A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending August 18, 2011
Israel sets up "September Commands" for worst-case scenarios
12 Aug. Israel's military, police and Shin Bet security service are drilling extreme scenarios of possible Palestinian disturbances, mass rallies or even terrorist attacks in September – although there is no specific intelligence of a security threat in the offing. The authorities have also set up "September Command Centers" so as not to be caught off guard. The intelligence updates fed them on Palestinian activities contain no signs so far of organized Palestinian preparations for disorders beyond some talk at local Fatah cell level.
All the same, debkafile's military sources report the three security organizations have established "September Command Centers" for coordination in case of an extreme event, such as violent Palestinian demonstrations backed from Syria, Lebanon (Hizballah) and the Gaza Strip with cross-border terrorist and military attacks and incursions.
August 13, 2011 Briefs
• Obama talked to Saudi King Abdullah about their shared concerns over the violence in Syria. He also phoned UK PM Cameron.
• US citizen abducted from his home in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore identified as Warren Weinstein. He was due to leave Pakistan Monday after 7 years helping Pakistanis develop business ventures.
• Eight Afghan soldiers kidnapped by Taliban Friday were executed Saturday in the area of the helicopter crash which killed 31 US troops.
• Western security sources report Israel is planting new minefields on its border with Syria.
• Palestinians to submit application for UN recognition of their state on Sept. 20. Israel reported importing large number of horses, water cannon, tear gas systems and noise machines for possible Palestinian disturbances in September.
Obama and Erdogan grant Assad 15 days to finish the uprising
13 Aug. Thursday night, Aug. 11, US President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan agreed to set Syrian President Bashar Assad the deadline of Aug. 27 for extinguishing the popular uprising against his rule and starting to implement genuine democratic reforms. If he went back on his word, then Obama and Erdogan would talk again about a possible US-Turkish military operation in Syria. They decided to trust Assad "one last time" regardless of his broken promises in the past.
Turkey has called up reserves for transfer to Syrian border.
debkafile notes: The Syrian ruler has finagled a free hand for intensifying his crackdown on dissent with an unabashed ferocity few tyrants can match. Washington would still rather believe he is a reformer than force him out of power.
Tuesday, Assad invited the Turkish minister and reporters to see for themselves that he was pulling his tanks out of Hama (after their guns had brutalized protesters for weeks). None were allowed to leave the official vehicles (lest they see whole sections of a major city reduced to rubble). As soon as Davutoglu flew out, the tanks rolled back into the city.
August 14, 2011 Briefs
• Libya's Berber tribal rebels move into parts of Zawiyah 50 km west of Tripoli. These separatist tribes don't accept Benghazi rebel leadership.
• Five gunmen wearing suicide vests stormed the house of Parwan provincial governor 50 km miles north of Kabul, killing 19, wounding 34. The assailants some in police uniforms were al killed before they reached governor Abdul Basir Salangi meeting with NATO advisers.
Latakia's armed Palestinians battle Syrian tanks
14 Aug. For the first time in the five-month anti-Assad uprising, Syrian armored forces clashed with dissident Palestinians Sunday, Aug. 14, in the al-Raml a-Filistini district of Latakia, challenged by Palestinian heavy machine guns, anti-tank RPGs and roadside bombs. Nineteen of the 24 dead were Palestinians.
NATO headquarters in Brussels and the Turkish high command are meanwhile drawing up plans for their first military step in Syria, to send protest centers large consignments of anti-tank and anti-air rockets, mortars and heavy machine guns for beating back Assad's tanks.
debkafile's military sources affirm that contrary to earlier reports, the Syrian missile ships cruising offshore took no part in the attack on Latakia. Their function is to blockade the port against arms smuggling. Nevertheless the weapons used by Palestinians fighting in Latakia came from Lebanon aboard smugglers' boats.
August 15, 2001 Briefs
• Two Grad rockets explode in Beersheba on open ground after midnight Monday.
• Palestinian Authority condemns ongoing Syrian army massacre of Palestinians in Latakia's al-Raml a-Filistini district. debkafile was first publication to expose Syrian assault on Palestinians.
• Turkish FM Davutoglu says unless Syrian soldiers stop killing civilians immediately, "there will be nothing to say about steps that will be taken.
• Wave of terrorist bombings kills at least 60, injures 100 in Iraq Monday.
• At least 34 killed, 60 injured in twin bombing at northern town of Kut by a bomb planted in a cold drinks cooler and a parked car explosion. Eleven attacks in Diyala province.
• In Tikrit two suicide bombers struck Iraqi counter-terror unit killing 10 including officer in charge of war on terror. In Baghdad, a car bomb hit the high-end Mansour suburb.
• Iran plans to start initial phase of its first nuclear power plant at Bushehr in early September. debkafile: This is third postponement in a year indicating Iran has not beaten Stuxnet cyber worm.
• Israel social protesters present advisory panel, mostly academics, for draft their demands of government.
Egypt's 5,000 troops take on 2,000 al Qaeda gunmen in Sinai. Three officers kidnapped
15 Aug. Monday, Aug. 15, three Egyptian army brigades of 1,700 men backed by tanks, an equal number of special policemen and 3,400 security personnel drove into the northern Sinai towns of El Arish, Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah, embarking on a mission to retake Sinai from rampant Islamists, who were also responsible for sabotaging a gas pipeline. debkafile: In their first clash with Islamic Liberation Army gunmen, three Egyptian officers were kidnapped, one gunman was killed and 11 detained – four of them Palestinians.
Restoring a semblance of law and order to northern Sinai will be the easy part of their mission – for which Cairo obtained prior Israeli permission as mandated under their peace accord. The hard part is ahead when the units head south to flush out the Islamist marauders holed up in the central Sinai mountains.
The soldiers will have their work cut out against 2,000 well-organized and heavily armed Islamist gunmen in a rugged area twice the area of North Waziristan and will probably have to call for air and helicopter support.
Syrian tanks enter Homs while fighting Palestinians in Latakia
15 Aug. Bashar Assad is making use of the 15-day leeway granted him by the US and Turkey. Monday, Aug. 15, he sent his tanks and mechanized infantry into Homs, a town of 1.5 million inhabitants. Heavy shelling was heard as clouds of smoke rise over the city. Homs is Syria's third largest town and the biggest the Syrian military has so far assaulted. In Latakia, Syrian tanks continue to battle armed Palestinians and in Brussels, NATO and Turkey get set to send the rebels anti-tank weapons. The Syrian ruler plans to grind the opposition to dust and then there will no one left to fight for reforms.
August 16, 2011 Briefs
• Stepped up Egyptian counter-terror operation in Sinai seeks hard-core Islamist gang which attacked El Arish two weeks ago. Perpetrators of gas pipeline sabotage also sought.
• Hamas leaders Khaled Meshaal and Mussa Abu Marzuk fly to Cairo from their Damascus base.
• In Iraq, gunmen dragged 7 worshippers from South Baghdad mosque and executed them outside.
• Palestinian death toll in Latakia rises to 30 as Syrian military assault continues.
Libyan rebel "gains" smokescreen for talks in Tunisia
16 Aug. The rush of military advances claimed by the Libyan rebels and the rumors of the imminent collapse of Muammar Qaddafi's army and his imminent flight are designed, debkafile's military and intelligence sources report, as a smokescreen for what is going on. It conceals the semi-secret opening of Libyan government-rebel talks on the Tunisian island of Djerba and significant progress they have made. Another is the deep divisions in the rebel leadership.
On the table, according to our sources, is a step-by-step process (first revealed on this site), whereby Muammar Qaddafi will relinquish power in stages synchronized with the steps for the transfer of power to a new Libyan government, which must have room at the top for his sons. They would share power with his close loyalists, the tribes supporting his regime and rebel groups.
Under the deal, Qaddafi would not have to leave Libya and would receive guarantees for his personal safety.
His representatives at the Dherba meeting are Foreign Minister Abdelati Obeidi, Health Minister Ahmed HIjazi and Social Affairs Minister Ibrahim Cherif.
August 17, 2011 Briefs
• Chinese chief-of-staff Gen. Chen Bing-de visits Israel to "enhance friendship and promote cooperation" the defense ministry in Beijing announces. He is the guest of Israel's top soldier Gen. Benny Gantz. China's Navy Commander visited Israel in May.
• Heavy Syrian tank bombardment of Homs and Latakia districts continues Wednesday.
• Israel tells Washington its refusal to apologize to Turkey for last year's flotilla deaths is final.
• A UN panel has confirmed Israel acted in accordance with international law. Washington imposes sanctions on Montaz Dughmush, Gaza leader of Islamic Liberation Army. debkafile: Cairo demands Dughmush's arrest and extradition.
Assad exploits the Shalit affair to play his Palestinian card
17 Aug. New Israeli concessions to Hamas for the release of the Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit have not produced momentum because the kidnapped soldier has become a pawn in the power plays between Cairo, Hamas and Damascus. Khaled Meshaal's trip to Cairo was prompted by an Egyptian overture to Syria. Bashar Assad used it opportunistically to exploit the Palestinian card in the service of his crackdown on the opposition and in a bid to counter-balance his massacre of Latakia's Palestinians.
August 18, 2011 Briefs
• 1st Sgt. Moshe Naftali, 22, from Ofra, member of the Golani unit, was killed by terrorists Thursday.
• Four Grad missiles fired at Ashkelon Thursday night, 3 intercepted by Iron Dome anti-missile system.
• Netanyahu on the Eilat highway terrorist attack: Those who ordered terrorists to murder our citizens are no longer alive.
• The White House and State Department strongly condemn "brutal terrorist" attacks in southern Israel and send condolences to victims' families.
• Israeli locations around Gaza are on missile alert after a Qassam explodes on empty ground outside Ashkelon Thursday night.
• Eilat highway again under fire Thursday night after day of terrorist attacks. One Israeli soldier critically injured. Roads to Eilat sealed to traffic.
• President Obama called Thursday for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down.
Washington also freezes all Syria's assets and bank accounts in the US. German, the UK and France follow suit.
• Taliban launches major assault on US base at Gardez, E. Afghanistan.
• US State Dept denies Clinton pressured Israel to apologize to Turkey over flotilla deaths. Israeli FM Lieberman accuses Turkish PM Erdogan of acting to "delegitimize Israel".
At least 7 Israelis killed, 33 injured in multiple terrorist attacks near Eilat
18 Aug. Israel goes on the highest terror alert after a string of terrorist attacks near the Israeli-Egyptian border north of Eilat Thursday, Aug. 18 left 7 dead and 33 casualties, including five soldiers in critical condition. Assailants crossing in from Sinai used automatic and anti-tank weapons, mortars and roadside bombs for separate attacks on two buses, two civilian cars and a military vehicle on Highway 12 which runs close to the wide open Egyptian Sinai border. All three gunmen who attacked the bus were killed in a firefight with an Israeli special police force.
Israeli military sources estimated that 20 terrorists took part in the attacks – some reaching their targets through Israel, others providing them with mortar cover from Sinai. Seven were killed. Two bodies were rigged with explosives.
All the highways to Eilat were closed Thursday to traffic as the entire southern region was scoured for more terrorists and bombs.
Israel kills terrorist chief who orchestrated multiple terrorist strike
18 Aug. Thursday night, August 18, after Palestinians terrorists carried out a string of attacks on the southern Eilat road, the Israeli Air Force struck a building in Rafah, Gaza Strip, and killed the Popular Resistance Committees chief who set up the attacks and five of his aides.
The multiple attacks were Israel's first taste of a sophisticated al Qaeda-style coordinated terrorist operation modeled on the atrocities common in Afghanistan and Iraq. Israeli intelligence services, army (IDF) and Police were taken by surprise by their scale and slick organization. Carried out by the Gaza-based Popular Resistance Committees and Palestinian organizations linked to al Qaeda, they bore the handwriting of the Lebanese Hizballah.
A Hamas spokesman threatened Israel with a sharp reprisal if Gaza were attacked. Terrorist facilities of Hamas and other organizations have reportedly been evacuated and Qassam, Grad and mortar batteries deployed ready for launching. The UN has ordered all its personnel in Gaza to leave immediately and Egypt has closed the Rafah crossing.
The IDF estimates that the attackers numbering at least 20 came from the Gaza Strip and took up positions near the Sinai border with Israel to wait for the signal to cross over and attack.
The Defense Minister, Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Ganz, and Military Intelligence Chief Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi are widely blamed for falling down on precautions for protecting the South although they knew in advance that the Egyptian army was about to embark on a large-scale counter-terror operations in Sinai. In response to a heads-up on a terror attack, the police posted special units on the border with Egypt. They were on the spot and fought the gunmen but could not prevent the attack.