A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending August 4, 2011
July 29, 2011 Briefs
• Turkey's chief of staff and entire military command including air force and navy chiefs quit in a body. This brings tensions between army and Erdogan government to a new high.
• US PFc. Naser Jason Abdo admits he planned to attack Fort Hood base in Texas. He was arrested AWOL after he said his Muslim faith prevented him from deploying in Afghanistan.
• Second Syrian oil pipeline blast in a month hits western town of Talkalakh.
• Unconfirmed reports say 5,000 troops defected Friday from Syrian 7th Armored Regiment in Deir al-Zour, clashed with security officers and took control of military airport.
• Renowned Kabbalist Rabbi Elazar Abu-Hatzeira was stabbed to death while receiving followers in Beersheba Thursday night. The murderer was apprehended,
Libyan rebel commander killed by his own side
29 July. Gen. Abdel Fatah Younis, commander of the Libyan rebel forces fighting Muammar Qaddafi, was put to death on the orders of Mustapha Abdul Jalil, head of the rebel TNC, debkafile's sources report. TNC officers abducted him and two aides and shot them in the head 20 kilometers outside Benghazi.
Jalil wanted the powerful Younis out of the way before the start of peace negotiations, for fear he would beat his own path to Qaddafi and head the future government alongside Saif al-Islam.
This plan revealed here for the first time was already taking shape at the highest levels in Washington, Paris, Moscow and Berlin when it was derailed by the death of Younis
A former interior minister, the general defected to the rebel side in February after working with Qaddafi for 40 years.
US: Iran secretly abets al Qaeda. IRGC brigades invade N. Iraq
29 July. After turning a blind eye for 11 years, Washington Thursday night, July 28, sharply attacked Iran's secret aid to al Qaeda and permission to funnel funds and terrorists through its territory to war zones in the Middle East and Pakistan.
According to the documentary evidence, a Syrian al Qaeda operative Ezedin Abdel Aziz Khalil played a key role in the connection, as the director of the flow of cash and recruits from Persian Gulf states to Pakistan through Iran.
July 30, 2011 Briefs
• British Chelsea soccer club accepts Malaysian Football Association's apology for crowd abuse of its Israeli midfielder Yossi Benayoun in last week's friendly in Kuala Lumpur. Anti-Semitic insults were shouted whenever he kicked the ball.
Al Qaeda blows up Egypt-Israel pipeline after killing 7 in Sinai town
30 July. The day after their El Arish rampage, Al Qaeda gunmen Saturday, July 30, blasted the al Shulaq terminal of the Egyptian-Israeli gas pipeline north of El Arish, halting supply for the fifth time since February. The saboteurs fired rockets at the terminal until it caught fire. Egyptian forces confronted the assailants but could not save the terminal. This was al Qaeda's first attack on a strategic Israeli installation.
Friday, at least 150 masked, uniformed al gunmen rode into the Sinai capital of El Arish on pickups and motorcycles, shooting up the desert town with heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and automatic rifles. Before they rode out six hours later, at least seven people were killed, and upward of 30 injured. But first they attacked the fortified police station in which officers and soldiers were barricaded. An Egyptian lieutenant colonel and captain were among the dead.
El Gorah, 20 kilometers to the west, houses the international MFO established there nearly three decades ago to monitor the Sinai demilitarization clauses of the Israel-Egyptian peace treaty. Attached to the force are 1,000 troops, most of them American and Canadian marines. This command center has been on supreme alert for an al Qaeda threat for seven months.
July 31, 2011 Briefs
• Sabotaged terminal in Sinai Saturday halts Egyptian gas flow to Israel for the fifth time since February. The installation attacked with rockets by al Qaeda gang which Friday raided El Arish.
• Tens of thousands rallied in ten Israeli towns Saturday night to demand better middle class living standards. Anti-government slogans were interspersed in Tel Aviv with red flags.
• PM Netanyahu cancels price rise for gasoline, sets up teams to negotiate with demonstrators, cut prices, break up conglomerates' control.
Assad's pre-Ramadan massacre in two Syrian cities
31 July. No Arab ruler before him has gone to the bloody lengths Syrian President Bashar Assad went to Sunday, July 31, on the eve of Ramadan on Aug. 1 to snuff out the four-month protest against his regime. Before dawn, troops and tanks, indiscriminately blasting city streets with cannon, rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns, stormed the two most active centers of resistance, Hama in the north and Deir al-Zour in the east. By evening, at least 140 protesters were dead and more than a thousand injured.
In Damascus, 42 were injured from nail bombs thrown by security forces at demonstrators.
US President Barack Obama said he is appalled by the Syrian government's use of violence and brutality against its own people. While Obama still avoided calling on Assad to step down, an official at the US embassy in Damascus said the Syrian military's deadly attack on the flashpoint protest city of Hama on Sunday amounted to "full-on warfare" and was a "last act of utter desperation."
Iran trains new Hamas commando brigade in Gaza
31 July. A team of Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) officers has just finished setting up Hamas' first commando unit especially trained to combat any Israel military force entering the Gaza Strip. The new "Al Qods Brigades" unit of 400 men is to be the first of three. The urban guerrilla tactics imparted to Hamas drew heavily on the experience Al Qods is gaining in Syria, where its experts help President Bashar Assad crack down on protest.
Many of the weapons handed out to trainees came from Libyan rebels who received them from British and French intelligence for their war on Muammar Qaddafi. The rebels sold the arms to the purchasing agencies Iran, Hizballah and Hamas maintain secretly in Benghazi.
August 1, 2001 Briefs
• Israeli and Lebanese forces exchange fire early Monday after an Israeli patrol was attacked on Mt. Dov (Shaba Farms).
• Lebanese accused IDF of shooting at their military camp in the Wazani district and they returned fire.
• Two Palestinians killed, 5 Israeli soldiers injured in Kalandia, north of Jerusalem in riot against detentions of suspected terrorists.
• Israeli High Court Justice Yoram Danziger quizzed under caution on past suspected criminal ties with Bat-Yam mayor Shlomo Lahiyani whom he represented as a lawyer before his appointment to the bench. Danziger, the first Israeli high court justice ever questioned for suspected wrongdoing, suspended himself until end of inquiry.
• Central Bank Governor Stanley Fischer praises Netanyahu government's economic policy as saving Israel from the international recession.
Assad broadens tank assault to all of northern Syria
1 Aug. Early Monday Aug. 1, undeterred by international condemnation, President Bashar Assad broadened his bloody tank assault to all of northern Syria – a 20,000 square kilometer area almost the size of Israel. He is now waging war on the 3.5 million inhabitants of Hama, Deir al-Zour, Homs, Idlib, Ar-Raqqah and Abu Kemal, after inflicting a one-day death toll Sunday of 150: 120 in Hama, 30 in Deir el-Zour and more than 1,000 injured.
Syrian armored forces are running into heavy resistance from anti-tank traps and fortified barriers manned by protesters armed with heavy machine guns. A Syrian armored division dispatched to Damascus disintegrated when officers and men went AWOL taking their armored vehicles and weapons with them.
An urgent request from the White House in Washington to Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to send into northern Syria the Turkish units held ready on the border for two months went unanswered. Erdogan has his hands full with a military crisis since the arm's top command resigned in a body. Assad is taking full advantage of this respite.
August 2, 2011 Briefs
• Italy recalls ambassador from Syria Tuesday to protest "horrible repression of population".
• EU adds five more Syrians to 29 headed by Assad already listed for sanctions. They include defense minister Ali Habib, head of internal security and intel chief in Hama.
• Top US soldier Adm. Mullen called for swift end to Syrian violence but said direct US involvement unlikely beyond diplomatic pressure.
• Another 24 killed in Syrian tank assault on protesting cities Monday, on top of 150 in Hama and Deir el-Zour Sunday.
• Israeli air force in action over Gaza after Palestinian missile injures Israeli woman in Ashkelon coastal district Monday night.
• Rep. Gabrielle Giffords returned to Congress for first time since she was shot in the head.
• Netanyahu sets up ministerial panel to meet social protesters demonstrating for two weeks in tents.
• Protest leaders fall out when they meet Tuesday to draft demands for reducing cost of living and housing.
Mubarak trial opening Wednesday will feature corruption charges involving Israel
2 Aug. The 83-year old ailing former Egyptian president, accompanied by a full team of doctors and paramedics equipped with life support gear, is to be flown around dawn Wednesday from the Red Sea resort to the Police Academy in New Cairo for his trial. Despite his failing health, the military rulers of Egypt are determined to stage the trial in order to appease the al-Tahrir Square protesters.
One of the three main charges against Mubarak, his sons Gemal and Alla, and prominent businessman Hussein Salem, who will be tried in absentia, is that they exported gas to Israel for prices below the market rate and corruptly shared out the difference between them. Former Interior Minister Habib al-Adli, one of Egypt's most hated figures and six police officers will stand trial together with the former president and his sons.
Anti-Israel outbursts may be expected as the trial goes on that will further sour relations between Jerusalem and Cairo. It is not by chance that the Sinai pipeline carrying Egyptian gas to Israel was sabotaged five times since the revolution, the last time just before the Mubarak trial.
The military junta does not intend to have Mubarak present at all the court sessions, but will put him there whenever it suits them. The generals hope the trial will distract popular attention from the breakdown of law and order and an economy going to wrack and ruin and the new constitution they are drafting that will keep them in power.
Mubarak pleads not guilty from a stretcher
3 Aug. The Egyptian people had their first sight of former president Hosni Mubarak, 83, since his overthrow lying on a stretcher in an iron cage in the Cairo Police Academy courtroom with his sons and six officials, including former interior minister Habib al-Adli. The ex-president pleaded not guilty to the charges against him of killing protesters and corruption, some of which carry the death penalty. Judge Ahmed Rifaat opened the televised session Wednesday Aug. 3 and adjourned it till Aug. 15.
Although ailing, the 83 year old former president was seen on TV screens around the world to be fully conscious and taking a lively interest in the proceedings, now and again exchanging comments with his sons. His wife Susan was absent.
Police earlier broke up violent clashes outside the courtroom between pro- and anti-Mubarak demonstrators.
August 4, 2011 Briefs
• The fifth Grad missile fired from Gaza in 24 hours exploded Thursday night causing damage in Lachish District 20 km from the Gaza Strip.
• Israeli air force struck a missile team near Sejaya. Palestinians report three injured.
• Damage to Ashkelon buildings and cars from one of four Palestinian Grad missiles fired from the Gaza Strip Wednesday night and early Thursday. Air Force struck back at Hamas training centers evacuated before the missile attack.
• Three more missiles exploded outside Kiryat Gat.
Orontes River runs red as Syrian anti-aircraft guns pound Hama
4 Aug. Horrifying images of bodies and limbs floating in the Orontes River in Hama were aired by Syrian state TV early Thursday, Aug. 4. Contrary to official claims that they belonged to Syrian soldiers torn to pieces by protesters, debkafile reports they are the victims of Syrian tank fire and ZU-23 automatic artillery trained on residential buildings and streets in the last 48 hours. Citizens confined indoors are throwing the dead out of windows and off roofs into the river.
The Syrian ruler took advantage of three events for unleashing an all-out assault against rebellious Hama:
1. World attention riveted on the deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's trial which opened in Cairo Wednesday.
2. The crisis between the Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and the army after the entire top command resigned in a body, which Assad expected would preoccupy all the decision-making levels in Ankara to the exclusion of Syria.
3. The tepid UN Security Council condemnation of the killing of civilians in Syria without concrete penalties.