palestinian hands, they would upgrade the missile threat beyond that posed by the hit-or-miss home-made Qassams, even the improved Nasser version.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report May 18, 2004
Manmade barriers are springing up around the Middle East at points where manmade conflicts are most intractable. Be they security fences, earthworks, moated ramparts, steel walls, razor wire - or combinations thereof, their purpose is to apply division and separation to breaking up difficulties into manageable elements. Will this device work? Some think it's worth a try. Israeli forces who drove into the southern Gaza Strip town of the terrorist hotbed of Rafah's Tel Sultan early Tuesday, May 18, came with giant engineering corps bulldozers. Earth banks were speedily thrown up to isolate from their environment the spaces in which Israeli armored and infantry units are hunting for wanted terrorists, cut off their escape routes and provide perches for Israeli snipers lying in wait for escapees.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 27, 2004
No sooner had the tens of thousands of mourners dispersed after the ceremonies and demonstrations of strength marking the death of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin last Tuesday, March 22, in an Israeli missile attack, when a thousand Hamas top and middle-ranking activists dived underground. This is reported by debkafile's counter-terror sources. Since then, known Hamas operatives have maintained perfect telephone silence, their relatives are in the dark about their whereabouts and contacts are maintained only through trusted couriers. This situation presented the Hamas command center in Damascus with the problem of communicating urgent instructions to the men on the ground in the Gaza Strip - urgent for two reasons:
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 22, 2004
Sunday's suicide bombing by Arafat's al Aqsa Brigades of Jerusalem bus No. 14, in which at least 7 Israelis died and 62 were hurt, was not unexpected. It occurred just three weeks after a similar blast aboard a No. 19 bus outside the prime minister's residence in the capital killed 12 Israelis. The wreckage was hauled to Hague and parked outside the international court in time for the Monday, February 23, opening of its hearings on the legality of Israel's unfinished defense barrier. The attack should not have been unexpected because on Wednesday, February 11, Yasser Arafat - as debkafile reported (Enraged Arafat Orders All-out Terror) - issued an explicit order to all Palestinian groups, including his own, to hit Israeli targets with all their strength everywhere in order to sabotage Sharon's unilateral proposals come what may.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 11, 2004
Yasser Arafat's enraged call for an all-round escalation of Palestinian violence distinguished the Palestinian response to the latest Israeli counter-terror operation in the Gaza Strip from former episodes, according to debkafile's Palestinian experts. He gave an unusually direct order to each and every Palestinian group, faction and organization to launch instant large-scale terrorist attacks against Israeli targets on the scale of the March 2002 massacres which precipitated Israel's comprehensive West Bank Operation Defensive Shield campaign. Prime minister Ahmed Qureia who tried to reach him by telephone from Rome was not put through. Arafat refused to talk to him.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 2, 2004
Updated February 4:
Kurdish parties in northern Iraq later denied news reports claiming that Turkey was responsible for the double suicide attacks. In a joint statement, the KDP and the PUK, whose offices were attacked, conveyed sincere appreciation for the offer to treat the injured in Turkey. Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: "Turkey has never been involved in such incidents - not since the beginning of the Republic, not during the Ottoman era and not now."
Two huge bombs were detonated Sunday, February 1, at the very moment that Iraq's Kurds joined their leaders for mass celebrations at the headquarters of their two parties in the north Iraqi town of Arbil. The crowds had gathered to mark the Muslim Feast of the Sacrifice and the passing of their archenemy Saddam Hussein. According to debkafile's sources in Kurdistan and Washington, PUK leader Talal Jalabani talking later to senior US officials - believed to include visiting US Pentagon second-in-command Paul Wolfowitz - bluntly accused Turkish intelligence of orchestrating the massacre with the aim of wiping out the entire Iraqi Kurdish leadership at a single stroke.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 3, 2004
Hours after an privately chartered Egyptian airplane crashed in the Red Sea at 04.44 local time on Saturday, January 3, just after takeoff from Sharm el-Sheikh, French Justice Minister Dominique Perben asked prosecutors to open a preliminary inquiry for manslaughter. The justice ministry in Paris said tactfully that the manslaughter inquiry "does not prejudge in any way the causes of the catastrophe," but provides a legal framework for a joint French-Egyptian investigation. There were no survivors of the 148 people aboard the plane. The Egyptians claimed that the crash of a Boeing 737, operated by the Egyptian company Flash Airlines, was "absolutely not the result of a terrorist act but is linked to a technical failure of the plane. debkafile's aviation experts say the investigators will be called upon to consider a host of anomalies and enigmas before they reach any such definite conclusion.