DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 14, 2004
The Syrian leadership, in an urgent session on Sunday, January 11, resolved on two fresh initiatives after failing to make head or tail of Israel's wordy and inconsistent responses to Bashar Assad's feelers for the resumption of the peace talks that broke down four years ago. The first such feeler was broached in a New York Times interview last month. Since then, different Israeli government and military officials have been tacking and weaving between outright rejection and wary affirmatives. The Damascus meeting decided to seize the diplomatic high ground provided by Israel's apparently negative response and move forward in two seemingly opposite directions: in the first instance, a charm campaign to throw off Washington's heavy pressure and its implied threat of military action against Syrian targets both on its soil and in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley; in the second, to bury the twenty-one-year old hatchet between the Assad regime and Yasser Arafat. This week Damascus moved forward on both these fronts:
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 11, 2003
mg class="picture" src="/dynmedia/pictures/SHALOMI.jpg" align="left" border="0">Most Israelis waited with bated breath Sunday night, August 10, for a formidable Israeli response to the fourth Hizballah cross-border bombardment in three days - the first to take a life since the IDF quit southern Lebanon to agreed lines three years ago. The hotels and guest-houses of northern Israel's small communities, plagued by unemployment, had been celebrating a good season after three slow years. Hours after 16-year old Haviv Dadon was killed by a Hizballah shell, the Israeli air force struck a Hizballah artillery position outside the Lebanese village of Jijim. That attack was meant only as a pinprick, the foretaste of a badly-needed major Israeli offensive deep inside Syria to force Damascus to hold Hizballah back from further escalating its cross-border violence. Israel's massive assault did not materialize.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 6, 2003
mg class="picture" src="/dynmedia/pictures/NASSR.jpg" align="left" border="0">The Lebanese Shiite terror group has launched an extensive, particularly vicious, terror campaign against Israel in collusion with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. At present, an Israeli Arab terror gang in Galilee, controlled and funded by Hizballah, is believed by Israeli security officials talking to debkafile to be responsible for the kidnap-murder of Israeli soldier Oleg Shaichat, whose body was found last week in northern Israel. The same squad also apparently abducted Tiberias teenager Dana Bennet six days ago and possibly also New York yeshiva student Eliezer Zussiya Klughoft, who was last seen on Mt. Meron on Saturday, August 2.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 16, 2003
The truce declared by Palestinian terrorist organizations on June 29 was initially held up by prime minister Mahmoud Abbas and his internal security minister Mohammed Dahlan as evidence that persuasion could work better than confrontation to disarm the terrorists. They asked for a three-week grace period - which was granted and massive releases of Palestinian terrorists in Israeli jails - which was not. More than two weeks have been used up of that period and the two Palestinian leaders have barely gone through the motions of stripping the terrorist groups of their weapons in the areas turned over to their responsibility, the Gaza Strip and Bethlehem. In the 15 days of ceasefire from June 29 to July 14, 10 Israelis were murdered by Palestinian terrorists and the level of attacks on Israeli targets remains high in the southern Gaza Strip.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 15, 2003
The cat was out of the bag - almost - as a result of Operation Peninsula Strike, the massive US crackdown against a lethal brew of anti-American resistance forces which have been bedeviling US troops north of Baghdad. A substantial quotient of foreign combatants from Arab countries - Saudis, Yemenis, Egyptians, Jordanians, Syrians and Palestinians from Syria or Lebanon - was discovered to be mixed in with the Fedayeen Saddam, Baathists and former Republican Guards officers mounting lethal ambushes against US troops in and around Baghdad. At the same time, no one says where they are coming from.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 3, 2003
Someone at Israel's Shin Beit secret service decided that 2 am Tuesday was just the time to ask Tel Aviv district court to declassify a stream of data from the investigation into the terrorist bombing that took place at Mike's Place Tel Aviv pub on April 30 leaving 3 Israelis dead and 60 injured. No one questions that the bomb team consisted of two British Muslims, Asif Muhamed Hanif, who blew himself up, and Omar Khan Sharif, who got away after his bomb belt failed to detonate and never seen since. The gray area began to creep in two weeks later in mid-May when certain Israeli security services claimed that a badly disfigured body washed up by the Mediterranean was the missing British bomber.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report May 2, 2003
One member of the British duo spent four months in Syria preparing for the operation. His partner joined him in the second week of April after taking a circuitous route through Europe. Together, they were led by a Hamas or Hizballah guide through Jordan to the Allenby Bridge crossing into the West Bank and Israel entering on their British passports. A taxi drove them to the Gaza Strip. There, Hanif and Sharif lay low for about two weeks as guests of a Hamas cell that also numbers Hizballah operatives.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report April 24, 2003
Only one man is smiling in the group photo of Yasser Arafat, incoming Palestinian reform prime minister Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian intelligence chief Osman Suleiman, who brokered an accord on the makeup of the new government. That man is Arafat. The rest were grim. In the current round of the Ramallah power struggle, Abu Mazen with massive international backing may have forced Arafat to accept former Gazan security chief Mohammed Dahlan as internal security minister, but in the process he has fallen back on home ground and Arafat has come up smiling. Uneasy over Dahlan's empowerment, the Fatah leadership and Palestinian institutions which first granted majority backing to Abu Mazen's premiership has reverted to support of Arafat.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 9, 2003
Nominating his most outspoken critic, Mahmoud Abbas, 68, the veteran PLO secretary general usually known as Abu Mazen, as first Palestinian prime minister certainly stuck in Yasser Arafat's throat. Yet he went through with his presentation to the PLO Central Committee and the Central Council in Ramallah, on Saturday, March 8 and Sunday March 9. To make sure the Palestinian leader did not back out at the last minute, Israel conveyed a hint that he may be closer to deportation than he thinks. Monday, March 10, the Palestinian Legislative Council is due to determine what authority the new position will carry. The showdown between Arafat and Abu Mazen over the division of authority between them is the focus of heated deliberations in these labyrinthine institutions. But a senior Palestinian source reported to debkafile that at this stage, Abu Mazen has been neatly outmaneuvered.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 8, 2003
The disclosure that Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon opens formal ceasefire talks with the Palestinian Legislative Council Speaker Abu Ala next Monday, February 10, appears inconsequential and beside the point at a time when one war or more looms over the Middle East, together with other potential horrors. However untimely and irrelevant, this initiative serves an important purpose for Sharon and the caretaker government he heads until he can set up a new post-election administration. It is a distraction for Israelis, whom the vague and conflicting statements issuing from government and military officials on the dangers posed by the coming war against Iraq have left frightened and at sea.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 14, 2003
Tuesday, January 14, the Palestinian Authority's Al Ayyam daily published a message, approved by Yasser Arafat in the name of all the Palestinian groups, calling off attacks on Israeli citizens. This message, formulated by the Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, also endorses the continuing Palestinian struggle for a state whose capital is Jerusalem. Gen. Suleiman was to submit this text to the London Middle East conference opened by British foreign secretary Jack Straw Tuesday night, January 14, in the presence of representatives from the Middle East Quartet, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
The Palestinians will be there via a videolink after Israeli banned Palestinian travel in the wake of the massacre by Palestinian terrorists on January 5 of 23 people in Tel Aviv. Israel was not invited by British PM Tony Blair.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 30, 2002
The powerful blast that reverberated across eastern and central Lebanon Sunday, December 29, was caused by the explosion of a big surface missile in Hizballah hands and of Iraqi origin. Reporting this, debkafile's exclusive military and Lebanese sources reveal that the Lebanese Shiite terrorist group has recently taken delivery of a shipment of surface missiles, presumed to be medium-range, from the Iraqi army. The blast occurred at a Hizballah training camp near a village called Janta in the northeastern section of the Beqaa Valley close to the Syrian frontier. This camp is also used by the group as a testing ground for new weapons, short range missiles and explosive devices. The blast was heard at a distance of 20 km indicating a warhead of one ton at least.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 22, 2002
There are two main reasons for the Palestinian leader to have swung the Hamas Islamic terrorists round to a partial suspension of operations: A. To put pressure on Israel to reciprocate by lifting the closure of Ramallah so that he can wriggle out of the stranglehold imposed on him by US President George W. Bush and Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon. Once in Bethlehem, he will be free and can move around at will. B. To show Arab leaders that America can be challenged; they don't have to knuckle under to American dictates, least of all those laid down by Sharon.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 15, 2002
Jordanian information minister Mohammad Adwan fingered Saad bin Suwied and Yasser Ibrahim as the murderers who fired eight bullets from the silenced gun that slew USAID executive Lawrence Foley outside his home in Amman on October 28. Adwan described Suwied - a Libyan who entered Jordan on a Tunisian passport and Ibrahim, a Jordanian - as al Qaeda members who were paid $68,000 for the assassination. According to the information reaching debkafile's intelligence sources, the two assassins are not al Qaeda; they are in fact members of two Palestinian groups, who work in conjunction - the pro-Iraq Arab Liberation Front, whose leader Abu al Abbas is based in Baghdad, and the Jordanian wing of Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement. They were apprehended by Jordanian security forces in November in a sweep of the south Jordanian Islamic fundamentalist town of Ma'an. After a brief interrogation, the captured men admitted working for Palestinian groups operating in Jordan on behalf of Iraqi military intelligence.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 18, 2002
Less than 24 hours after Tawfiq Fukra attempted to hijack El Al Tel Aviv-Istanbul Flight 581 in midair with the help of a penknife, Israel's airport authority gave itself a clean bill of health. The initial probe had established, said the authority's spokesman, that the 23-year old Israeli Arab from the Galilee village of Baina Najidat, west of Tiberias, had been screened by security officers according to the strictest criteria. Therefore, no faults could be attributed to pre-flight security procedures. The Authority's CEO, Pinni Schiff, admitted he could not say how the would-be hijacker had spirited a penknife aboard the flight. He said an answer was to be expected from the Turkish security interrogation of Fukra, who was taken into custody at Ataturk international airport when the threatened El Al flight landed Sunday night, with 170 safe but very frightened passengers and crew.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 16, 2002
Seventeen Israelis have died in two major Palestinian acts of terror in the last six days, confronting Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon's fresh top team with their first stiff challenge. The men who will have to come up with answers are defense minister Shaul Mofaz, foreign minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Mofaz's successor as chief of staff, Lt. General Moshe Yaalon. Sunday, November 10, Palestinian gunmen shot five Israelis in cold blood, including a mother and two small sons, at Kibbutz Metzer inside Israel. In response, Israeli forces stormed into two northern West Bank Palestinian cities, Tulkarm and Nablus, for what were described officially as "toothcomb" operations to uproot terrorists in their lairs. This momentum was brutally interrupted on Friday night, November 15, by a meticulously planned, surprise Palestinian assault on Jewish worshippers making their way home to the Hebron suburb of Kiryat Arba from prayers at the Cave of the Patriarchs.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 11, 2002
The terrorists Yasser Arafat's Fatah admitted sending to Kibbutz Metzer on the Israel-West Bank border carried out their killing rampage on Sunday, November 10, concurrently with the Fatah-Hamas conference taking place in Cairo under the European Union's aegis.
Far from being mutually contradictory, the two events fit neatly together.
Sunday night, two or more Palestinians burst into an avowedly pacifist rural kibbutz, shot dead its secretary Yitzhak Dori, 44, and a visitor from Moshav Eliachin, Tirza Damari, 42. They then burst into a home and murdered Revital Ochayon and the two small sons, Matan 5 and Noam, 4, she sheltered with her body, before disappearing into the night. They struck hours after the Israeli military pullback from the Palestinian city of Jenin.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 9, 2002
bureaucratic mix-up in London Friday, November 8, forced British officialdom into the unwilling admission that international terrorists may now wield a nuclear threat and it could be aimed at Britain.
On Thursday, November 7, Tom Ridge, US homeland minister and senior member of the Bush cabinet, said to the center for defense studies at King's College London: "Our transportation networks, power generating plants and industries can be attacked with potentially catastrophic consequences. Our public safety and health infrastrucfures can be quickly overwhelmed producing casualties in the thousands or tens of thousands. This is the inescapable reality of the 21st century."
After the lecture, Ridge went into conference with British Home Minister, David Blunkett. Hours later, Britain had its first major warning of a potential "dirty bomb" or poison gas attack by "fanatical extremists of al Qaeda, who would attempt to strike again".
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 6, 2002
Egypt, with quiet American encouragement, is engaged in a complicated diplomatic maneuver to persuade the Hamas to halt its suicide-murder attacks on Israelis by setting up meetings in Cairo between PLO representatives and the Damascus-based leaders of the Hamas: Khaled Mash'al and Abu Marzuk. This initiative comes from officials in the US State Department and European Union, led by Colin Powell and Javier Solana.
debkafile's political analysts note that both these officials cling against all odds to their dream of persuading Yasser Arafat to one day give up terror. Their latest ploy addresses the Islamic extremes of the Palestinian movement, the Hamas and the Jihad Islami, the idea being that if they are induced to stop their suicidal terror practices, the Tanzim and al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades run by Arafat's Fatah will follow suit.