A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending April 17, 2008

Israeli ex-general sharply criticizes official “defensive” policy as recipe for war


11 April: Former OC Central Command and ex-defense ministry Dir.-Gen Ret. Gen. Shraga Biran said Friday, April 11,that Israel’s security problems will not be solved by defensive operations. In an unusually outspoken diatribe against current government policy by an apolitical military strategist, Biran warned that this defensive posture would lead inexorably to war, while strengthening Israel’s antagonists, Syria, Hizballah and Hamas.

He faulted the West as a whole for closing its eyes to Iran’s rising strength and nuclear aspirations.


Israeli and Egyptian forces on high alert on Gaza borders over Hamas threats


12 April: Hamas has threatened to smash through both Egyptian and Israel borders.

Our sources report that the raid on April 9 by Palestinian gunmen on the Israeli-Gaza fuel terminal supplying the Palestinian population – and murder of two of its employees was meant to set the stage for a mass Hamas assault on the Gaza-Israeli border in protest against fuel shortages.

Our sources report Hamas has 800,000 liters of heavy oil and 200,000 liters of petrol in stock, but reserves it for “military use.” The population is kept short and ripe for action against “the Israeli and Egyptian blockade” of the Gaza Strip.

Cairo had enough of this ruse earlier this year. This time, Egypt has beefed up its forces on the Sinai-Gaza border, built a high wall along the Philadelphi strip and warned any Palestinians attempting an illegal crossing they would be “shot like rats.”


Gaza Palestinians shell Israeli officers inspecting communities’ security


13 April: debkafile‘s military sources report the OC Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant, his aides and local security officers took cover when they came under heavy cross-border mortar fire from Gaza Sunday, April 13. None was hurt although the Palestinian aim was precise.

It was the third time this month that Palestinian cross-border fire had targeted a high-ranking Israeli. Last month, a Katyusha rocket exploded in Ashkelon shortly after a visit by prime minister Ehud Olmert; on April 4, internal security minister Avi Dichter was targeted and his aide injured while leading a group of Canadians around Sderot.

Israel’s grip on the border fence and surrounding populations are under constant assault as Palestinian audacity increases and Israeli forces are restricted to showpiece operations on the fringes of the Gaza Strip, instead of tactically effective engagements.


Washington Opens Diplomatic Door to Tehran


13 April: Thomas R. Pickering, former ambassador to Moscow, the UN and Israel, William Luers, former envoy to Venezuela and the Czech Republic, and Jim Walsh, a New York Republican Congressman have undertaken secret colloquy with Tehran.

debkafile‘s Washington sources say they are quietly encouraged by Rice and defense secretary Robert Gates, who are anxious to avert a US-Iranian military clash in the eight months remaining to the Bush presidency and hope to lay the groundwork for an understanding between the next US president and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The conversations have been going in Geneva, Switzerland, to explore common ground on Iran’s nuclear program.

Last month, the three emissaries proposed in a working paper called “A Solution for the US-Iran Nuclear Standoff” to bring Iran’s uranium enrichment program under a multinational consortium including Iran and other governments, such as France and Germany, who would participate in managing and operating the program within Tehran.

President Ahmadinejad was quoted as endorsing the multilateral solution.

But after Tehran’s intervention in the Iraqi government’s crackdown this month in Basra province, President George W. Bush commented on April 11 that if Iran continues to help militias in Iraq “then we’ll deal with them.” He also reaffirmed: “You can’t solve these problems unilaterally. You’re going to need a multilateral forum.”

None of this has set to rest the Washington cliffhanger over whether the president will opt for military action against Iran before he leaves the White House or stick to quiet diplomacy and relegate the Iran nuclear headache to his successor.


Another Syrian armored division masses on Israeli-Lebanese borders


14 April: Damascus has deployed the 10th armored corps at the Massaneh crossing of Mount Hermon. It links up with the northwestern positions the 14th division took up last month on the Syrian-Israeli border. Syrian troops are now strung in a crescent-shaped line from the central Lebanese mountains through Mt Dov on the western slopes of Mt. Hermon and up to southeastern Lebanon. This deployment at Syria’s Israeli and Lebanese borders is under the command of the president’s brother, Maher Assad.

debkafile‘s military sources say the IDF’s Northern Command officers warn that the Syrian army has accelerated its buildup opposite Israel in April and arrayed its units for a quick transition to attack mode.

Sunday, April 13, prime minister Ehud Olmert made a gesture to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas by licensing the entry to Israel of 5,000 Palestinian construction workers.


Egyptian security forces hunt terrorist group in Sinai


15 April: They are armed and driving around in four pickups preparatory to carrying out attacks, say Egyptian officials. Jerusalem has warned Israeli Passover holidaymakers of mortal danger from terrorists at the popular Sinai resorts. The small numbers who crossed the border were advised to leave without delay.


Amid new Iranian threat, Israel connects to America’s Ballistic Missile Early Warning System


15 April: Israel requested the hook-up to the BMEWS for early warning to defend itself against Iranian missile attack. Tuesday, April 15, Iran’s deputy C-in-C Mohammad Reza Ashtiani threatened to eliminate Israel from “the scene of the universe” if it launches a military attack on the Islamic state.

debkafile‘s military sources report this is the third time Israel has been connected to the BMEWS, sensing the need to prepare for an Iranian missile attack in the not-too-distant future.

One could develop from a US or Israeli strike against Iran, or any war situation involving Israel, Syria or Hizballah. Tehran might also stage a pre-emptive strike if early intelligence was received of an impending US or Israeli attack on Iran, Syria or Hizballah.

Iran could even decide to lash out against Israel after the event in reprisal for an American assault, not necessarily on its nuclear sites but on Revolutionary Guards bases involved in Iraq. American military sources believe that if Iranian missiles strike Tel Aviv, Israel will counter with a missile attack on Tehran or Damascus.


Bloody clashes on Gaza-Israel border spurred by Israel’s military constraint policy


16 April: debkafile‘s military sources report that the fierce battles on both sides of the Gaza-Israeli border barrier raging Wednesday, April 16, attest to further security deterioration on Israel’s southwestern border. This was first demonstrated on April 9, when Palestinian gunmen cut through the barrier to reach the Nahal Oz oil terminal and murdered two workers – and again Wednesday, when Hamas’ Operation Killing Field left three Israeli soldiers dead and three injured fighting Palestinian raiders. They used mortars, anti-tank weapons and heavy machine guns against Israeli forces and civilian locations.

The two episodes show that –

1. Israeli forces have lost their command of the border barrier. 2. Their electronic detection and sensor systems are not up to tracking the armed Palestinian bands breaking through to the Israeli side. 3. The official strategy of pushing Palestinian gunmen and missile teams back into the heart of the Gaza Strip is not working.

Hamas and its allies are expected to build on their gains and redouble their assaults on the occasion of the eight-day Jewish Passover festival beginning Saturday night, April 19, and Israel’s 60th anniversary celebrations next month.

The officers of the IDF’s Southern Command are tired of repeating the mantra: Israel’s leaders are stubbornly holding them back from driving deep enough into the Gaza Strip to establish a cordon sanitaire that would enable them to defend the border against Palestinian incursions and guard the surrounding civilian locations against missile and mortar attack.

The Palestinians aimed 23 Qassam missiles at Israeli targets. Later, Israeli air attacks accounted for an estimated 20 Palestinian dead in their central Gaza strongholds.

Israel’s borders and towns are on high security alert for Passover.


Israel's farmers association for the first time distributes tons of free fruit and vegetables to the needy for Passover


17 April: The social services say 200,000 Israel families short of food for Passover.


Palestinians break through Gaza-Israel border for third time in two weeks


17 April: debkafile‘s military sources report a band of terrorists broke through the border barrier to the Kerem Shalom goods terminal in the southern border sector Thursday, April 14. Israeli forces challenged them, killing one infiltrator and injuring a second. The third fled. So too did the dozens of Israeli trucks bearing food and other items for the Gazan population. They turned round when they came under Palestinian fire

Ashkelon was alerted Thursday afternoon to a rocket attack from Gaza. A Katyusha (Grad) did indeed explode on open ground south of the town.

Ten Qassam missiles were fired against Israeli locations; a Katyusha rocket aimed at the town of Netivot missed its aim.


Jimmy Carter meets Hamas leaders


17 April: The former US president held talks in Cairo with Gaza’s Hamas leaders Said Sayam and Mahmoud a-Zahar. Friday he meets Hamas poliltburo chief Khaled Meshaal in Damascus.

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