First arson attacks near Jerusalem. Air fleet battles Carmel fire
3 Dec. Arson attacks spread Saturday, Dec. 3 from the North to Jerusalem, where fires started near Tsur Hadassah and the Jerusalem Forest. Day Three of the Carmel fire began with a fleet of foreign planes, including two giant Russian Il-76s taking off at first light to dump water and fresh supplies of retardants on the flames and smoke again engulfing Beit Oren, Ein Hod, Nir Etzion and Isfiya, fanned by scorching winds.
Arson alert declared in the North against proliferating attacks. debkafile reports the police have posted patrols in Western Galilee and other parts of northern Israel to watch out for fire-raisers.
Saturday, Manara and Margaliot near Kiryat Shmona and the Galilee Panhandle, were the northernmost point hit by suspected arson. Fires there triggered explosions at a nearby minefield. The Manara-Margalit road was closed and Jewish National Fund forest inspectors asked to keep an eye out for offenders from their look-out posts.
December 5, 2010 Briefs
• Carmel wildfire causes heavy damage to homes and studios in Ein Hod artists village and Nir Etzion. 50,000 dunams of Carmel nature preserve and woodland, 5 million trees destroyed..
• Israeli Air Force holds special event for foreign fire-fighters to express deep gratitude for their help in beating the Carmel wildfire.
• Iran says it has produced its first batch of yellowcake, the day before nuclear talks with world powers resumes after a 14-month break.
• Three teams of firefighters detached from Carmel to battle suspected arson outbreak at Northern town of Sakhnin Sunday.
• Egypt votes Sunday in run-off general election boycotted by two biggest opposition parties claiming contest rigged.
• Saudi King Abdullah, 86, undergoes second operation in New York. No date for his return to Saudi Arabia.
Special new unit will protect Iran's nuclear scientists
5 Dec. A special unit for providing nuclear scientists, their homes and families with the same level of security as heads of the regime is being set up jointly by Iran's Intelligence Ministry (MOIS), Revolutionary Guards and Al Qods Brigades, debkafile's intelligence sources report. This was decided after two top nuclear physicists were blown up in their cars by "sticky bombs" in the heart of Tehran Monday, Nov. 29. It was now urgent to halt the stampede of panic-stricken nuclear staff for a change of jobs.
Iran's rulers were appalled by the ease with which two-man teams mounted on two motorcycles were able to overcome the traffic jams at the heart of Tehran and escape after separate attacks on the professors' cars. It was obvious that the scientists had been under close hostile surveillance for months without attracting the notice of any Iranian intelligence body.
Two more glaring security lapses became evident:
1. The sticky bombs used by the assassins were of Iranian manufacture. Al Qods Brigades arms designers had developed them for Al Qaeda's use in its terrorist attacks in Iraq. Bomb fragments found in the two cars led investigators to the discovery that the bombs Al Qods had smuggled into Iraq had been shipped back to Tehran in a clandestine "boomerang" operation set up by the party which orchestrated the attacks on the scientists.
2. Prof. Shariari's home address had been traced – even though last March he and his family had been spirited out of their usual home and relocated at a safe house in an estate under the protection of the unit guarding nuclear sites and its directors.
MOIS Minister Heydar Moslehi suggested that deep penetration of that unit may have given enemy agents his secret address.
December 6, 2010 Briefs
• Argentina, Uruguay join Brazil in recognizing "Palestinian state". Israel called Argentine announcement regrettable. It breached Israel-Palestinian agreement for recognition to come only after negotiated peace accord.
• International criminal court investigating possible war crimes by North Korea.
• At least 40 killed in double suicide attack in NW Pakistan's Mohmand tribal agency on Afghan border. Anti-Taliban activists targeted.
• Haifa police chief Ahuva Tomer dies in hospital of critical burn wounds sustained in Carmel fire.
• Flow of cash to terrorists from Saudi and Gulf remains of serious concern, says WikiLeaks cable.
• The Carmel wildfire is out after a four-day battle with massive international aid. Success coincides Monday with first real rainfall in nine months. Police spread out in Israel's woods and forests to prevent more arson attacks.
Iran weeks away from weapons-grade uranium
6 Dec. Production of Iran's first batch of uranium yellowcake marked just one of Tehran's two nuclear leaps forward ahead of the resumption of its nuclear talks with the Six Powers in Geneva Monday, Dec. 6 after a 14-month break. The second breakthrough was not made public. debkafile's military and intelligence sources disclose that after a huge effort, Iran was able to pile up 23.5 kilos of 19.75 percent enriched uranium. By January or early February, this amount can be topped up to the full 28.2 kilos needed for producing 90 percent weapons grade uranium for fueling a nuclear bomb or warhead.
So with these two breakthroughs, Iran's delegation sat down for the multilateral talks in Geneva in a strong bargaining position. The powers have the option of accepting Iran's nuclear program and its right to enrich uranium or risk supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei giving the order in six to eight weeks' time for enrichment to go forward up to weapons grade. Within a short time Iran will have reached the threshold of bomb or nuclear warhead production.
All this adds up to the failure of America's long effort to stop Iran attaining a nuclear bomb capability by non-military means. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, for his part, will have to face up to falling down completely on his solemn, oft-repeated vow to never allow the Islamic Republic acquire nuclear arms.
December 7, 2010 Briefs
• Two mortar shells fired from Gaza explode at Kissufim roadblock. No casualties.
• Six Powers end opening nuclear talks with Iran in Geneva. Next round moves to Istanbul with Turkey participating in deference to Tehran's demand. Ahmadinejad: Progress possible if sanctions scrapped.
• A baby girl was killed, at least 34 other people are injured by blast at popular Indian temple town of Varanasi on the Ganges. An improvised device was hidden in a milk canister at a river ritual bathing spot.
• WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange is denied bail by British court. He is remanded until Dec. 16 after giving himself up to UK police. His lawyer says WikiLeaks will continue. Visa, Mastercard, Paypal, Swiss Bank close his accounts.
• Gates arrived in Afghanistan.
Turkey ups terms for mending relations with Israel
7 Dec. Israeli and Turkish representatives have just held two meetings for the purported objective of patching up Turkey's quarrel with Israel. All that has come out of Ankara so far, however, is a fresh torrent of anti-Israel abuse from Turkish leaders and harsher terms for settling the feud over the Israeli commando raid of May 31 which killed 9 Turkish activists leading a flotilla to break the Gaza blockade, debkafile's Middle East sources report.
Turkish representatives have informed Jerusalem that it was not enough for Israel to offer an apology and compensation: Before the hatchet can be buried, he said, the Israeli commandos who boarded the Turkish blockade-busting vessel must be court-martialed and the blockade on the Gaza Strip abolished in stages.
Israel turned these demands down. As a compromise, Jerusalem proposed the two governments issue a joint statement marking the end of their controversy, with Israel accepting a special arrangement for partially indemnifying the families of the dead activists.
The Netanyahu government has refused both steps until now on the grounds that Turks killed on the Marmora far from being peace activists were armed and violent terrorists. But now he was willing to make the gesture in the interests of restoring good relations with the Erdogan government.
December 8, 2010 Briefs
• Egyptian marine biologist Prof. Hanafy: The Oceanic White Tip shark is native to Egyptian waters. He called "mumbo jumbo" South Sinai governor's charge of Israeli conspiracy behind attacks.
Israel's entire emergency system like the fire service is in no shape for a crisis
8 Dec. State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss's devastating report on the state of Israel's fire fighting services Wednesday, Dec. 8, confirmed that this vital service was close to collapse and in no fit state to deal with a missile attack on the population. He spread responsibility widely across the incumbent government – from the Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Interior Minister Eli Yishai and especially Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who has overall authority over homeland security.
The Carmel fire, extinguished two days earlier with massive international aid, demonstrated more realistically than any war game how vulnerable the entire country is to an emergency depicted by Lindenstrauss as "hundreds of rockets being fired day after day to all parts of Israel and confronting the emergency services with extensive and protracted damage at multiple locations on the home front – to life and property. In such circumstances," said the Comptroller, "the fire service in its current condition would be unable to cope with multiple outbreaks – some of them simultaneous and of prolonged duration."
debkafile notes that the defense ministry boasts a deputy minister who is responsible for the home front in times of emergency – Mattan Vilnai. Our military sources disclose: The IDF's Home Front Command consists of two battalions trained for rescue operations, with four companies each. This is even smaller than the hopelessly inadequate fire service's 400 trained firefighters.
Given these meager numbers, if Israel were to come under attack, the government and army chiefs would have to decide which parts of the population to save and which to abandon to their fate.
December 9, 2010 Briefs
• Assad: Focusing on settlement construction as an issue for talks with Israel was a mistake. Israel is no peace partner, he said.
• Palestinians report Obama is examining new ideas for reviving talks with Israel.
• Ahmadinejad: A uranium swap is the only item Iran is prepared to discuss in multilateral talks. Uranium enrichment is non-negotiable. Its suspension would cross a red line.
• Israel's Air Force struck three Gaza locations Wednesday night after several rounds of Palestinian mortar and missile fire on Israeli locations.
• A kibbutz guard in the Eshkol district was seriously wounded in a mortar shelling.
• Russian presidential circles suggest nominating WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange for a Nobel Prize. A source from Medvedev's office said that would be a way of helping him.
US eases military pressure on Iran, tries concessions
9 Dec. Shortly before the Six Power talks with Iran resumed this week, US President Barack Obama ordered the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier to withdraw from Guff waters opposite Iran and redeploy in the Aegean Sea. This action signaled Washington's switch to the search for middle ground on the nuclear controversy through diplomatic engagement. Only six weeks ago, he opted for a build-up of military pressure on Tehran, consigning the USS Abraham Lincoln to the Persian Gulf, and so raising the number of aircraft carriers deployed there to three, including the French Charles de Gaulle.
But shortly before the Geneva talks began Monday, Dec. 6, Truman had been relocated to the big American naval base in Souda Harbor on the island of Crete. Only one carrier remains in the Persian Gulf, the Abraham Lincoln.
That first encounter yielded a single decision, to meet again in Istanbul, yet another US concession to Tehran. The six powers will in future face Iran much strengthened by the presence of its ally, Turkey.