A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending December 15, 2011

December 10, 2011 Briefs
• Palestinians resume missile fire Saturday morning with 5 Qassams landing harmlessly in Eshkol district and Ashkelon environs.
• Friday night, after 13 Palestinian missile attacks, Israel aircraft raided terrorist targets in Rafah. S. Gaza.
• The IDF voiced regret for civilian casualties in earlier raid, blamed Hamas for deliberately planting military installations in residential districts.
• Assad regime gives Homs's 1.5 million dwellers 72 hours to drop resistance or face massive military assault.
• Family of ex-FBI agent Robert Levinson who disappeared 4 years ago in Iran pleaded for his release. They published a hostage video they received in 2010 from unidentified source.
• Haifa Institute of Technology scientist Daniel Shechtman accepts 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovery of quasicrystals at royal ceremony in Stockholm Saturday.

Israeli air traffic to Eilat under Hamas-Bedouin missile menace from Egyptian border

10 Dec. Israel's targeted killing Thursday Dec. 8 of Ismail Batash, commander of the "Army of Believers" (a Hamas terrorist front group), may have done more harm than good. Aside from triggering a hail of Palestinian missiles against Israel, debkafile's sources report it strengthened the Hamas-Salafist Bedouin pact in northern Sinai and is speeding up the transfer of its terrorist infrastructure to that region – out of Israel's reach. The terrorist peril to southern Israel, including Eilat, has mounted, while the IDF's hands are tied.
The six Egyptian combat battalions and tank units deployed in Sinai rushed for the exits, giving ground to the increasingly belligerent Salafi Bedouin and the Palestinian Hamas and Jihad Islami advancing from the Gaza Strip. The Bedouin have acquired high-precision anti-air rockets Strela-3-SA-14, Igla-1 SA-16, Gimlet SA-16 and Grouse SA-18 – with a killing range of 6 kilometers. They threaten Israeli air traffic in the south.

December 11, 2011 Briefs
• Barak: Assad will not last beyond a few weeks.
• Civilian killed in ammunition test accident at IDF base in N. Israel.
• Israel cannot accept Iranian and Hamas missile bases in Gaza Strip – Steinitz, Yishai.
• Two failed attempts to assassinate Libya's army chief Gen. Khalifa Hifter in Tripoli after national army tried to take over airfield controlled by Zintan militia.
• Israel launches another communications satellite from Kazakhstan. Amos 5 will orbit earth once every 24 hours at an altitude of 40,000 km.
• Israeli windsurfer Lee Korzits wins gold at Perth, Australia World Championship, her second.

Nuclear knowhow, S-300 missiles are Iran's price for Russian, Chinese access to US drone

11 Dec. Iran is driving a hard bargain for granting Russian and Chinese teams access to the US stealth drone RQ-170 it captured undamaged last week. debkafile reports: The price, they were told, includes advanced nuclear and missile technology, especially systems using solid fuel, the last word on centrifuges for enriching uranium and the S-300PMU-1 air defense system which Moscow has consistently refused to sell Tehran. Israel's prime minister sent foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman to Moscow to try and stop the deal. This super-weapon is effective against stealth warplanes and cruise missiles and therefore capable of seriously impairing any US or Israeli large-scale air or missile attacks on Iran's nuclear sites. But Putin refused to discuss it.

December 12, 2011 Briefs
• Obama says US has asked Iran to return captured surveillance drone. "We'll see how the Iranians respond," he said.
• Iran's Nat Sec Adviser Saad Jalilee arrives in Moscow for deal to hand over US drone secrets for Russian nuclear technology and arms.
• Obama heralds end of divisive Iraq war, warns Iraq's neighbors US still a major player in region. He held White House talks with Iraqi PM al Maliki as US troops complete withdrawal.
• US put drone strikes in Pakistan on hold so as not to push relations "past the point of no return".
• Explosion and fire at steel plant in central Iranian province of Yadz kills 7 people, including foreign nationals, injures sixteen.
• New Israeli ambassador Yacov Amitai arrives in Cairo three months after Egyptian mob sacked embassy.
• Katyusha fired at Israel from S. Lebanon early Monday fell short, injured a Lebanese woman near Bint Jbeil.
• Israel cabinet approves budget for comprehensive plan to curb flood of African work-seekers.

Iran to practice Strait of Hormuz closure while unlocking US drone secrets

12 Dec. Bigheaded from capturing the US stealth RQ-170 Sentinel drone, Tehran Monday, Dec. 12 announced plans soon for a navy drill to practice closure of the Strait of Hormuz, the most important oil transit channel in the world. Iranian lawmaker Parviz Sorouri said, "Iran will make the world unsafe if the world attacks Iran." The drill will challenge US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's recent warning that Iranian disruptions of Persian Gulf free traffic would be a red line for the US.
The Iranian lawmaker said Iranians experts were in the final stages of "cracking" the drone's secret technology, although he did not say when this research would be complete. "Our next action will be to reverse-engineer the aircraft," he said. "In the near future we will be able to mass produce it. Iranian engineers will soon build an aircraft superior to the American one."

December 13, 2011 Briefs
• Syrian army defectors Tuesday ambushed and killed 7 soldiers near Idlib in retaliation for 11 civilian deaths. Syrian soldiers earlier battled armed men trying to reach Idlib from Turkey.
• Iran rejects US call for return of captured US spy drone. The aircraft was now property of Iran and Iran will decide what to do with it, says defense minister Ahmad Vahidi.
• Foreign ministry in Tehran also demands US apology for drone's intrusion.
• Iran indicts 15 people accused of spying for US and Israel – Tehran's chief prosecutor. No specifics on identities or when they were detained.
• UN: Syrian crackdown deaths exceed 5,000 as local elections take place. Damascus rejects figure as "incredible".
• New Canadian citizens must remove face coverings including niqab or burqa while taking oath of citizenship.
• Woman beheaded Monday in Saudi Arabia for practicing "witchcraft an sorcery". Human rights group notes steep rise in capital punishment in oil kingdom.
• Israel's Chief Rabbi and other settler rabbis condemn fringe settler group's break-in to an IDF camp, throwing stones at a senior officer and vandalizing vehicles. Netanyahu ordered security forces to take aggressive action against the 50 suspected rioters.

US units exiting Iraq reach Jordan to forestall Syrian attack

13 Dec. Units of US troops evacuated from Iraq have been diverted to positions in Jordan opposite a Syrian tank concentration building up across the kingdom's northern border, debkafile reports. The incoming US contingents, housed at the King Hussein Air Base of al-Mafraq, 10 kilometers from the Syrian border, are the first US boots to hit the ground directly opposite Assad's army, brought there by Bashar Assad's threat to set the Middle East on fire if the pressure against him persists.
The American units came from the big Iraqi Ain al-Assad air base in the western province of Al Anbar opposite the Jordanian border which is in the process of evacuation as the US military drawdown in Iraq approaches completion. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, when he met US President Barack Obama at the White House Monday, approved the transfer.

December 14, 2011 Briefs
• Obama confirmed US troops would leave Iraq by the end of the month.
• Gunfight between supporters of rival candidates closed a polling station on Cairo's outskirts in second round of Egypt's vote on Wednesday. One person injured in another shooting outside Suez City.
• Hamas PM Hanyeh: Armed resistance is the only way to liberate Palestinian lands.

Iran propositions Saudis, seeks anti-US pact, offers nuclear cooperation

14 Dec. Iranian Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi visited Riyadh Monday, Dec. 12 with a large delegation and a proposition for Crown Prince Nayef: For an anti-US and anti-Zionist pact on regional issues. Moslehi boasted that after seizing top US secret drone technology by a successful cyber attack, Iran was unquestionably the top regional power. The Iranians pushed hard for a partnership with the Saudis on such issues as oil, Iraqi, Syria, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Yemen, on most of which Tehran and Riyadh are in direct collision. The Saudis moved fast to take the ayatollahs down a peg or two.

December 15, 2011 Briefs
• A three-round mortar volley from Gaza explodes in the Eshkol district Thursday.
• Panetta arrives in Baghdad for Casing Stars and Stripes ceremony in Baghdad marking end of US Iraq war. From the 2003 invasion, the war claimed 4,487 American lives, with 32,226 wounded in action.
• Syrian troops stormed Hama, kill at least 10 people, to break "strike of dignity" staged by opposition. Outside city army deserters ambushed military jeep convoy killed eight soldiers.
• In testimony to Congress, US diplomat Fred Hof, expert on Syria, calls Bashar Assad "dead man walking".
• Netanyahu vetoes definition of rioting West Bank settler youths as "terrorists". Orders these suspected "lawbreakers and anarchists" placed under administrative detention, tried by military courts.
• Israeli authorities demolish two illegal structures at Mitzpe Yitzhar northeast of Ramallah.
• Iran is to put on display four Israeli and three American unmanned drones claimed in its possession. The most advanced is the US RQ-170 Sentinel downed Dec. 4.
• Israel publishes names of 550 jailed Palestinians to be released Sunday in Stage 2 of prisoner swap for Gilead Shalit.
• US Congress enacts partial freeze on Pakistan aid, harsh new sanctions on Iran aimed at cutting off its central bank from global financial system.

Iran transfers all its nuclear plant underground

15 Dec. Iran says all its nuclear facilities, including uranium enrichment centrifuges, are now underground and safe from US and Israeli attack. Israeli Defense Minister Barak has warned that once underground, Iran's nuclear infrastructure could no longer be attacked and no one would know when a start was made on a nuclear weapon. debkafile: Iran has obtained from North Korea the special metals for advanced uranium enrichment up to weapons grade – contrary to Western claims that their short supply had stalled enrichment.
debkafile's intelligence sources report Iranian statement referred to the third-generation, faster IR2 and IR4 centrifuges moved to the underground nuclear city at Fordo near Qom to start enriching the 20-percent grade uranium Iran has accumulated to 60 percent, a step before weapons grade.
This accumulated stock is sufficient for four or five nuclear bombs.

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