A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending August 5, 2010

July 29, 2010 Briefs
• Barak reports good progress in talks on US F-35 stealth bomber sale to Israeli Air force.
• Saudi King arrives in Damascus Thursday, will visit Beirut with Assad Friday.
• Netanyahu: Extending West Bank construction freeze beyond September would bring down government.
• Arab League Monitoring Committee approves transition to direct Palestinian-Israel peace talks in principle.
• The Palestinian Authority chairman Abbas is left free to decide if and when, provided talks are on final status and tied to a time frame.


July 30, 2010 Briefs
• Three American soldiers killed by roadside bomb in Afghanistan.
• In August, 63 US troops and 22 members of other NATO forces were killed in Afghanistan.
• Saudi King Abdullah with Syrian president Assad visit Beirut Friday, joined later by Qatar Emir.
• Afghan Taliban threatens to behead informers revealed by WikiLeaks disclosure of 92,000 classified military documents.


Crashed helicopter drilled strikes on Iran-style mountain tunnels


30 July: The six Israel airmen who died, along with a Romanian captain, in a Sikorsky "Yasour" CH-53 helicopter crash over the Romanian Carpathian Mountains Monday, July 26, were flown home Friday, July 30, for burial with full military honors.
debkafile's military sources report: The American and Israeli air forces have been developing tactics for evading Iranian radar and flying at extremely low-altitudes through narrow mountain passes so as to reach the tunnel entrances for attacks on the nuclear equipment undetected. The drill in Romania took place at roughly the same altitude and in similar terrain that a US or Israeli air attack would expect to encounter in Iran.
For such strikes, special missiles would be used that are capable of flying the length of a tunnel, however twisty, and detonating only when its warhead identifies and contacts its target.
The maneuver is extremely hazardous. The pilots must be exceptionally skilled, capable of split-second timing in rising from low-altitudes to points opposite the high tunnel entrances without crashing into the surrounding mountain walls.
The Israeli helicopter is reported to have flown into a sudden patch of cloud which descended on the simulated target and crashed into a steep mountainside in near-zero visibility.


July 31, 2010 Briefs
• Qassam missile from Gaza demolished top floors of empty Sapir College building in Shear Hanegev Saturday night.
• Obama warns Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas his rejection of direct peace talks with Israel could undermine US-Palestinian ties. It would also affect international donations to the Palestinian Authority.
• Iranian oil minister: China has invested $29 b. in oil and gas projects with another$10 b. on the way for big new refineries.


Hamas orders compulsory call-up for new army parallel to HIzballah


31 July: Israeli bombers struck Palestinian targets in Gaza city, Deir el Balach and Rafah Friday night, July 30 – in the wake of a Palestinian Iranian-made Grad missile which damaged a high-rise apartment building in Ashkelon, leaving 17 people in shock.
The Hamas central Gaza commander, Issa Batran, who was also in charge of Qassam missile manufacturing, was killed and 8 officers injured in the Israeli raid of a new command center set up at Tel Al-Hawa after Hamas called up all men aged 18 to 25 for its new Palestinian Popular Army. This force is structured like the Lebanese Shiite Hizballah and is funded by Iran to the tune of $250 million.


August 1, 2010 Briefs
• US top soldier Mullen says America has a plan in hand to attack Iran. He thinks it’s a bad idea but Iran developing a nuclear weapon is unacceptable.
• Netanyahu expects direct talks with Palestinians to begin in mid-August. Israel has not agreed to extend construction freeze.
• Palestinians say expect gestures, including prisoner releases, with onset of talks.
• Israeli PM holds Hamas responsible for escalating missile attacks from Gaza "and it will pay the price".
• Israel and Egyptian presidents hold talks in Cairo Sunday.
• El Al inaugurates regular air route to Eilat.


Israel worries Turkey is betraying its secrets to Iran


1 Aug. Ankara distanced itself further from the West by signing a pact with Theran for the exchange of intelligence in real time in their offensives against Kurdish separatists. debkafile's intelligence sources report that such exchanges are bound to spread to other spheres. Furthermore, Sunday, Aug. 1, defense minister Ehud Barak warned, "… the nomination of a new chief of the Turkish secret services who is a supporter of Iran worries us. It could result in the Iranians having access to secret information."


Iran: We can obtain nuclear, missile technology


1 Aug. By admitting that Iran can obtain nuclear and missile technologies, parliament speaker Ali Larijani July 31 came nearer than another other Iranian official to admitting his country is close to a nuclear weapon, debkafile's military sources report. He indicated that more pressure would tip Iran over into weapons production.
Further turning up the heat on Washington, the foreign ministry in Tehran announced Sunday, Aug. 1, that the three American hikers detained a year ago would stand trial for illegally crossing the Iranian border – and possibly on security charges. Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal, who accidentally strayed into Iran while hiking in northern Iraq, have therefore become hostages in a sharpening face-off between Tehran and Washington.


Aug 2, 2010 Briefs
• Israel will cooperate with UN flotilla probe, Netanyahu informs Ban Monday. New Zealand ex-PM Jeffrey Palmer will lead the panel with former Colombian president Alvero Uriba and representatives from Israel and Turkey.
• One Jordanian killed, four injured in Grad missile attack on Red Sea resort of Aqaba early Monday. No casualties or damage reported in Aqaba's twin port, Eilat, although at least one of the estimated six missiles landed near the airfield.
• The US-led MFO in Sinai, Egyptian, Jordanian and Israeli investigators join forces to track down the missile launchers and firing location.
• Power warning for Israelis in sweltering higher-than-average temperatures forecast for rest of week.


August 3, 2010 Briefs
• Israeli ambassador summoned to Turkish foreign ministry. Ankara complained about defense minister's comment on betrayal of Israeli secrets.
• Bucharest: Two Israeli army CH-53 helicopters make emergency landing in Romania. IDF: They made a controlled landing over minor technical problem on way to Israel. Eight days ago, same type of helicopter crashed killing 6 Israelis and a Romanian.
• Jordan: We have proof the Grad missile which hit Aqaba was fired from Sinai.
• Pressure in Ankara to sack Turkish defense minister Vecdi Gonul leader of former military ties with Israel. Turkish interior minister also under fire for refusing to back Erdogan's persecution of army heads.
• Homeland defense: Eilat will get a red alert system if missile attacks become regular.
• PA in Ramallah: Hamas gives up home-made missile production, relies entirely on massive Iranian supplies smuggled through tunnels.
• Fischer predicts Israel's economy will grow by 4 percent next year.


The Lebanese army emerges as Israel's new pro-active foe


3 Aug. By its cross-border sniper attack on Israeli forces Tuesday, Aug. 3, which provoked a major clash, the Lebanese Army laid down a new fact of life in the Middle East: The next war against Israel will be fought – not only by the Hizballah militia, but by the Lebanese army whose mission has been merged with the radical objectives of the Iran-backed terrorists.
The Lebanese army' astonished observers by stepping out of its former character as a rundown, inept police force which ran a mile from combat and is now ready to take on the Israeli military . It even managed to catch the IDF unawares. Undeterred by Israel's retaliation, its soldiers stepped up their attacks.
Israel must now take into account a new and completely unpredictable enemy sitting in positions abutting its border.


Two high Israeli officers killed in Lebanese sniper ambush


3 Aug. The border tensions brewing for weeks on the Lebanese-Israel border boiled over Tuesday, Aug. 3 into a heavy exchange of cross-border fire. Lt. Col. Dov Harari, 45, from Netanya, brigade commander of the eastern Lebanese border sector, was killed on Israeli soil by what Gen. Gady Eisencott, OC Northern Command, called one of two premeditated, unprovoked "sniper ambushes" set by the Lebanese army.
Lebanon reported three soldiers and one civilian killed in heavy Israeli retaliation.
When the shooting started, the Israeli officers were watching Israeli soldiers clearing brush on their side of the border near Kibbutz Misgav Am opposite the Lebanese village of Adeisseh to clear the line of vision for surveillance cameras. The UN later confirmed that it had been given due notice of the work and had informed the Lebanese government in advance.
The incident escalated when Israel opened up with tank, artillery and helicopter fire and the Lebanese brought in mortars and RPGs. Israel asked for an urgent UN Security Council meeting to condemn Lebanese aggression which came the day after six missiles fired from Sinai at Eilat damaged an Aqaba hotel and killed a Jordanian.


Ditched by Assad, Hizballah may go to war


3 Aug. Lebanese troops opened fire on Israeli troops Tuesday, Aug. 3. Israeli tanks, artillery and helicopters returned the fire. debkafile reported earlier that Syrian President Bashar Assad has decided to jilt Hizballah's Hassan Nasrallah and switch his support around to the Sunni Prime Minister Saad Hariri in a deal with Saudi King Abdullah. With Assad it is hard to tell if he has changed course or pretending to do so for quick profit.
Hassan Nasrallah will not take being ditched by Assad lying down, especially after being cornered by the Lebanese International Tribunal's indictment of senior Hizballah operatives in the 2005 Hariri murder.
He has warned Hariri that he will not surrender his men to the tribunal and the government's failure to disband it will plunge Lebanon into another civil war and/or military showdown with Israel.
For military action, he would need a green light from Tehran which has not yet shown its hand.


August 4, 2010 Briefs
• Iran obtains four S-300 air defense missiles withheld by Russia from black market sources. Two were sold by Belarus.
• UNIFIL confirms trees Israeli troops cut down were on the Israeli side of the Lebanese border. Its commander said he was informed of the work that morning and passed word to Beirut.
• Israeli troops continued work interrupted Tuesday by Lebanese sniper attack which killed Lt. Col. Harari. The work team was heavily guarded.
Capt. Ezra Lakiya is no longer on the critical list after the Lebanese sniper attack
• The Lebanese Army extends Tuesday's high alert for another day.
• Galilee populace told to stay out of orchards, farmland abutting Lebanese border. Israel asks US and France to cut down on military assistance to Lebanese army.
• One Palestinian bomber killed, two injured planting explosive on Gaza border fence.


Huge Iranian energy plant explosion coincides with bid on Ahmadinejad's life


4 Aug. debkafile's Iranian sources report a bomb was hurled at the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's heavily secured armored convoy as it drove through the northern Iranian city of Hamadan Wednesday, Aug. 4. He was unhurt. Some of his bodyguards and bystanders were killed or injured. Round about the same time, a massive explosion killed at least five workers at the giant Pardis petrochemicals complex in southern Iran.
Assaluyeh, the site of the Pardis complex, is situated at the opposite end of Iran not far from the Bushehr nuclear reactor. It was inaugurated by Ahmadinejad on July 28. Iranian security services have joined the Hamadan and Pardis probes, suspecting some unknown enemy of trying to prove it can simultaneously strike two major targets at the opposite ends of the country and get close both to the president and the Bushehr reactor.
Hamadan is situated on the site of Biblical Shushan, the burial places of Queen Esther and Mordecai, several hundreds kilometers west of Tehran.


August 5, 2010 Briefs
• Two Golan residents and an Israeli Arab indicted for spying for Syria at Nazareth district court. Trio accused of passing to Syrian Intelligence handler coded conversations on Israeli submarine movements in Haifa. They also plotted to snatch man mistaken for Syrian pilot who defected to Israel with Mig-24 in 1989.


Israel threatens to destroy hostile Lebanese border positions


5 Aug. Israel has given Lebanon an ultimatum to dismiss or court-martial the local commander who ordered the sniper fire which killed battalion commander Lt. Col. Dov Harari, injured Capt. Ezra Lakiya and triggered a major clash Tuesday, Aug. 3, debkafile's military sources report. If Beirut refuses to comply, Israel will deem the Lebanese army an enemy force and destroy its border positions. Both armies are on standby as tensions continue to simmer, with the next peak due Monday, Aug. 9, when Hizballah leader holds a news conference to try and pass the buck for the 2005 Hariri murder to… Israel.
The Israeli ultimatum was delivered at a three-way meeting at UNIFIL headquarters in Naqura on Wednesday night, August 4, attended by UN, IDF and Lebanese Army officers and, unofficially, by US, French and German military attaches posted in Beirut.
Israel slapped it down after learning that the guilty Lebanese officer is a Shiite who hangs out with Hizballah commanders in South Lebanon and may have been tipped off to the presence of high Israeli officers within firing range from Lebanon. UNIFIL carried the warning to Beirut with their own recommendation to remove the Lebanese officer responsible for the outbreak from the South in order to restore calm.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu broadcast his first videotaped speech holding Hamas and the Lebanese government responsible for three cross-border attacks in as many days.

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