Vol. 14, Issue 642, July 11, 2014
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Hamas Digs Deep
Hamas’ Buried Military Infrastructure and Commands Evade Israel’s Air Force

If the planners of Operation Protective Edge expected the vastly superior Israel Defense Forces to take out Hamas’ arsenal of surface missiles and rockets in a trice, the past days have been a reality check. Acting on advice from Iran and Hizballah, Hamas’ military wing – the Izz e-din al-Qassam Brigades – has folded its weapons away inside a broad honeycomb of underground bunkers and tunnels, safely out of reach of Israel’s heaviest air strikes.
In Israel’s 2006 war against Hizballah in Lebanon, as well as against Hamas in the 2009 Cast Lead and 2012 Pillar of Defense operations in Gaza, the Jewish state relied on its tried and true formula of superior intelligence and air might to wipe out the enemy’s long-range missiles.
By any international yardstick, the “long-range” missiles at play in the Israeli-Arab conflict would be designated less than short range. However, given Israel’s small area, Hamas rockets need a range of no more than 160-180 km to cover three-quarters of the country and force more than 5 million Israelis to stay close to cover against attack.

Hamas’ military machine can only be destroyed bunker by bunker

Installed in underground fortifications, impressive even by Western standards, these rockets and launchers are immune to Israel’s air strikes. Command and control centers stay safe in bunkers, along with officers up to the rank of Brigade chief and stockpiles of ammunition and other military gear.
This means that the IDF’s boast in the morning of July 10 that, in two days, Operation Protective Edge had managed to hit 785 terror targets inside Gaza, was misleading. Many military facilities and the homes of Hamas chiefs were indeed bombed, but the lynchpin of the Hamas infrastructure – including manpower and equipment – remained unscathed in their rabbit warrens.
This fact was the cause of the disconnect between Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s words and deeds. While he and other political leaders asserted that the operation aims to wipe out Hamas’ military capabilities, with the focus on its missiles, he has held back from ordering the IDF infantry and armored corps to go into the Gaza Strip on the ground and destroy those capabilities, bunker by bunker. There is no other way to decimate Hamas’ military machine. But it would undoubtedly be costly in time and Israeli military casualties.

Iran and Hizballah adopt practice of burying infrastructure

DEBKA Weekly’s military and intelligence sources say that fighting underground battles would present new challenges to an army inured to relying on strong intelligence and aerial firepower.
1. Israel’s most advanced surveillance satellites and drones cannot pierce the fortifications of an underground military command and reach the precise intelligence required for an attack.
The information on location and contents of a bunker may be further obscured by decoys designed to mislead the units searching for Hamas’ command centers and weapons stores.
2. Even when exact locations are established, their contents may remain unknown. So attackers would have only partial information to work with.
3. Such information would have to be procured either from informants, or by means of prolonged reconnaissance by teams of watchers taking note of the comings and goings of military personnel and equipment.
The practice of burying military operational facilities underground has also been adopted by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and their Lebanese Shiite surrogate, Hizballah. This tactic does have its drawbacks, not least of them financial. Iran and Hamas are estimated to have sunk close to half a billion dollars in building the underground network of Gaza.

Frustrated by wasting hundreds of rockets to little effect

At this time, Hamas and Iran are most vexed by the fact that, while their weapons of war are secured underground, most of the rockets hauled out for launching against Israel have had little effect.
In the last couple of days, Hamas and Islamic Jihad threw 260 rockets at one Israeli town after another, some reaching a town as far distant as 150 km from Gaza, out of previous range.
However only a trifling 10 reached their targets. The rest were wasted - intercepted by Iron Dome or exploded in open areas. Despite the vast expenditure on deep bunkers and new-fangled rockets, the Hamas blitz has not caused a single Israeli fatality to date and very little damage to property.
Israel has spent much greater sums on developing the Iron Dome anti-missile system, even with some US aid. The batteries cost $70-$80 million each and every missile fired to intercept an incoming rocket accounts for another $40,000-50,000.
An Iranian rocket can be produced for less than $3,000 and a Hamas homemade Qassam comes in at just a few hundred dollars.
Israel has now invested $1 million in producing seven Iron Dome batteries.

Israel uses Iron Dome missiles piecemeal to cut down on costs

To provide close to blanket protection of the country from potential rocket attacks coming from Gaza, Lebanon and Syria, this number of batteries and the size of the investment would have to be doubled.
And that is only one layer of Israel’s multi-tiered missile shield. Its other air defense systems, such as Arrow 3 and Magic Wand, are far more expensive to develop and produce.
According to DEBKA Weekly’s military sources, Israeli Iron Dome operators have devised a fix for cutting the costs entailed in fighting off Hamas rockets and beating its Iranian backers.
Each battery has been converted to multi-tasking. The individual missiles are separated from the cluster carried in the core operating system, and each relocated to points 150 km away.
Since each missile has a range of 70km, this device substantially broadens the area under the battery’s protection while saving money on operating costs.

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Palestinians Prepare West Bank Front
Abbas Brings the Lethal Fatah-Tanzim Back to Fight Israel on the West Bank too

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has set in motion a hush-hush operation which rather than lowering Palestinian Israeli-tensions threatens to kindle a second center of strife after the Gaza Strip. He is using the clamor of the explosive Israel-Hamas contest and the murders of three Israeli and one Palestinian teenager to cloak his surreptitious activities, which are revealed here by DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence and counterterrorism sources for the first time.
Abbas (better known as Abu Mazen), has ordered the reactivation of Tanzim, the dormant paramilitary force of his Fatah movement, whose ideology spawned the Al Aqsa Brigades which led the deadly suicide bombings of the Second Intifada in the years 2000-2005.
Abbas plans to wait until Israel and Hamas have finished fighting it out in Gaza, before shifting the battleground to the West Bank. By then, he will have the Tanzim (Arabic for “organization’) ready and waiting for battle.
Three Fatah stalwarts are assigned to the task of bringing Tanzim back to life:
Amin Makbul, Secretary of the Fatah Revolutionary Council; Jibril Rajoub, deputy secretary of the Fatah Central Committee; and Ziad Abu Ein, the PA’s deputy minister for prisoner affairs.

Tanzim was home for Fatah warriors

Makbul was one of the few Fatah officials to speak publicly – and in fact welcome - the kidnapping and murder of the Israeli teens Gil-Ad Shaar, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach, as a step toward securing the release of more Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
Then, the day after 16-year-old Palestinian Muhammed Abu Khdeir was found murdered in Jerusalem, for which six Jews were quickly arrested on suspicion, Rajoub vowed the PA would take steps to defend “unarmed Palestinians in cities, rural areas and refugee camps from Israel’s organized terrorism.”
This vow was a telling reference to the task placed on him by Abbas.
The three men are taking up the Tanzim torch from Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences in an Israeli jail for five Israeli deaths, some as a result of suicide attacks he orchestrated. He was captured in the course of the March 2002 Operation Defensive Shield.
Founded by the late Yasser Arafat in 1995 as the paramilitary wing of Fatah with a membership of 7,000-10,000, Tanzim was always an integral part of the main movement. After the Oslo Framework Peace accord was signed in 1994, Tanzim became the home and platform for opponents of peace with Israel and radicals who advocated violent resistance and the path of terror.

Arafat used Tanzim to control his terror campaign and deny responsibility

As such, it maintained longstanding ties with the radical Hizballah, which was wont to furnish its Palestinian ally with logistical support, arms, and explosives.
As a terrorist organization, Tanzim had the dubious distinction of being the only Palestinian group save Hamas which used women and children in its suicide operations.
For Arafat, Tanzim served in its early years as hit squad for liquidating his rivals and moderates within the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), whether by assassination or imprisonment.
During the Second Intifada, Arafat made Tanzim his primary channel for pumping funds and instructions to the Palestinian cells entrusted with terrorist attacks. It was also a convenient device which enabled him to keep his hands firmly on the action, while at the same time striking a pose of distance and deniability from the violence he orchestrated. This kept the Palestinians’ foreign sympathizers and donors, especially in the West, convinced of his respectability as a national leader.
The group and its stepchild Al Aqsa Brigades were organized into neighborhood or village-based cells. They consistently drew young radicals as a kind of popular resistance movement.
Tanzim still has a following and some of its strongest cells in Palestinian universities, such as An-Najah in Nablus, Bir Zeit in Ramallah and the University of Bethlehem.

Abbas talks peace and prepares secretly for bloody strife

When US President Bill Clinton convened the Camp David Summit with Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in the summer of 2000, Clinton and Barak were both armed with intelligence revealing that the Palestinian leader was all geared up to launch a Palestinian-Israeli war, in which the Tanzim would play a starring role.
The Second Intifada broke out just a month later, in the first week of September.
Fourteen years on, US and Israeli intelligence agencies have dug up the same sort of information - the main difference being the name of the mastermind; Abbas is preparing to step into the shoes of his former boss, Arafat.
This intelligence has been passed to the White House’s National Security Council and the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem with a full dossier on Tanzim and its dangerous proclivities.
This report reveals four parts of the Palestinian leader’s master plan:
1. Abbas is rebuilding the group as an independent paramilitary militia that answers to him alone. His orders will be relayed through Rajoub, Makbul, and Abu Ein.
2. The new Tanzim will relieve Abbas of his dependence on the seven Palestinian security brigades set up and trained by the US, Britain and Canada, as part of the Oslo framework accord. But if the previous intifada is any guide, these brigades and their accoutrements will be swallowed up by Tanzim. At the very least they will cooperate with its agenda and directives and share intelligence.
3. With the rise of Tanzim’s stature and capabilities, the US and Israel will lose their influence and intelligence assets among the Palestinians, and their access to local knowledge about Hamas activities.
4. Once the Tanzim is fully operational, Abbas will command 20,000 Palestinian troops under arms, the same number that Arafat had at his beck and call in the darkest days of the intifada.

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Welcome to the Islamic Caliphate
Baghdadi Starts Issuing Passports, Tries to Unite Sunni Radicals under IS

Last week, IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi delivered a taped speech calling on Muslims with military, medical and managerial skills to flock to his newly declared Islamic Caliphate in parts of Syria and Iraq.
“Those who can immigrate to the Islamic State should immigrate, as immigration to the House of Islam is a duty,” exhorted Baghdadi.
The self-anointed “Caliph Ibrahim” said his appeal was especially oriented for “judges and those who have military and managerial and service skills as doctors and engineers in all fields.”
Naturally, the commander of the force tearing through Iraq also expressed an interest in attracting new fighters: “Terrify the enemies of Allah and seek death in the places where you expect to find it,” he advised potential recruits. “Your brothers, on every piece of this earth, are waiting for you to rescue them.”
Not long after Baghdadi’s call, members and sympathizers of the Islamic State, formerly ISIS, began circulating pictures of what purports to be the caliphate’s new passport.
The “State of the Islamic Caliphate” is inscribed at the top of the passport and the bottom reads: “If the holder of this passport is harmed we will deploy armies at his service.”

Caliph Ibrahim builds cabinet and ruling structure

The passport, which IS will reportedly issue to 11,000 people in its Iraq-Syria domain, is being printed at the Mosul “Identification and Passport Center” built in 2011 by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government.
The facility is scheduled to begin issuing new identity cards next week to the subjects of the caliphate in the new domain designated by Baghdadi as spanning the area from Aleppo in northern Syria to the eastern Iraqi province of Diyala.
The “caliph” has gone so far as to lay out the structure of his government, a development scarcely heeded by the Western media.
He has named as his deputy premier a comrade known only by the alias of Abu Muslim al-Turkemeni. His cabinet will have seven members, his War Office three, headed by Abu Shema. Six governors have been appointed to the provinces under his rule (see attached map).
Notwithstanding Baghdadi’s bombast and aggressive conquests, al-Maliki this week blamed the Kurds for Iraq’s troubles. On June 9, he accused the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of hosting the jihadists overrunning the country and besetting it with its worst crisis in years.
”Honestly, we cannot be silent over this and we cannot be silent over Irbil being a headquarters for ISIS and Baath and Al Qaeda and terrorist operations," Maliki said in his weekly televised address.
While the Iraqi prime minister is clearly out to settle scores with Kurdish president Masoud Barzani, who is pushing hard for an independent Kurdish state in Iraq, there is a kernel of fact in his allegation.

IS loses one, wins one

The jihadists are indeed present in the KRG, but also in most of northern, western, and central Iraq. The IS movement has won local affiliates in every Sunni city and tribe, where oaths of loyalty to Baghdadi may be heard daily.
DEBKA Weekly's counterterrorism and Iraq sources say Baghdadi’s call to arms and issue of passports are measures designed to tighten his grip on the many disparate Sunni militias in the area and inculcate a sense of belonging to a strong nation ruled by a firm central government. His chances at successfully uniting these groups are not great. But much depends on Caliph Ibrahim playing the Iraqi political game with the same skill as he displayed in the battlefield.
Our military sources rate his battlefield success rate this week as half and half.
IS armored columns, including tanks, failed in their attempt to take over the Speicher Air Base near Tikrit in northern Iraq, some 170 km north of Baghdad and 11 km west of the Tigris River.
In another audacious operation, Al Qaeda forces reached the Iraq-Saudi Arabia border where, according to the official Saudi version, two suspected militants blew themselves up after two days inside a government building in southern Saudi Arabia.
On July 4, three shells landed in northern Saudi Arabia. No casualties were reported. According to the Saudi Border Guards’ media spokesperson, the shells landed in a residential complex in Arar, near the border with Iraq, at 1:30 pm.
But DEBKA Weekly’s sources report that events went down rather differently. Al Qaeda forces bombarded the border post with at least 40 shells, burning it to the ground. At least six Saudis were killed in this, the caliphate’s first strike on Saudi Arabian soil.

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Israel and Hamas in Close Sky Combat
Netanyahu Still Loath to Put Boots on the Gaza Ground

In the three-week aftermath of the Hamas kidnap and murder of three Israeli teenagers, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon stood firm against the popular outcry for a full reckoning with the perpetrators and harsh military punishment to reach them in their Gaza lairs.
This week the two Israeli leaders relented, but never entirely reversed course when, on July 8, they ordered the Israel Defense Forces to attack Hamas strongholds from the skies, but not to touch ground.
(See DEBKA Weekly 641 of July 4: “Netanyahu Maneuvers to Stay out of Gaza, Pays for Restraint with Credibility at Home.”)
Thursday night, after a hectic cabinet session – and a record 170 Hamas rockets in a single day - there were signs Netanyahu may give way on a ground operation. As we wrote this, it was still touch and go.
Netanyahu has admitted that Operation Protective Edge, which relies on Israel’s air power to knock out Hamas’ military and logistical infrastructure – with the focus on missiles -- will not be quick. Israeli jets began striking Hamas targets in Gaza Tuesday, July 8, in earnest. That evening, the prime minister again urged the Israeli public to have patience because the operation “may take time.”
The following day, after Hamas had sent more than 130 rockets hurtling as far north as Hadera, a distance of 110 km that was covered by its Syrian-made M-302 Khaibar missiles, as well as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. By the end of the day, half of Israel was under potential attack and 5 million Israelis ordered to stay close to bomb shelters.

Sharp escalation on both sides

Netanyahu thereupon ordered the IDF to accelerate air strikes against Palestinian military and logistic infrastructure, tunnels, buried missiles, command and control and other facilities, as well as launching targeted assassinations of senior Hamas and Jihad Islami figures, including politicians.
(See a separate article covering the military aspects of the operation.)
The next day, Wednesday, the M-302s flew north up the Mt. Carmel town of Zichron Yaakov, 141 kilometers from the Gaza Strip, and the high-end town of Caesarea. Iron Dome blew them up before they landed. The next seven rockets missed the Dimona Nuclear Center thanks to Iron Dome.
But although the hundreds of rockets fired by Hamas day after day have caused no Israeli fatalities – largely due to Iron Dome, normal life is disrupted in many parts of the country and the economy is suffering.
Although the prime minister twice this week ordered the army to put extra punch into the operation and exact “a heavy price” from Hamas, his flip-flopping in the last few weeks leaves room for doubt that he has said his last word about where he wants the military operation to go.

Breaking the pattern of condemnation-cum-mediation

His spokesman Mark Regev told foreign correspondents Wednesday:
“What we see is that over the last few years, Hamas has built up in Gaza a very formidable terrorist military machine and we are now acting to dismantle that machine.”
Asked about an IDF ground operation, he said: "It’s possible, we are ready for every contingency, the army has been instructed to prepare for that - if that is what politicians decide. Our strategic goal is ultimately defensive, to end the rocket fire on our cities.”
So the next stage of Operation Protective Edge is still up in the air.
For the first time in many years, Israel has essentially won a free rein to deal with Hamas from friends and foes alike. But this period won’t last much longer as Palestinian casualties begin to mount.
In previous skirmishes with terrorist and other enemies, including Hamas, a rough pattern was established: Like clockwork, Arab and other unfriendly governments would rush in to condemn Israel – often filing complaints with the UN Security Council; friends urged restraint “on both sides” and the US administration of whatever stripe moved in as the adult to set in motion a mediation process for calming the adversaries - either directly or through Egypt or a Persian Gulf state.

Israel is not seizing on the lull in international bashing

But this time, US President Barack Obama is keeping his distance, showing no interest in intervening in the conflict – certainly not to rescue Hamas, which recently patched up its rift with Tehran and Hizballah.
The Europeans governments, which stuck a toe in the murky waters of mediation, quickly jerked it out again in the face of the hostile reaction. Even Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who normally counts on the Europeans taking his part, preferred them to stay out of it.
This should not have been a surprise to seasoned regional observers. Weeks after forging a peace pact with his Hamas rivals, he is eager to seen his partner weakened, especially if the job can be performed by Israel without him lifting a finger. Egyptian President Fattah El Sisi signaled Jerusalem that for him, Israel is an ally combating a common enemy, the Gaza Islamists who also plague Sinai. He will therefore not interfere beyond the ritual call on both sides to exercise restraint.
But Netanyahu is not seizing Israel’s rare moment of relief from international opprobrium. Knocking out Hamas’ military infrastructure and buying Israel peace from rockets would necessitate inserting armored troops and infantry into Gaza on a scale of which the prime minister has been gun-shy about in the past.

Netanyahu’s abstention from ground action gives Hamas the military edge

In November 2012, he ordered the IDF to mass 70,000 armored corps and infantry troops at the Gaza border, but escaped authorizing an invasion by accepting a truce accord brokered by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Muslim Brotherhood, then in power in Cairo.
This truce mostly held water for only eighteen months. This time, he is being urged to make it final.
But the call-up he approved of just 40,000 reserve troops doesn’t answer the case.
By every military standard, Hamas is Israel’s inferior in strength. Yet it has gained the upper hand from Netanyahu’s refusal to respond directly, beyond air strikes, to the ever-expanding Hamas blitz of up to 200-250 surface-to-surface missiles per day. The Iron Dome missile defense system, a disciplined public and the Hamas rockets’ lack of guidance systems – and therefore easily intercepted before landing in unpopulated areas - have saved Israel from fatalities.
But the average Israeli is taking an emotional psychological battering from the endless round of sirens before the tense wait for a rocket to fall somewhere, the dash to shelters, transport chaos, traumatized children, missed schooling and problems with places of work.
Further unease was caused Tuesday when a Hamas commando unit landed on the beach of the southern town of Ashkelon bent on attacking the large Israeli naval base in the vicinity. Israeli forces discovered and shot them dead as they came into land.

Hamas waits for a game-changer, Israel for Hamas to crack

But Hamas may have more tricks up its sleeve. A web of tunnels from Gaza is known to have been secretly burrowed under the electronic border fence up to Israeli army bases and communities. They have not all been unearthed. Hamas is also believed to have acquired small drones to be packed with explosives and used as a weapon.
The Palestinian extremists appear to be hoping for a game changer that by causing a large number of casualties would permit them to claim victory - such as a direct rocket hit, or a large-scale terrorist attack in an Israeli city; the first rockets launched by Hamas from the West Bank; or even a new front opened on Israel’s northern borders by Syria or Hizballah.
But none of these options appear to be in sight at the moment for Hamas. Israel too is waiting for Hamas to crack under the pressure of air strikes and troops massed on the border. But the Palestinian jihadis are also hoping that Israel blinks first.

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Assad Swoops on Aleppo
Recovering Idlib Province - a Game Changer for Assad in the Syrian War

Syrian President Bashar Assad is making great strides towards what could be the greatest victory of his three and-a half-year campaign against anti-regime rebels: the conquest of Aleppo.
DEBKA Weekly’s military and intelligence sources say it is only a matter of days before Syria’s second city falls to the regime and allied Hizballah forces fighting under Iranian command.
The rebel forces which a mere six months ago held half the city have scattered and are in retreat. Our sources report that rebels are also backing out of the rest of Idlib Province. There former stronghold in northwestern Syria and, if Aleppo falls, Assad’s army will likely take this strategically important province in its entirety.
The head of Aleppo’s Provincial Rebel Council, Abdul-Rahman Dadam, warned in a July 7 news conference in Istanbul that the Syrian Army was making advances in Idlib and around Aleppo.
Jalaluddin Khandji, Aleppo’s representative in the main opposition umbrella group, the Syrian National Coalition, called on “democratic countries and international organizations to stand with the Syrian people who have been abandoned, to battle against the terrorism of both the Assad regime and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).”

Control of Idlib will open N-S highway, close rebel threat from the north

But despite these strong statements, Yasser al-Najjar, the head of the Revolutionary Command Council in Aleppo, confirmed that "rebel fighters have withdrawn from the Aleppo front after finding themselves in a hopeless position, stuck between the regime on the one side, and ISIS (IS) on the other."
This regime coup will have major ramifications for the coming direction of Syria’s bloody civil war:
1. After rooting rebel forces out of the Syrian-Lebanese and Syrian-Turkish border province of Idlib, Assad and Hizballah’s fighters will no longer face a threat from the direction of Turkey. With Homs and Hama in hand since the start of this year, their control of Aleppo will finally cut off any rebel attempt to attack Damascus from the north.
2. Aleppo’s capture will open up to the Syrian army and the Syrian economy the highway system running from the north to Deraa in the south. Sections of those highway links that circumvent Damascus were until recently in rebel hands.
3. The rebels will lose their launching pad for attacks on Latakia and Tartus, the coastal cities at the foot of the Alawite Mountains which are Assad’s political home ground.
4. The Syrian Kurds, the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) and the Nusra Front had hoped to carve out a corridor from northern Syria to the Mediterranean Sea. But the Syrian army’s conquest of Idlib would shut this down.

A Cairo-Damascus thaw underway

5. It would also plant an obstruction on the free passage that the semi-autonomous Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq had charted for transporting its oil from the Kirkuk oil fields to the Mediterranean via Turkey. To ensure its oil makes it to Mediterranean tankers, Irbil will have to negotiate directly with Damascus, where Tehran pulls the strings.
DEBKA Weekly's intelligence and Mid East sources report a surprising thaw in the ties between Cairo and Damascus as a result of the Assad regime’s bright military prospects.
Newly elected Egyptian President Fattah El Sisi sent secret emissaries to Assad last month with a conciliatory message. The Egyptian president is looking to gradually improve its relationship with Syria, and eventually go public on their nascent friendship. Assad has welcomed this overture and informal contacts are underway.
El Sisi is the first Arab ruler to break the Arab boycott of Assad and his regime.
It’s too soon to say how President Barack Obama in Washington and King Abdullah in Riyadh will take Sisi’s move, as they’re likely to read about it for the first time in DEBKA Weekly.

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A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending July 10, 2014

July 4, 2014 Briefs

  • Israel resumes air strikes over Gaza after lull for possible truce
    For 36 hours, Israel held back on military action against Palestinian Hamas strongholds in the Gaza Strip in the hope of a truce announced by the BBC to halt the Hamas rocket barrage against Israeli towns and villages. However, after 17 rockets dashed that hope, the IAF went back to bombarding Gaza.
  • Thirteen Israeli police slightly injured by rioting Palestinians
    In three days of mass riots, hundreds of masked Palestinian youths clashed with Israeli police in several parts of Jerusalem, hurling fire bombs, rocks and firecrackers at police and Jewish neighborhoods. Police used stun grenades and gas to disperse them.

Al Qaeda-Iraq forces advance on Baghdad military air base. US ponders air strike ahead of Iran and Russia

4 July.
Al Qaeda Iraq (IS) and Sunni allies were advancing Friday, July 7 on the al-Muthanna military air base at Baghdad international airport, debkafile reports. Three columns, of 1,000-1,500 fighters each, were driving forward in US-made armored Humvees and APCs taken booty. They are also after the assault planes Iran and Russia delivered to the base - eight fighters - four Su-25UBKMs and four Su-25Kms with crews from Iran, and the six Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoots, along with air and ground maintenance crews from Russia. The Obama administration must decide quickly whether to launch its first strike to head off the Iraqi Islamists before they grab the strategic air base andan air fleet, and, just as importantly, before Tehran or Moscow move in.

July 5, 2014 Briefs

  • First outbreak in Nazareth as Israeli Arab riots spread
    The Israeli Arab rampage against Jewish targets, which erupted Friday night, spread Saturday to the northern town of Nazareth. At least 17 Israeli Arabs were arrested and a dozen injured by tear gas and stun grenades in the Triangle towns of Qalansweh, Tira, Baqa al-Garbiya and Taibeh, northeast of Tel Aviv, after hundreds of youths lobbed rocks and burning tires at neighboring Jewish locals and highway traffic.
    Friday night, masked Arabs outside Qalanswa waylaid the cars, checked if the drivers were Jewish, dragged them out and beat them up before torching their vehicles. The drivers fled on foot.

Cycle of violence expands around and in Israel as street forces take charge

5 July
. In less than a week, Israel finds itself trapped in a maelstrom of violence following the Netanyahu government’s limp response to the traumatic discovery on July 30 of the bodies of the Israeli teenagers, Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach, kidnapped and slain by Hamas. Two days later, a 16-year old Palestinian boy, Muhammad Abu Khdeir, was found murdered in Jerusalem, sparking Arab riots and scores of rockets from Gaza. “Quiet will be met with quiet,” was Israel’s feeble message to Hamas as the IDF, a highly competent counter-terror force, stood idly by.

July 6, 2014 Briefs

  • US tightens airport security to include electronics
    American officials have ordered some overseas airports with direct flights to the US to intensify screening of electronic devices. Mobile phones or other electronic devices will not be allowed on US bound planes if they are not fully charged.
  • Fresh Israeli-Arabs riots and clashes Sunday night
    The Israeli police are braced for a further surge of violence by Palestinians and Israeli Arabs in the fourth night after six Jewish suspects were arrested in connection with the murder of a Palestinian boy in Jerusalem.
  • Israel Arab confesses to murdering Shelly Dadon
    Hussein Yusfu Khalifa from the mixed Muslim-Christian village of Iblin in northern Israel confessed to the murder of 19 year old Shelly Dadon from Migdal Ha’emek earlier this year.
  • IS leader al-Baghdadi in first public sermon
    A video released Saturday showed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Sunni Islamist IS, giving a public sermon for the first time in the mosque of Mosul. After seizing large areas of Iraq and Syria, al Baghdadi announced the establishment of the Islamist State with himself caliph.
  • Ten Israelis injured in Palestinian disorders in Jerusalem
    Palestinians attacked an Israeli woman in the Old City and injured another 10 by raining firebombs and rocks on an Israeli bus. Two of the injured Israelis were children.

Six Jewish men arrested in connection with murder of Palestinian youth

6 July
. Israeli Police Sunday, July 6, arrested six Jewish men from Beit Shemesh, Jerusalem and Adam village in connection with the murder of the 16-year old Palestinian Muhammad Abu Khdeir.Their motive is believed to be “nationalistic revenge” for the three Israeli teenage boys earlier kidnapped and slain by Hamas. A gag order was issued on details of the inquiry.
Israeli leaders have widely condemned the crime and vowed that those responsible would be brought to justice: "Murder is murder, whoever is responsible."

July 7, 2014 Briefs

  • Israeli Foreign Minister breaks up Yisrael Betenu-Likud merger
    Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, chairman of the Yisrael Betenu informed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Monday that he is dissolving the merger his party and Likud forged before the last election. He acted after a sharp dispute with the prime minister over his demand for a strong response to Hamas rocket blitz and kidnap-murder of three Israeli youths.

Hamas flatly spurns a ceasefire. Israeli air strikes kill 7 of its operatives in Gaza

7 July.
There is not the slightest chance of the Palestinian Islamist Hamas halting its three-week barrage of rockets against Israel in the foreseeable future, high-placed sources in Cairo, Washington and the IDF told debkafile’s military sources Sunday night, July 6. They all agreed that Israeli-Gaza border tensions would continue to escalate, in the absence of serious Israeli military punishment for cutting Hamas down.

July 8, 2014 Briefs

  • Rocket-preparedness radius extended to 80 km – up to Netanya
    The IDF Home Command Tuesday extended the preparedness radius for rocket attacks from a distance of 40km from the Gaza Strip to 80km, encompassing Tel Aviv and Netanyahu.

More than half of Israel under Hamas rocket attack - from Beersheba up to Greater Tel Aviv. No casualties

8 July.
First Hamas rockets were fired or intercepted Tuesday night, July 8, over Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Rishon Lezion, Givatayim, Raanana, Caesaria and Yavne, as well as southern Israeli cities. No casualties or damage reported. Beyond shooting dozens of rockets, Hamas also made several attempts Tuesday, July 8, to smuggle terrorists into Israel for attacks. A Hamas naval commando which tried in the afternoon to land from the sea near Ashkelon’s Zikkim beach was repelled by an IDF coast guard. Later, another group of terrorists tried to creep into Israel through a tunnel running under the Kerem Shalom crossing. Public shelters were earlier opened in Tel Aviv, the beaches along the Mediterranean coast from the south to Netanyahu further north were cleared of bathers and Sdei Dov airport was closed. Arrivals and departures of flights at Ben Gurion international and Eilat airports were thrown off schedule by Israeli Air Force sorties against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli air strikes kill 5 Hamas commanders

8 July.
Israeli air strikes singled out Hamas chiefs Tuesday, July 8, at the onset of the IDF’s Operation Solid Rock, after 50 strikes overnight. Hamas Naval Commando chief Mahmoud Shaaban, 24, and three passengers were killed when their car was hit from the air. Another airborne raid flattened the Rafah home of Abdul Rahman Juda, which served as a command and control center. Thirty Palestinians were injured.

Israel calls up 40,000 reservists to expand Gaza operation

8 July.
The IDF called up another 40,000 reservists Tuesday, July 8, after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ordered the expansion of Operation Solid Rock against the Palestinians’ mounting rocket assaults – 100 by mid-afternoon. This was after Israel carried out dozens of air strikes over Gaza Monday night, culminating in raids that killed five leading Hamas operatives. The high-intensity Palestinian rocket offensive, now it its fourth week, is seriously disrupting life in those regions.

The IDF launches Operation Solid Rock against Hamas

8 July.
Israel finally launched its Operation Solid Rock against Hamas Monday night, July 7, after the Palestinians directed a steady stream of 100 rockets from Gaza to expanded targets as far as Rehovot, 50 km away. The operation is billed as a long-term offensive to destroy Hamas’ infrastructure in escalating stages up to a limited ground incursion.

July 9, 2014 Briefs

  • Manhunt for second Hamas sea commando team intruder
    The IDF spokesman disclosed Wednesday that residents of an Israeli locale close to the Gaza border were told to lock themselves in at home because terrorists were at large. Other sources add that Hamas tried to inject a second commando team by sea for a terrorist attack in Israel.
  • IS take sledgehammers to Prophet Jonah’s tomb in Mosul
    Al Qaeda-Iraq photos show churches and mosques in Mosul destroyed by bulldozers, explosives and sledgehammers, including the tomb of the Biblical Jonah, best known for being swallowed by a fish or whale.
  • Hamas aimed 7 rockets at Dimona. None hit the reactor
    Iron Dome intercepted three of the 7 rockets aimed by Hamas at the Dimona nuclear reactor, 43 km from the Gaza Strip. The other four landed on empty ground.
  • Israel: IDF acts to dismantle Hamas military machine
    Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s spokesman Mark Regev told foreign media Wednesday: “What we see is that over the last few years Hamas has built up in Gaza a very formidable terrorist military machine and we are now acting to dismantle that machine.” Asked about an IDF ground operation, he said: "It’s possible, we are ready for every contingency, the army has been instructed to prepare for that - if that is what politicians decide. Our strategic goal is ultimately defensive, to end the rocket fire on our cities.”

Hamas has several hundred of M-302s of type that hit Hadera

9 July.
The long-range Hamas rockets that reached Hadera 110km north of Gaza Tuesday, July 8, have been identified as the Syrian-made M-302 Khaibar missile, which Hizballah launched against Haifa in the 2006 Lebanon war. This weapon uses Iranian technology which derives from the Chinese WS-1. Hizballah engineers posted in the Gaza Strip have since helped Hamas improve the M-302 and extend its range and accuracy. But even after improvements, the M-302 suffers from a lack of precision, which was demonstrated Tuesday night when it landed harmlessly in Hadera and also Jerusalem.

July 10, 2014 Briefs

  • One man critically injured by rocket in Ashdod
    A rocket which struck a car and building in Ashdod critically injured a man Thursday night. Two Israelis were injured in Eshkol District, one seriously. They are the first serious injuries caused by the three-week Hamas blitz.
  • Heaviest rocket volley yet hits Beersheba – 170 in one day
    According to first reports, a house and a sports center were hit in downtown Beersheba by incoming rockets from Gaza Thursday evening - at least 20 in a single volley. More missiles were aimed for the first time at the Dead Sea region. A four-rocket salvo was earlier fired against Jerusalem, two against Tel Aviv, another against Mitzpe Ramon and a volley against Rehovot, Dimona, Ofakim. None caused injuries or much damage. At least 30 were caught by Iron Dome.
  • Israel carries out 850 air and sea strikes in three days
    The Air Force and Navy carried out 850 strikes over the Gaza Strip in three days, targeting a weapons store, 5 arms manufacturing plants, 5 military compounds, 58 tunnels, 2 surveillance posts, 217 buried rocket launching pads, one command and control base and 46 homes of Hamas and Jihad Islami commanders.
  • Two Palestinians detained heading for a bombing attack
    The two Palestinians were apprehended near Ariel in the northern West Bank on suspicion of heading for a bombing attack in Israel. In their vehicle was a gas canister rigged with an explosive charge.

IDF tells 100,000 Gaza civilians to move back from Israeli border – sign of impending ground incursion

10 July.
Thursday afternoon, July 10, the IDF advised 100,000 Palestinian civilians to leave their homes in the northern Gaza villages of Beit Lahiya, Beit Hanoun, Greater Ibsen and Smaller Ibsen and head west to the coast or south out of harms way. This order, issued shortly after a special Israeli cabinet meeting, suggested that an Israel military incursion is impending. During the day, Hamas kept up its barrage. By firing 170 rockets in one day, the Islamists demonstrated that their rocket capability had not been impaired by three days of massive Israeli air strikes. And so far, none of their senior commanders or command centers had been struck.

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