A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending April 14, 2011

Savage missile blitz from Gaza sends a million Israelis to shelters


8 April. Before dawn Saturday, April 9, Hamas inflicted its heaviest missile blitz yet on southern Israel. – acting now on Hizballah guidelines. More than a dozen heavy Grad missiles were aimed at seven Israeli cities injuring 10 civilians. One missed Israel's nuclear research reactor at Nahal Soreq; more landed outside Kiryat Gat, Ofakim, Beersheba and Ashkelon. The two Iron Dome systems intercepted six of the Grads fired at Beersheba, Ashkelon and Ashdod. The IDF responded by hitting three senior Hamas commanders in Gaza.
Before dawn Friday, April 8, more than 60 Hamas and Jihad Islami mortar shells and missiles hit Israeli towns, villages and farms, prompting ever broader IDF reprisals.
The fierce exchange of fire has been raging 24 hours non-stop since a Hamas Cornet anti-tank missile struck a school bus Thursday, critically injuring a 16-year old boy. debkafile's sources disclose that the school bus attack was Hamas' opening shot in a new battle.
These days with solid backing from Hizballah and from the new rulers of Cairo, Hamas is sure it is on a win-win course and has nothing to fear from stepping up its war on Israel.


More than 50 killed as anti-Assad protests spread to 25 Syrian towns


8 April. The pro-democracy, anti-Assad days of rage spread dramatically across Syria Friday, April 8, seriously shaking Bashar Assad's 11-year old grip on power for the first time since the movement began three weeks ago. At least 50 people were killed – 30 demonstrators and 20 security officers – and hundreds injured – many of them in the southern town of Daraa, the epicenter of the opposition movement. Four Damascus suburbs were the scene of demonstrations as well as Tartous, Abu Kemal and Hamma for the first time. Kurdish cities were also aflame with protest In some places. Syrian officers disguised as protesters opened fire from inside the crowds.


April 9, 2011 Briefs
• Police place southwestern Israel on missile alert Saturday night, transfer units from other parts of the country to support missile-battered population. More than 74 Grad missiles and mortar shells hit 7 Israeli towns Saturday – 120 in two days. All public events – performances and sports – cancelled by home security command.
• High-profile Hamas operative Tayasir Said Suleiman Abu Senama, who foor part in Gilead Shalit kidnap among 17 mostly Hamas terrorist leaders killed in Israeli counter-attacks.
• Israel criticizes UN secretary's even-handed condemnation of Hamas violence against civilians, Israel's defensive reactions.


Hamas saturates S. Israel with 24 Grad, 50 mortar rounds Saturday


9 April. Saturday, April 9, Hamas and its allies, acting now on Hizballah guidelines from Lebanon, fired 24 heavy Grad missiles and more than 50 mortars rounds at seven southern Israeli towns. At least 20 Israelis were injured or suffered shock. After the IDF killed 17 Hamas and other commanders, Hamas asked for a ceasefire through the UN and its political echelons.
The Palestinian missile violence Saturday began before dawn with Grad missiles exploding north of Israel's second main port city of Ashdod, south of Kiryat Gat and outside Ofakim. Sirens warning of a missile attack were heard in Gedera and Gan Yavneh. As a million Israeli civilians spent another day in bomb shelters, four Grad missiles landed in Ashkelon Saturday afternoon.
From Thursday, the innovative Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepted five of the Grad missiles aimed at Beersheba, Ashdod and Ashkelon. Early Saturday, as 25 Palestinian mortar shells hailed down on the Eshkol district, the IDF hit a car carrying three Hamas field commanders in Khan Younis. They were all killed.


April 10, 2011 Briefs
• NATO attacks hit 23 pro-Qaddafi's army tanks Sunday outside Ajdabiyah and Misratah.
• Five-shell volley from Gaza explodes in Eshkol region raising Sunday total to 8 shells, 5 Qassam rockets. Grad missile fired at Ashkelon Sunday intercepted by Iron Dome anti-missile system. Barak: There's no quick fix for rocket and mortar fire. If an IDF Gaza operation becomes necessary, we will act. But restraint is also a form of strength.
• Another 27 protesters shot dead by Syrian security forces at Friday victims' funerals Saturday.


Israeli leaders accept a partial Hamas ceasefire to avoid a showdown


10 April. Israel has agreed to halting its military operations in Gaza in return for a partial Hamas ceasefire – a deal which represents the Netanyahu government's surrender to the Islamists' missile offensive against southwestern Israel. Despite the potential strategic edge offered by the new Iron Dome anti-missile system, most Israeli civilians within range remain exposed to missile and mortar attack.
They were disappointed by the decision taken by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak to back away from effective military action to end the missile misery inflicted on hundreds of thousands of Israeli civilians and confining them to bomb shelters day after day. After all, almost a million civilians in seven Israeli towns were at the receiving end of 120 missile and mortar shells between Friday and Saturday, April 8-9 and Hamas has never honored any ceasefire for long.
However, the partial effectiveness of the innovative Iron Dome system gave the prime minister an out for a military offensive. The missile-battered communities did not miss the hoots of jubilation coming from the Gaza Strip close by.


Merkel joins Nato-African bid to end Libya war. Qaddafi will stay until elections


11 April. Away from the fanfare of the African Union peacemaking delegation's arrival in Tripoli Sunday, April 10 headed by South African President Jacob Zuma, debkafile's exclusive intelligence sources disclose the discreet role undertaken by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the multinational thrust to broker an end to the Libyan war with NATO consent. Her emissary arrived quietly in the Libyan capital. After refusing to join the war effort against Qaddafi, she now spearheads the bid to end it.
Our sources identify him as Bernd Schmidtbauer, German government coordinator and former secret service chief. The intervention of the strongest European power for ending the conflict underscores Muammar Qaddafi's military successes over the rebels and the failure of their NATO, British and French supporters to force him to step down. The Americans were first to foresee this outcome and by April, had withdrawn their military assets from the arena.
Qaddafi agreed to both the African and German blueprints for ending hostilities in Libya after neither demanded his removal.


April 12, 2011 Briefs
• Iranian university students, professors rally again for Bahraini Shiite protesters against Saudi Arabia. They burnt US, British and Israeli flags. Monday they threw firebombs at Saudi embassy.
• US blocks British-French-German bid for Quartet to restart Israel-Palestinian talks by proposing final settlement outline. debkafile: This action refutes reports of "a diplomatic tsunami" hanging over Israel and a major rift with Washington.
• NATO rejects French, British criticism that alliance is not doing enough and their demand to intensify air strikes against Qaddafi's forces. London: Defecting Libyan FM Musa Kusa to travel to Qatar to meet with Libyan representatives.
• Bomb blast at Minsk metro leaves 12 dead, 204 injured, 26 in serious condition.
• Pakistan wants US to halt drone strikes and sharply scale back CIA and Special Operations forces working in the country.
• Condition worsens of Israel boy injured in Hamas anti-tank school bus attack last Thursday.


Saudi Arabia: Threat of second Fukushima from Iran's Bushehr


12 April. The Saudis warn the US that if Iran activates its first nuclear reactor at Bushehr in May as planned, there is a good chance it will blow up and the entire Gulf region would suffer a nuclear disaster on the scale of the misfortune at Japan's Fukushima. Millions could be exposed to radiation contamination.
In recent Saudi-US talks on the acute crisis in their relations, King Abdullah demanded immediate action by Washington to stop Bushehr going on line. When he met US Defense Secretary Robert Gates on April 4 and National Security Adviser to the US President Tom Donilon on April 11, he accused the US of placing the existence of the oil kingdom and the Gulf nations in peril by its attitude towards Iran's nuclear aspirations. He pointed especially to Washington's pressure on Riyadh (Ed: and incidentally, Jerusalem) not to interfere with the construction of the first Iranian nuclear reactor.


April 13, 2011 Briefs
• Ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and his two sons to be questioned in court on April 19. His physicians say his condition is not stable. He suffered a heart attack after being questioned Tuesday in the intensive care unit of Sharm el-Sheik hospital on charges of corruption. Wednesday, the 83-year old leader was issued with a 15-day detention order and placed under police guard. Mubarak's sons Gemal and Alaa taken to a Cairo jail, clad in prison garb. Egyptian prosecutors interrogated former first lady, Susan Mubarak.
• Attorney general weighs indicting FM Lieberman for alleged fraud, breach of trust and money-laundering but drops bribery charge. Lieberman says he never broke the law and is not worried. Procedures leading up to trial could take many months.
• NATO rejects UK, French demand for more military support for rebels to break stalemate in fighting.
• Palestinians want $5 billion in international aid over three years to promote their economy.


Ruling Syrian Alawite tribes join uprising. Executions in army


13 April. The uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad is still spreading. Tuesday, April 12, it reached the Assad family's own Alawite tribes and the key Sunni city of Aleppo, where more than 10,000 marched for his removal. Assad mobilized all his military and security resources, including the loyal young thugs of the shabbiha gangs ordering them to shoot to kill and not permit ambulances to collect the wounded.
Damascus University has been under siege for four days, although security forces have not been able to breach it.
A grave humanitarian crisis is spreading with the unrest as army tanks cut off main roads linking the north to southern and central Syria, sealing the restive towns of Daraa, Banias, Latakia and Hamma. Mass arrests of thousands take place nightly. Protesters Monday, April 11, laid an ambush on the main coastal road linking Latakia and Banias and left nine Syrian officers and troops dead.
Tuesday night, the White House finally issued a harsh denunciation of the Syrian "government" while continuing to avoid the protesters' most pressing demand for the Syrian president to step down.


April 14, 2011 Briefs
• Syrian TV: An Egyptian American is under investigation in Syria on charge of being paid to destabilize country. He is under investigation and not allowed to leave the country.
• Four people killed when light aircraft caught fire and crashed at the Air Force school air field in Haifa.
• Iran also actively aiding Shiite hardliners in Bahrain and Yemen to destabilize US allies, says US official.
• Sarkozy and Cameron decide Wednesday night to step up military action for toppling Qaddafi.


First signs of panic in Assad regime: High Syrian officials and officers evacuate families


14 April. Damascus was alive with rumors Thursday, April 14 that President Bashar Assad and his family were preparing to flee to Saudi Arabia, sparked by the discovery that several high-ranking Syrian officials and army officers were evacuating their families to Persian Gulf emirates. US officials also disclosed that Iran was secretly helping Assad crack down on his own people. Syrian authorities and opposition are bracing for their next test of strength Friday, April 15, amid signs of panic in Assad regime..
Assad is relying for survival less on the army and police and increasingly on the 10,000-strong armed Shabbiha gangs. debkafile's sources report increasing signs of desperation at the center of the Assad regime.

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