After 22 days of fierce fighting in Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu finally lost patience with waiting for a unified Palestinian delegation to arrive in Cairo to discuss Egypt’s proposal for ending the conflict. On Wednesday July 30, he went ahead with his own plans for the future of the territory.
A day later, on Thursday night, July 30, the PLO-led Palestinian faction heads were still bickering and their delegation had still not taken off.
Netanyahu typically left the troops in the field and the Israeli public in the dark about his decision, although he did deign to mention it to senior IDF officers.
He dropped the plan for sending an Israeli team to Cairo for Egyptian intermediaries to lead separate and parallel talks with the Palestinians and Israelis on a solution of the Gaza crisis. Instead, he sent Amos Gilad, the Defense Ministry’s policy director, and two intelligence officials, to the Egyptian capital to get straight exactly how both would handle access to Gaza through their respective crossings after the Gaza conflict ended.
Both sides were of one mind on the imperative for keeping in place the blockade of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip – the lifting of which has been Hamas’ sine qua non for a ceasefire. It was agreed that both Egypt and Cairo would reject outright the Palestinian demand to reopen Gaza port. Egypt would permit certain goods to reach Gaza through El Arish port in northern Sinai and Port Said on the Suez, but also be responsible for ensuring that no weapons were smuggled in through these seaports.
Netanyahu talks expansion, means withdrawal
After dispatching the emissaries to Cairo, Netanyahu convened his security cabinet and pushed through a snap decision to expand the operation in Gaza: “The IDF has been instructed to continue forcefully attacking Hamas and the other terror organizations in Gaza and to finish neutralizing the terror tunnels, an operation that is having significant results in the field and damaging the strategic system that Hamas spent years building," reads the cabinet’s public statement.
But the public decision and the private orders that Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon handed down to the IDF were rather different. They told the army’s top brass to finish the job of destroying Hamas’ terror tunnels and then pull the troops out of Gaza within 36 hours, even though fully demolishing the labyrinth of tunnels could take up to a week of ground warfare.
DEBKA Weekly’s military sources report that, while all eyes were deliberately turned to the vast tunnel enterprise and its systematic annihilation, the IDF had been focusing much of its energy on another major strategic undertaking, namely, the carving out of a buffer strip parallel to the Gaza border. It is being designed for outside control and equipped with a battery of firing posts, sensors, drones, special forces and armored units on round-the-clock alert, to bar hostile infiltrations. The troops will be able to cross back into Gaza if necessary.
IDF is carving out a “buffer zone” inside Gaza strip
The buffer zone will run 65-km from Beit Hanoun in the north to Khan Younis in the south, roughly following one of Gaza’s only motorways, Highway 6 (see map). All the territory east of this line up to the Israeli border has been cleared of the Palestinian civilian population, buildings and vegetation.
This sterile strip is around 1 km wide in the north and center of Gaza, 2-3 km deep in such areas as Khan Younes.
These dimensions were calculated precisely to reduce Palestinian rocket fire against Israel’s southern communities, although there is no guarantee that the blight can be eliminated, and put a damper on any Hamas plans to rebuild new tunnels.
With the counter-terror offensive in its third week, Netanyahu had to choose between accepting a ceasefire and pulling Israel’s forces out of Gaza after claiming falsely that the tunnels were eradicated and Hamas beaten; or he could order an all-out offensive to pulverize Hamas.
He appears to have opted for the first choice.
IDF may go, but many of the deepest tunnels will stay
1. Curtailing hostilities: Former President Shimon Peres made the case for ending hostilities on Wednesday, July 30, when during a hospital visit to wounded soldiers he declared, “The war has run its course.”
But halting the fighting is not a simple matter. Netanyahu’s war goals have not been met and convincing the public otherwise would be no small feat.
Hamas still holds more than a third of the 9,000 rockets with which it launched its blitz – more than enough to keep Israeli civilians within a wide radius running for cover. This week, the pace of rocket fire slowed from around 160 to 60 per day, but only because Hamas was keeping enough rockets in reserve for a spectacular performance in a final showdown.
The IDF has seriously trashed rocket production plants, but at least one-fifth of the facilities remain functional and can continue to replenish depleted stocks.
Not all the “terror tunnels” have been found and demolished, despite the Herculean efforts of the troops backed by intelligence from the Shin Bet. The Egyptian military has done its best, but Hamas has managed to build new smuggling passages from Sinai at the rate of an estimated 15 per week. And so, new rockets, drawn from concealed weapons caches in Sinai or smuggled from Libya and Sudan, arrive apace.
Despite the weeks of fighting, the IDF has driven no deeper than 1-3 kilometers into Gaza, leaving the western areas untouched. Therefore, the soldiers can only deal with the tunnels that come out in the eastern sector or reach further into Israel.
To truly finish off the warren of passageways, the IDF needs to burrow much farther west up to their starting points. But Hamas, with the help of Iranian and Hizballah engineers, constructed the labyrinthine system so that each tunnel forks off into another passage every few dozen or hundred meters. Some of these interconnected passageways lead under the border to places in Israel; others go further underground in Gaza.
All-out Gaza offensive ruled out from the start
The system is totally baffling. IDF spokesmen keep on saying that the troops have more or less dealt with the tunnels, while the politicians promise this will be done. They are anxious to allay people’s visceral dread of ferocious enemies jumping out on kibbutz lawns from the bowels of the earth, a terror that has driven more people north than even the rockets.
The truth is that only the sections reaching the Israeli border have been neutralized, whereas the honeycomb buried deep inside territory which the IDF has not reached, has defied Israeli intelligence’s best efforts.
The plan now is to polish off as many tunnels as can be reached in the days remaining up to the IDF’s pullout.
2. No all-out war to the finish on Hamas. The order for a general offensive on Hamas forces would, to succeed, depend on two new tactics: One: the Gaza Strip would be bisected and opened up for Israeli tanks to cut through up to the Mediterranean coast; and two, the IDF would have to seize the hilltops commanding Gaza City center from the east.
By making the tunnels Israel’s overriding mission, Netanyahu ruled this option out fairly early.
Iranian general vows to restore Hamas
His plan for now, according to DEBKA Weekly’s military sources, hinges on the assessment that it will take Hamas several years to regroup and recover its military capabilities – if it ever does - after the thrashing it received at the hands of the Israeli army.
This may turn out to be a losing gamble if Iran and Hizballah decide to step in and rehabilitate their Palestinian ally from scratch.
Echoes of Hamas’ dismal conditions were heard in a rare comment Wednesday by the Iranian al-Qods Brigades Commander, Gen. Qassem Soleimani. He vowed to do everything in his power to restore Hamas’ full military might.
This oath is not to be taken lightly. Gen. Soleimani has for four years commanded the Iranian forces fighting to keep Syrian President Bashar Assad from losing the civil war and staying in power.
He has always kept a low profile, but for the sake of Hamas, he has come out in the open.
If Iran makes good on this vow, Israel’s pullback and its creation of a long Gaza buffer zone may well lead to a long war of attrition between Israel and the undefeated Hamas.
American and Israeli officials shot down the purportedly leaked transcript of a call between US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday July 30, saying it bears “no resemblance to reality.”
But DEBKA Weekly’s sources say the text is authentic and it accurately illustrates the growing rancor between the two leaders as efforts to craft a Gaza truce prove elusive.
The US National Security Council and the Prime Minister of Israel’s Office tweeted identical statements on the afternoon of Tuesday, July 29:
“We have seen reports of an alleged POTUS-Netanyahu transcript; neither reports nor alleged transcript bear any resemblance to reality. [It's] shocking and disappointing someone would sink to misrepresenting a private conversation between POTUS and PM in fabrications to Israeli press.”
A “high-ranking American official” peeks into a confidential call
The report was aired on Israel’s TV Channel 1 News, a state-funded network. The reporter, Oren Nahari, said it was leaked to him by a high-ranking American official. He said the phone conversation, which took place on Sunday July 27, lasted 35 minutes in total. He said the source characterized the conversation between the two leaders as tense, with Obama showing impatience while Netanyahu sounded incredulous about the president’s demands.
“Obama: Israel is in no position to choose mediators”
The following is the English translation of the transcript that was broadcast in Hebrew.
Barack Obama: I demand that Israel agree to an immediate, unilateral ceasefire and halt all offensive actions, in particular airstrikes.
Binyamin Netanyahu: And what will Israel receive in exchange for a ceasefire?
BO: I believe that Hamas will cease its rocket fire — silence will be met with silence.
BN: Hamas broke all five previous ceasefires. It’s a terrorist organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel.
BO: I repeat and expect Israel to stop all military activities unilaterally. The pictures of destruction in Gaza distance the world from Israel’s position.
BN: [US Secretary of State John] Kerry’s proposal was completely unrealistic and gave Hamas military and diplomatic advantages.
BO: Within a week of the end of Israel’s military activities, Qatar and Turkey will begin negotiations with Hamas based on the 2012 understandings, including Israel’s commitment to removing the siege and restrictions on Gaza.
BN: Qatar and Turkey are the biggest supporters of Hamas. It’s impossible to rely on them to be fair mediators.
BO: I trust Qatar and Turkey. Israel is in no position to choose its mediators.
BN: I protest, because Hamas is allowed to continue to launch rockets and use tunnels for terror attacks –
BO (interrupting Netanyahu): The ball’s in Israel’s court, and it must end all its military activities.
Rice tries to fix the damage Obama caused
Very senior Israeli sources confirm the transcript accurately presented the conversation as it took place between the two leaders, admitting that its leak marked an all-time low in relations between any US president and Israeli prime minister.
The sources told DEBKA Weekly that Obama’s tone and phrasing in the conversation mirrored those of Kerry last week in Cairo and Israel, and his language at the Paris meeting which he convened over the weekend in search of a ceasefire formula.
He invited UK, European, Qatari and Turkish representatives, but pointedly left off his guest list the senior players in the crisis, Israel, Egypt and Palestinian Authority, despite their dominant roles in the Gaza hostilities and their inevitable direct involvement in any future truce.
In the diplomatic back and forth that has run alongside the bombs and rockets, Israel accused Kerry of ignoring its security demands in favor of Hamas’ patrons and friends Qatar and Turkey, and even of Hamas itself.
Some major news outlets, led by the Washington Post, have also been scathingly critical of Kerry’s effort, describing it as “John Kerry’s big blunder in seeking an Israel-Gaza ceasefire.”
On Monday, July 28, Kerry and National Security Advisor Susan Rice tried to repair some of the damage caused by the transcript to the trust between the two leaders.
Kerry and Rice try to mend fences without success
Kerry tried backtracking from a decision taken only two days previously in Paris by adding Israel’s basic demand to place Gaza’s demilitarization and the disarmament of terrorist organizations on the table in negotiations for a solution of the current conflict, though not necessarily in the talks for a ceasefire.
Rice, for her part, used a crucial speech to underscore the administration’s commitment to Israel and dismiss criticism of its military offensive in Gaza as biased and unjustified. Staunchly defending Israel’s right to defend itself against rockets fired from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, Rice aimed a broadside at the United Nations Human Rights Council, which last week was persuaded by the Palestinian Authority to set up a commission of inquiry to probe war crimes charges against Israel.
But DEBKA Weekly’s sources say their attempts to mend fences did not go far – the chasm between Washington and Jerusalem is simply too wide.
By going to war against Hamas, Netanyahu implicitly turned his back on the Obama administration’s Middle East policy and lined up - albeit informally - with the Saudi Arabia-Egypt-UAE alignment against the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran. (See “The Gaza War against Hamas is Managed by a Troika: Abdullah, Sisi and Netanyahu” in DNW no. 644 of July 25).
The rift is not just personal. US pro-Hamas steps cause rancor
This is much more than a clash of personalities between Netanyahu and Obama. Obama’s steps to save Hamas from downfall while the IDF was in the midst of a costly counter-terror struggle against those same Islamist extremists, are bitterly resented by Israel’s diplomatic, military and intelligence communities as a betrayal of the traditional trust Israel has reposed in all American presidents.
This gap opened up when Obama adopted a policy of détente with Israel’s most vocal enemies. It is expected to widen further with the approach of US midterm elections in November, as Washington continues to give ground to Tehran on its nuclear weapons program as well as sanctions relief.
As a sidebar to the transcript incident, the CIA and Mossad are both intent on hunting down the mysterious “high-ranking American official” who is feeding the TV reporter with hot leaks. This was not the first. Nahari quoted the same source recently as disclosing that Obama had warned Netanyahu in a previous phone call that Washington would withhold criticism of Israel’s Gaza operation only so long as Palestinian deaths remained below 1,000 – but not after that.
When Hamas’ clandestine politburo convenes for an important decision, the last word is always left to its military commander Mohammed Deif.
The organization’s military council and general staff also await his nod before taking steps. The same goes for Hamas external politiburo chief Khaled Meshaal; Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh; and the chief of Hamas’ military wing, the Izz a-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Marwan Issa.
Deif is top dog in Hamas, so when the media report that Meshaal is leading the various rounds of ceasefire talks for Gaza, one must keep in mind that it is not he who sets policy for the extremist Islamist movement.
According to DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence sources, obtaining a seal of approval from the enigmatic Deif is no easy task. He is in such deep hiding, that only two top Hamas figures know where he is and only one, Prime Minister Haniyeh is thought to be in direct, albeit infrequent, contact with him.
Issa can get a message to Deif if necessary, although even his messengers don’t have direct access. Deif employs several messengers who, unknown to one other, perform his bidding.
This mystery figure is not completely without human contact,
Several Israeli assassination attempts have left him in need of constant medical care, and, furthermore, wherever he goes, he has a heavy escort of not one but two teams of security agents whom he trusts.
Even through rarely seen, Deif lords it over Hamas’ political and military arms with a heavy hand. In the highly secretive 2012-2013 elections for the Shura Council, Hamas’ overarching governing body, Deif secured spots for his loyalists and thwarted the candidacies of many of Meshaal’s followers.
Hamas fighters “eager for death”
Deif broke several years of public silence on July 29 with a brief recorded statement, in which he vowed that Hamas’ fighters were “eager for death” and prepared to fight on without compromise.
"What the planes, artillery and warships have failed to achieve, will not be achieved by the defeated (Israeli) forces in the field who, thanks be to Allah, have become prey for the rifles and ambushes of our jihad fighters,” Deif says in the recording.
“In this round, the abusive [Israeli] entity will not have security as long as our people don’t have security and are unable to live in liberty and honor. We will not agree to any compromise at the expense of our people's honor and liberty."
"IDF soldiers are facing soldiers who are eager for death, and united factions," Deif continues. "And the mighty resilience of the Palestinian people deliver victory on the battlefield. The enemy is sending its soldiers to a certain hell."
Aspires to the jihadist crown of Osama bin Laden
Some Palestinians compare Deif to Mullah Omar, the reclusive leader of the Afghan Taliban. Others liken him to the Islamic State’s (IS) self-declared Caliph and military chief, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
But our counterterrorism sources are told that Deif scorns these figures as insignificant in the grander scheme of it all. He believes himself to be the true successor of the late Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and pretender to his jihadi crown, brushing aside al Qaeda’s current leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Deif has every faith in Allah eventually showing the Muslim faithful his true light and raising him up to international acclaim. Only then, he believes, will the Palestinian people and Palestine regain their real place at the center of the Muslim world and international recognition.
In this belief, Deif follows the teachings of Al Qaeda’s ideological co-founder Abdullah Yusuf Azzam.
The Palestinian Azzam (1941-1989), also known as Sheikh Azzam or Father of Jihad, was one of the initiators of the Sunni Islamist terror movement that gained prominence in the late 20th century, and a leading figure in the Muslim Brotherhood.
His religious fanaticism makes Deif unpredictable
The elusive Deif’s reliance on religion and his unpredictability have rendered the war in Gaza difficult to explain or analyze in western terms, and stymied diplomats seeking to apply conventional solutions to resolving the conflict. Even Palestinians closest to him philosophically find him unpredictable.
Born 1965 in the Khan Younis refugee camp in southern Gaza, Deif’s family hailed originally from the pre-1948 Palestinian village of Kochva near present-day Ashkelon.
He joined up with the Muslim Brotherhood as a teenager, and was active in student politics at Gaza’s Islamic University, running for the student council under the flag of the Islamic Bloc.
At the outbreak of the first intifada, Deif joined the ranks of Hamas’ militia. By May 1989, he was under Israeli arrest and sentenced to 16 months in prison.
After his release in 1991, Deif headed straight for the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, where he became the disciple of the iconic terrorist bomb maker Yahya “the engineer” Ayyash, who headed the brigades until his assassination in 1996.
Even before he succeeded Ayyash, he orchestrated numerous terror attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians. In 1994, the cells under his command kidnapped and killed the three Israeli soldiers Nachshon Wachsman, Aryeh Frankenthal and Shahar Simani.
Dedicated to suicidal terrorism for jihad
In revenge for Ayyash’s death, Deif masterminded a series of lethal attacks on Israeli civilians in February and March of 1996, in which 58 Israelis were killed in one week. After this outburst of bloodletting, Deif went underground. Mistakenly thought to have fled to Egypt, he continued to plan and oversee suicide bombings from places of hiding.
Israel repeatedly tried to liquidate Deif without success.
On August 22, 2001, Deif and his deputy Adnan al-Awal escaped a targeted assassination attempt. On September 26, 2002, an IDF Apache helicopter fired two Hellfire missiles at Deif’s car as he returned home from a visit of condolence in the Sheikh Rawan district of Gaza. After hours of conflicting reports about the terrorist leader’s fate, Deif turned out to have cheated death once again, although he lost an eye and the use of one hand.
The IDF gave it another go in August 2003, bombing an apartment building where the Hamas military leadership, including al-Awal, Haniyeh, Deif and the movement’s spiritual leader Ahmad Yassin were meeting. Although intelligence had correctly pinpointed the conclave’s time and place, the men were on the building’s bottom floor and escaped with light injuries.
A vow to fight for victory or die as martyrs
In a speech delivered by telephone eleven years ago, marking the 15th anniversary of Hamas’ founding, Deif boasted, "God wanted to make the Jews angry so he saved me. Anyway, I believe that whatever happens is God’s will."
He also made a vow that reverberates strongly in the current war, promising “we will continue either to victory or until we die as martyrs."
Some say Deif sees his current fight as analogous to Osama bin Laden’s December 2001 battle against US forces in the Tora Bora caves of eastern Afghanistan, a vicious skirmish from which Bin Laden infamously escaped capture.
If he truly believes himself to be Bin Laden’s successor, he will have settled in a new lair from which to continue his jihad against Israel.
Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system has done wonders as a shield against the constant barrage of rockets from the Gaza Strip. But though technologically sophisticated in other respects, it has no defense against hackers, especially the Chinese variety, who have been waging cyber warfare to dig out the secrets of Israel’s civilian information networks.
Between 2011 and 2012, these cyber thieves broke into the computer systems of RAFAEL, Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) and Elisra (a subsidiary of Elbit), the companies responsible for developing and building Iron Dome. The cyber infiltrators, apparently operating out of China, stole a mass of documents related to the missile defense shield, as well as files on other defense systems including drones, the Arrow 3 and other anti-ballistic missiles.
The cyber security company CyberESI only recently uncovered the two-year old infiltration, which was revealed this week by the KrebsOnSecurity blog. The firm’s CEO Joseph Drissel said that the type of data stolen led to the hackers’ special interest in Iron Dome.
DEBKA Weekly’s cyber experts note that the fact that it took two years to discover the first breach does not detract from its severity but the reverse. Cyber poachers of various ilks and motivations have always been on the lookout for cracks in Israel’s most critical civilian systems. Little did anyone imagine that its most carefully guarded computers would be so easily breached and invaded by illicit programs, and its most classified IAE documents read like an open book.
China’ state-sponsored “Comment Crew” conducted phishing attacks
Many of the stolen documents were marked classified, including a 900-page report containing precise sketches and blueprints for Arrow 3.
“Most of the Arrow 3 technology was not developed in Israel, but rather by Boeing and other American companies,” Drissel said. But whatever its provenance, the information was compromised on Israeli machines.
According to CyberESI, hackers using targeted email phishing attacks first breached IAI’s systems on April 15, 2012. The nature of the attack suggests it was carried out by the “Comment Crew,” a group of Chinese hackers known to be affiliated with the Chinese government. The group has filched vast caches of data from American security companies in the past. And as recently as Tuesday, July 29, Canada lodged a protest with Beijing, accusing “a highly sophisticated Chinese state-sponsored actor" of breaking into the National Research Council, which works with major aircraft companies.
After infiltrating the IAI system over a period of four months, the hackers installed spy programs and Trojan horse malware, giving them access to the company’s network and classified files.
With entrée into a network, hackers are able to access passwords, administrative accounts, and even plant software for recording the exact letters typed into a computer.
Hackers had similarly compromised Elisra’s systems, retaining control from October 2011-July 2012 and were able to spy on email correspondence from the CEO, vice president for technology and other high-placed executives.
Israeli firms minimize breach, but a grave slip-up is evident
On Tuesday, July 29, Elisra declined to comment on the reported infiltration. RAFAEL spokesman Amit Tzimer also refused to address it in any detail: “We are not commenting on this matter,” said Tzimer. “All of our systems are protected and secured and there is no problem with them.”
IAI spokeswoman Eliana Fisher issued a firm denial of the intrusion to the Israel journal Calcalist: “The reports about leaks of sensitive information are incorrect,” she said, adding that they refer to an attempted infiltration attempt of the company’s civilian and non-classified Internet network that appeared to have occurred a few years ago.
“IAI's information protection systems meet the strictest standards and, in this case, too, they proved their effectiveness."
DEBKA Weekly’s cyber experts say that, despite the companies’ weak-sounding denials or refusals to acknowledge the problem altogether, KrebsOnSecurity is among the world’s top ten information security blogs and its revelations must be taken seriously. It finds reason to believe that the computers of the manufacturers of Iron Dome, Arrow 3 and other classified military systems were seriously compromised.
A spokesperson for IAI dismissed the hacks as “old news,” when challenged about the wide cracks remaining in the organization’s computers for random break-ins.
The evidence provided by KrebsOnSecurity of the theft of Iron Dome schematics leaves little room for interpretation and, combined with China’s tests of short-range and medium-range missile intercept systems some two years after the theft, eloquently bespeaks the magnitude of the lapse.
Basic rules for information security
The information security world has developed a three-part method for protecting data. If it is followed to the letter with the utmost care, it is proof against theft, except in very rare cases. But Rafael, the IAI and Elisra must have fallen down on a very simple dictum: If it isn’t connected to the Internet, it won’t make it onto the Internet.
Tools and methods
Documents, plans, inventions and patents are secure if they are kept on a closed company network, with no devices hooked up to the Internet – even behind a firewall. Such networks cannot be broken into by external devices. And when a new machine is added to the closed network, all external links, like BlueTooth and WiFi capabilities, are first neutralized. Printers too, whether fixed or movable, are just about useless as vehicles of entry.
It is standard practice in security companies to allow employees to surf the Internet only after strict and frequent screening and constantly updated firewalls for keeping unwanted intruders at bay.
In extreme cases, dedicated computers are completely cut off from other computers in the organization. Any external media introduced into the compartmented core system are first scanned file by file by security experts on separate, independent machines, using anti-virus and cleaning software, before it is given the all-clear for use in the quarantined network.
This three-tiered technology, while providing ultimate security, is cumbersome and apt to slow down the day-to-day functioning of commercial companies.
It is backed up by a whole range of “tools”, including fire walls designed to ward off threats from addresses belonging to known malefactors and antivirus software that detects and destroys viruses and their harmful effects.
The structure of a given network can also be designed in such a way that it puts off unwanted intruders.
The optimal success of a security system – there’s no such thing as totally unbreakable security - depends most essentially on the personal commitment and responsibility of every employee in the organization.
This individual self-discipline goes hand in hand with updated instruction for the work force and each member’s awareness of how important it is to follow procedures to the letter.
Any incoming email can spell disaster by means of a shared password or a response to an online survey of some kind. Hackers are constantly hunting for a way into foreign networks. A single penetration may give them free rein inside the victim’s system or cause a major infection.
Enforcement may often be lax in companies with a friendly environment where workers have worked side by side for many years. Employers may find that in this atmosphere, they are not capable of strictly enforcing security measures or meting out punishment to offenders. These tasks should therefore be entrusted to outside security services, although this sort of outsourcing also has its drawbacks. The company may close ranks against outsiders gaining access to its systems, either because it is engaged in top-secret work or security projects, or because its managerial ranks are unwilling to share their domain with such outsiders. Therefore, internal enforcement may not be the way to guarantee the best security for the computer networks of organizations. Military technology may continue to be vulnerable to anyone with enough money and know-how to breach it.
Fighters from the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) have slain by summary execution at least 50 Syrian soldiers captured in an ambush in northeastern Syria. They were following an emerging pattern of wholesale slaughter adopted by Islamist militants across the region.
The Syrian deaths were announced in the IS Syrian stronghold of Raqqa on Friday July 25, the day after fighters of the self-declared caliphate launched an assault on the Syrian Army’s 17th Division. Bashar Assad’s side lost 69 men in the battle, including 50 soldiers; the rebels counted 28 dead.
What made this battle different was its outcome: Most of the 69 pro-Assad followers who did not die in battle were beheaded. A Twitter account linked to the Islamists ran pictures of beheaded corpses and the heads of five soldiers it said were killed in Raqqa and belonged to the 17th Division.
Direct clashes between IS and the Syrian Army have increased in frequency, and the military has responded by stepping up aerial bombardments of IS positions.
Last week, IS fighters captured a gas field in central Syria, killing 270 soldiers and guards in one of the deadliest clashes between the group and government forces.
The two incidents were major setbacks for Assad, his army and his Hizballah allies. Not only did they lose a major oilfield and witness an entire division crumbling and in flight, but their equipment, including tanks and missiles, fell into the hands of IS and gave them the firepower for further victories in Syria and Iraq.
IS-affiliated militants show off killings at end of Ramadan
In Iraq, Islamist fighters affiliated with IS celebrated Eid al-Fitr at the end of Ramadan with the release of a slickly produced video that sickeningly depicted prisoners rounded up and executed, suicide bombers boasting before blowing up buildings, and Iraqis gunned down in drive-by shootings.
In one of the most appalling passages, terrified prisoners are piled into the backs of trucks, where they hold each other and huddle in fear before they are driven off to their deaths.
The 36-minute film then cuts to dozens of prisoners lying face down on the ground, hands bound behind their backs, waiting to be executed.
None of the men looks older than 40. One wears an Arsenal football shirt, clearly visible with midfielder Mesut Ozil’s name and number on the back.
Most of the victims awaiting their fate appear to be Iraqi army soldiers.
Their jeans, which the doomed men had hastily donned to try and hide their Iraqi military uniforms, were pulled down to reveal their khaki fatigues.
In other scenes, the footage showed hundreds of men sitting on the ground with their hands bound, waiting to be shot.
YouTube quickly removed the shameful video, although it later re-emerged on social media.
Gruesome killings have become IS trademark
The same sort of outrage was repeated this week in Benghazi. The Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia overran a Libyan army base and was reported to have slaughtered dozens of soldiers by decapitation or slit throats.
This same group was held responsible for the 2012 attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi and the murder of US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
Although the US, France and Britain closed and evacuated their embassies – the British left a few intelligence personnel in Tripoli – an American official in Washington remarked mildly that the militias fighting on the Islamist side of the Libyan battles are composed of a mishmash of individuals who by and large are not terrorists, although some members may have links to terrorist organizations.
July 25, 2014 Briefs
Israel and Hamas reject Kerry’s ceasefire bid
25 June. Israel’s security and policy cabinet in Jerusalem and Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip and Qatar Friday, July 25, decided to reject the “humanitarian” seven-day ceasefire put before them by US Secretary of State John Kerry.
July 26, 2014 Briefs
IDF set for electronic and signals control of Hamas, Islamic Jihad command centers, after rocket fire resumes
26 July. Before it ended with Hamas rocket fire Saturday night, July 26, the 12-hour ceasefire in Gaza afforded Israeli intelligence a rare opportunity for collecting enemy data. In the heat of battle, the IDF and its clandestine arms were unable to gain electronic and SIGINT access to the underground Hamas and Islamic Jihad command and control centers. These centers appear to be well equipped with complex tactical and encrypted communications systems for dual functions: Linking the fighting, medium command and the staff levels; and electronic interference and possible jamming of the signals of the IDF’s drones, or even their interception, as well as eavesdropping on the IDF’s communications and signals networks and visual devices. To gain the upper hand, the IDF must seize electronic control of Hamas’ sophisticated intelligence production processing system, elements of which may have broken surface during the ceasefire.
July 27, 2014 Briefs
Netanyahu’s dilemma: Back Obama’s save Hamas policy, or line up with Egypt and Saudis?
27 July. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was wavering Sunday, July 27, between sticking with his pact with Saudi Arabia and Egypt to crush Hamas - at the cost of a deep rift with Washington - or going along with Kerry, at the cost of Israel’s security against dangerous terrorists. This dilemma was mirrored in the stop-go ceasefire orders to Israel’s forces fighting in the Gaza Strip. Halfway measures will not go down well with the Israeli public, which, even after losing 43 servicemen in action in the Gaza Strip, is still solidly behind the operation. A poll conducted by TV Channel 10 found 87 percent of those canvassed demanding that Israel press on, and 69 percent urging the government to go all the way and overthrow Hamas.
July 28, 2014 Briefs
The IDF loses 10 men in upsurge of Hamas violence on “ceasefire” day. Israel expands Gaza counter-offensive
28 July. Hamas used the first day of the Eid el-Fitr festival, July 28, set aside for a humanitarian ceasefire, to surprise Israel with the next stage of its offensive, by coordinated rocket, mortar and tunnel terror assaults, which inflicted ten deaths and many injured. As Israel came close to folding under international pressure for a ceasefire, has not spelled out its response, but the IDF whose death toll shot up to 53 in one day, appears to be expanding its counter-terror operation west, toward Hamas command centers. Hamas saw Israel weakening and doubled its assaults – first by its failed attempt to launch a heavy Iranian-made Fajr-5 against Tel Aviv from a hospital playground, which killed 10 Palestinians; then mortar fire which killed four soldiers at a staging site in Eshkol; and finally a tunnel attack on an Israeli military post outside Kibbutz Nahal Oz. Five soldiers were killed.
July 29, 2014 Briefs
Nine out of 10 Israel’s war dead Monday died on Israeli soil
29 July. That nine of the 10 Israeli servicemen killed in the counter-terror operation against Hamas Monday, July 28, died on Israeli soil was a wake-up call for Israel’s war leaders. It meant that Hamas had used the 22 days of combat to bring the contest from its own home ground into Israel by grabbing the tactical advantage of surprise, as illustrated by the tragic Nahal Oz tunnel episode which cost 5 Israeli lives. debkafile: The tunnel threat can’t be eliminated without seizing Hamas’ war rooms, the hub of the elaborate underground network.
July 30, 2014 Briefs
Three IDF soldiers killed in Gaza. Cabinet expands operation
30 July. Three Israeli soldiers were killed and 27 injured in the Gaza Strip Wednesday, July 30, the 23rd day of Israel’s counter-terror operation. A bomb planted in the wall of a UNWRA clinic in Khan Younes blew up as they went in to examine a tunnel shaft.
The cabinet has now decided to expand the Gaza mission. Maj. Gen. Sami Torjeman, OC Southern Command, told reporters that the soldiers had fought “stubbornly,” and “seriously impaired” Hamas’ strength. They had won every one of their direct engagements with Hamas. Gen. Torjeman added that the vast scale of the tunnel-building project was beyond belief. With the amount of cement poured into those tunnels in the last four years, he said, the Palestinians could have built four modern hospitals, 20 schools or 100 kindergartens.
In face of truce bids, Hamas’ Deif gives Gaza war fresh impetus, makes it a religious jihad
30 July. Despite the rush of diplomats and analysts declaring that an imminent ceasefire would soon stamp out the fighting in Gaza, the war refuses to end. They failed to reckon on the conflict acquiring a religious dimension and fresh impetus. Wednesday, July 30, as Israel’s longest and toughest war since the War of Independence went into its 49th day, the commander of Hamas’ military wing, master-terrorist Mohammed Deif, proclaimed the Gaza conflict a religious jihad which soldiers “eager for death” would fight for victory and bring Israeli soldiers to “certain defeat.”
July 31, 2014 Briefs
Air Force takes out 40 mosques-cum-terror bases, brings new drone
31 July. The Israeli Air Force destroyed 40 mosques converted into rocket and arms stores inside Gaza overnight Tuesday, July 20. Ending the rocket threat is deemed as important as the destruction of terror tunnels. Both projects continue apace as the IDF prepares for an order to terminate the ground stage of the Gaza operation. The air force brought forward the battlefield debut of the new Hermes 900 UAV, known as “Star,” to take advantage of its exceptional ability to perform surveillance and communication work at high altitudes while carrying a heavy weapons load.