A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending April 24, 2008

Israel approves 20 Palestinian West Bank police stations, construction tenders for 100 Jewish homes


18 April: Early Friday, April 18, Israel’s housing ministry invited tenders for the construction of 52 homes in Elkana and 48 at Ariel – both opposite central Israeli towns – to accommodate “natural growth.” Later, the defense ministry announced permission for the Palestinian Authority to open 20 civilian police stations in the West Bank’s B sectors (which are under Israeli security and Palestinian civilian control), manned by 500 officers. This was part of the concessions package defense minister Ehud Barak and US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice agreed during her last visit. The two parties will meet next week to decide on the Palestinian policemen’s side-arms.

The 100 housing tenders drew mixed reactions: While some West Banker dwellers welcome them as a goodwill gift for the Passover festival, others said 100 homes were a drop in the ocean. Left-wing politicians declaring that they sounded the death knell for peace talks with the Palestinians.


Marek Edelman, last Warsaw Ghetto commander, pays tribute to comrades


20 April: Aged 85, Edelman was pushed in his wheelchair to the site of the bunker where the Jewish revolt’s leader Mordechaj Anielewicz and 80 comrades committed suicide as Nazi forces closed in. Edel, who then took command of the doomed ghetto uprising, marked its 65th anniversary at the imposing monument on the site. Participants then walked to the railway siding from which the Nazis sent more than 300,000 Jews to the Treblinka death camp in northeast Poland.

The Israeli and Polish presidents attended the official ceremony Tuesday, three days earlier.


Lt. Col Yair Burns sacked for lapses over Hamas assault on Nahal Oz fuel terminal 12 days ago


21 April: Half a dozen Hamas raiders cut through the Gaza border fence on April 9, attacked the Nahal Oz oil terminal in Israel and murdered two workers, Oleg Lipson and Lev Cherniak. IDF chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi decided April 21 to fire the commander of the 9th Armored Battalion, which was assigned with securing the crossing for its failure to fight off the infiltrators and prevent their escape after the murders. The episode could have ended in a greater calamity had the terrorists stayed on to either kill or abduct the rest of the staff and set the fuel terminal on fire. Gen. Ashkenazi took this action, the first dismissal of a senior officer since the 2006 Lebanon War and rare for the IDF on the basis of the findings of a panel of two high-ranking officers.


Pirates attack Japanese supertanker in Gulf of Aden


21 April: debkafile‘s shipping correspondent reports that the Takayama, owned by the giant Japanese shippers NYK was assaulted 150 miles southeast of the Yemeni port of Mukallah on its way to load an oil cargo at the Saudi oil port of Yanbu. Pirates using automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades mounted an attack on the ship but did not board it. Our correspondent notes the increasing audacity of the pirates who this time attacked a 250,000-ton vessel 330 meters long. Fortunately the tanker’s holds were empty, which averted a major ecological disaster.


Carter is disappointed with Hamas response to his peace bid


21 April: After shuttling between Riyadh, Jerusalem, Damascus and Amman – and two conversations with Hamas leaders in the Syrian capital – former US president Jimmy Carter reported Monday, April 21 that the Palestinian terrorist group had turned down his proposal for a 30-day unilateral ceasefire.

debkafile reports: His visit was dogged, in fact, by an escalation of Hamas cross-border attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip, causing fatalities on both sides, followed by Israel air strikes.

Carter blamed the lack of progress in his self-appointed mission on the US-Israeli boycott of Hamas. He quoted Hamas as being prepared to accept Israel's right to “live as a neighbour next door in peace”. This was quickly denied by Hamas spokesmen.


First Armored Terror Attack on Regular Army


21 April: This time, Israeli troops at the Kerem Shalom crossing acted expeditiously and boldly enough to prevent a major Palestinian breakthrough and fatal casualties. Thirteen members of the Southern Command’s Bedouin Desert Patrol Battalion were injured, none of them seriously.

These troops foiled a Hamas killing-cum-kidnap rampage without advance warning or the anti-tank weapons for dealing with the Palestinian group’s two armored personnel carriers and two explosives-packed jeeps. They captured one of the APCs and none got through to the other side. The IDF was not fully apprised how far Hamas had upgraded its tools of war. debkafile‘s intelligence sources explain this dearth of inside information on the Gaza Strip by the lack of Israel’s policy-makers’ strategy for dealing with Hamas. Then, too, parts of the government led by defense minister Ehud Barak and chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi, are resistant to any effective military action against the Palestinian terrorists in Gaza. In the absence of a clear strategy, Israel’s war planners have no targets to focus on for intelligence-gathering.


Rice, Carter Middle East Efforts Spark More Violence


21 April: debkafile‘s Exclusive Middle East sources report that Gazan Hamas leaders in secret conference with high Syrian and Iranian intelligence officers in the Syrian capital Sunday, April 20, decided to intensify the bombardment and attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip. Their decision followed the stalemate in Hamas-Egyptian truce talks and failure of former US president Jimmy Carter’s mediation bids.

Tehran and Damascus believe spasms of violence – not only on the Gaza-Israel border, but also in Iraq and Lebanon – will best serve their purpose at two important Middle East encounters this week, to be attended by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

The Iranians believe their strongest card is their ability to trigger bloody clashes in Iraq, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip and show the Americans that Iran not Washington holds the whip hand in these disputes.

Orders therefore went out to Iran’s agents, proxies and dependants to keep the pot boiling. The Americans responded with a heavy crackdown on Iran’s client, the Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr’s Medhi Army in Baghdad and southern Iraq, despite the cleric’s threat of open war.

As for Hamas, shortly before midnight, their gunmen directed fire at Israeli farmers harvesting the Kibbutz Nir Oz potato crop in bullet-proof vests by night, to escape sniper fire from Gaza. Israeli air force strikes followed, hitting armed Palestinian bands. At least 8 gunmen were killed over the week end.


Veteran Ben-Ami Kadish, 84, charged with spying for Israel released on $300,000 bail


22 April: debkafile‘s intelligence sources ask which part of the US administration owned an interest in exposing this affair more than two decades after the event. And what did it hope to achieve? The material put before the court indicates that the federal authorities and CIA had long been aware that the Connecticut-born military engineer Ben-Ami Kadish was passing classified documents to the Israeli science attache at the New York consulate before his retirement at least 18 years ago.

Ever since the US Navy analyst Jonathan Pollard was arrested in 1986 as an Israeli spy, US intelligence has suspected that Israel was running a second senior mole in the American military establishment. This was always denied by Israel.

The charge is serious enough to cloud President George W. Bush’s plan to attend Israel’s 60th anniversary celebrations next month.

Ben-Ami Kadish, now 84, is accused of giving an Israeli consulate employee classified documents about nuclear weapons, an F-15 fighter jet and the US Patriot system in the 1980s. He accepted only small gifts and occasional family dinners in exchange for his services, the FBI said.

The US justice department describes Kadish's Israeli handler as the same man who handled convicted spy Jonathan Pollard. Identified only as “co-conspirator 1”, this handler left the US after Pollard’s exposure but stayed in touch with Kadish until March of this year. Israeli cabinet minister Raffi Eytan, who headed the undercover department which ran Pollard’s handler, said he had no idea what this was about.

Kadish’s activities predated the Pollard’s exposure in 1986, after which Israel pledged to refrain from running spies in the United States.


Israel opens all Gaza crossings despite denials of indirect talks with Hamas


23 April: On Wednesday, April 23, Israel reopened all the Gaza crossings, including those attacked last week by Hamas: Kerem Shalom, Erez and the Nahal Oz fuel terminal, and restored fuel supplies to the Gaza population.

debkafile reports: Four hours after the opening, Israeli forces were alerted to Palestinian gunmen threatening the Sufa crossing as the supply trucks rolled through.

They chased them back into the Gaza Strip.

Our sources disclose this step as being a unilateral Israel gesture to Hamas to encourage the Palestinian terrorist group to accept the Egyptian-brokered arrangement for Gaza. This arrangement would lift the blockade on the Hamas-ruled enclave in return for its stopping missile fire on Israeli civilian communities and attacks on the border fence.

Like Israel, Egypt would reopen the Rafah crossing from Gaza to Sinai. If Hamas accepts these terms, it will rescue the Gaza Strip from isolation and its violent measures will have paid off.


CIA to disclose Syrian plutonium reactor was target of Israeli raid last September


23 April: The Los Angeles Times reports that the CIA plans to brief key lawmakers in a closed-door session April 24 about the mysterious Syrian site that was targeted by an Israeli air raid last September. DEBKA-Net-Weekly 320 was first to report on Oct. 6, 2007 that the target of the Israeli raid on Sept. 6, 2007, was a plutonium reactor in a remote part of Syria.

The CIA officials will tell lawmakers they that although they had had concerns for years about ties between North Korea and Syria, it was not until last year that the new intelligence [gathered in the Israeli raid] provided them with the evidence.


Pyongyang scrambles to offset impending Syrian plutonium reactor revelations in Congress


23 April: The CIA plans to reveal to a closed-door congressional panel session Thursday April 24 that the Syrian site targeted by Israel’s air raid last September was a reactor capable of producing plutonium for nuclear weapons, thereby offering final proof of North Korea’s nuclear ties with Syria. This is reported by the LA Times.

debkafile‘s Middle East sources reveal that Pyongyang took the unusual step Wed. April 23 his week of ordering its Damascus embassy to gather Arab correspondents in the Syrian capital for an extraordinary briefing: The first secretary told them that North Korea had nothing to do with the destroyed reactor. However, he did not deny that Pyongyang maintained extensive military ties of cooperation with Damascus.


Hamas rejects Egyptian-brokered deal for Gaza truce


24 April: The Palestinian terrorist group’s reply was handed to Cairo after its consultations in Damascus with Syrian and Iranian intelligence officers.

It was preceded by Hamas’ call Thursday morning to the Gazan masses to stage “angry protests” after Friday worship at the mosques by mobbing the Erez border crossing to Israel and the Rafah crossing into Sinai.

Bracing for another round of Hamas-led Palestinian violence, Egypt and Israel placed their border forces on high alert. The Israeli high command was warned that Hamas was preparing to follow the protests up with another round of attacks on the Gazan-Israel border.

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