A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending Feb. 21, 2008

Gunmen attack Gaza City YMCA, destroy its library


15 Feb. In the latest attack on Christians in Gaza, 14 masked men tied up the security guards of the YMCA in Gaza City before dawn Friday, Feb. 15, blew up the library burning thousands of books, stole a computer and placed another bomb which did not explode. The Gaza center contains a school, a sports club and hall for weddings. The Gaza Strip has a tiny Christian community of 3,500 mostly Greek Orthodox members. Al Qaeda vandals are suspected of this and previous attacks on Christian targets.


Syria vows to hit Israel for Imad Mughniyeh’s killing in Damascus, accuses Israel of repeated encroachments


15 Feb. debkafile‘s military sources report: Israeli land, sea, air and homeland defense units were ordered to prepare to defend the country’s northern borders against attacks by Hizballah, including rocket strikes, and Syria. Reinforcements were rushed to the north.

Western sources note the absence from the funeral of the Hizballah commander Imad Mughniyeh Thursday of Hizballah’s entire command echelon and the Revolutionary Guards officers serving at Iran’s Beirut embassy. They were assumed to have gone to ground to plan their offensive against Israel. Hassan Nasrallah’s threats -‘If Israel wants open war, so be it”- were broadcast by video.

debkafile‘s intelligence sources note that the way Iran’s foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki stood at the funeral between Hizballah’s Dep. Sec. Gen Naim Qassem and the slain terrorist’s father and accepted condolences, confirmed Mughniyeh’s high-value role in Tehran’s foreign terror system.


Iran and Israel Tense up for Possible Military Clash over Mughniyeh’s Death


16 Feb. Tehran is bent on avenging the death of its top terror tactician Imad Mughniyeh who was struck down by a bomb planted in his car in Damascus Tuesday, Feb. 13. A high-ranking Iranian military investigation team, headed by Gen. Ghassem Soleiman, chief of the IRGC’s al Qods Brigades, began a rush job the next day.

Some of the theories and rumors swirling around these probes were planted to muddy the waters by Iran, Syria, Hizballah, Israel and some Lebanese quarters.

An intriguing conspiracy theory was suggested by the veteran CNN correspondent Jim Clancy. In his view, Mughniyeh, the consummate master of deception, may still be alive. Others took the theory further and suggested his death may have been fabricated to provide Iran, Syria and Hizballah with a strong casus belli to attack Israel without further delay, and so repeat the Arabs’ Yom Kippur success 35 years ago in catching Israel unawares.

The national team directing Israel’s emergency actions was set up without publicity. Our sources disclose it is headed by the Mossad chief Meir Dagan and composed of prime minister Ehud Olmert, defense minister Ehud Barak, chief of staff Gaby Ashkenazi, and Shin Beit director Yuval Diskin.


Saudi Arabia advises citizens not to go to Lebanon


18 Feb. The foreign ministry in Riyadh warns citizens to stay clear of Lebanon in view of the “unstable political and security circumstances there right now.”

Riyadh backs the pro-Western government of Lebanon which is challenged by the pro-Syrian opposition led by Hizballah amid increasing street clashes in recent days. The Saudis accuse Syria of the deadlock which has left Lebanon without a president since November.


Damascus Frames Its Lebanese Antagonists for Mughniyeh Killing


18 Feb: Bashar Assad’s strategists are not losing a moment to cash in on the conspiracy theories surrounding the death, to plant one of its own: Mughniyeh, they say, was killedl by their Lebanese enemies.

Therefore, it is feared in Washington and Jerusalem that, while plotting revenge on Israel, Hizballah, backed by the Syrian commando units, will launch attacks on Lebanese national intelligence and Druze targets. By stirring up a new civil, they would open the door for a Syrian comeback.

debkafile outlines the case Syria has begun putting together to incriminate its Lebanese enemies:

1. A large Mossad spy-cum-terror ring was allegedly uncovered in Damascus and Beirut. Its mission was to keep tabs on Syrian commanders, Hizballah heads and Palestinian leaders before liquidating them.

2. The ring comprised Lebanese members as well as collaborators from a key Arab intelligence body, possibly Saudi or Jordanian.

3. Syria claims to have found evidence that two Lebanese intelligence agencies are involved in the Mossad ring.

One is the research branch of the Lebanese General Security Service, whose director, Capt. Wissam Eid, was murdered in a car bomb attack in Beirut on Jan. 25.

Damascus’ success in immobilizing this service would not only deprive the Fouad government of its primary security shield, but bring the investigation into the three-year old assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister to a halt – just when the international tribunal is preparing to start work in the Netherlands.


Palestinian missile attacks from Gaza more doubled in 2008


19 Feb. debkafile: Homeland Front commander Maj. Gen. Yair Golan reported to a Knesset panel Feb.19 that 400 Qassam missiles were fired at Israeli civilian locations bordering on the Gaza Strip in the first six weeks of 2008.

This brings the monthly rate of fire to roughly 265 – more than double that of the last two years. If this rate is sustained, Sderot and its environs will be assaulted by more than 2,500 Palestinian missiles by the end of this year, compared a total of 1,500 missiles in 2006 and 1,150 in 2007.

Golan presented the partial missile-shelter plan the ministerial committee had just approved for the targeted locations: a total of 3.180 fortified areas at a cost of app. $100 m, of which 2,080 will be installed in Sderot homes, only one-third of those under threat.

Sderot protesters again accused the government of systematic negligence in face of their long ordeal under missile fire.


Israeli Air Force integrates home-made miniaturized, long-distance AWACs


19 Feb. debkafile‘s military sources report: The Israeli Air Force’s 122 Nachshon special missions squadron has taken delivery of the “Eitam” – a modified Gulfstream G-550 executive jet, fitted with the newest Israeli airborne early warning instrument (AEW & C) developed by Israel’s Elta Systems.

Crammed onto the new, extra-small Eitam platform is a long-range intelligence, target tracking and operational control system that can produce aerial pictures deep inside enemy territory, while warning attack formations of approaching threats.

Its electronic support measures (ESM) and communications equipment in support of AEW & C enable the Israeli Air Force’s intelligence and electronic warfare arms to operate hundreds of kilometers inside enemy territory. Eitam can cover Syria, without leaving Israeli air space and target Iran from a great distance.


Ahmadinejad’s unbridled attack on Israel may augur military aggression


20 Feb. debkafile‘s military sources report that the increasingly belligerent statements from top Iranian leaders since the death of Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus earlier this month are seen as betokening serious intent.

President Ahmadinejad said Wed. Feb. 20: “World powers have created a black and dirty microbe named the Zionist regime and unleashed it like a savage animal on the nations of the region.” He was addressing a rally in the southern city of Bandar Abbas, site of the Revolutionary Guards’ command center and main bases. His speech was broadcast in full by state television.

Sunday, Gen. Hassan Firouz-Abadi, commander-in-chief of all Iran’s armed forces, said: “Many millions across the world will soon receive the joyous news of the Zionist entity’s destruction.”‘

debkafile‘s sources report that in Washington and Jerusalem, these unbridled speeches are taken as an orchestrated stratagem to raise Middle East temperatures up to the climax of an Iranian attack on Israel.

With regard to death of Mughniyeh, Ahmedinejad said: “They assassinate pure and pious people [sic] and then they celebrate it…”


Palestinians and the Kosovo Pipe Dream


20 Feb. The proposal senior Palestinian negotiator Yasser Abed Rabbo put forward Wed Feb. 20 to copy the Kosovo example if Israel continued to mark time in talks for a Palestinian state was quickly knocked down by his colleagues, but eyed with interest by Israel.

debkafile‘s Middle East sources commented: Nothing has stopped the Palestinians from going ahead and declaring the West Bank independent, any more than Hamas was prevented from governing the Gaza Strip.

Israel might even profit from this step:

1. It would put a stop to the tedious biweekly charade of “peace negotiations” between and Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

2. It would be up to the Palestinian military to fight the terrorists and take the burden off Israel’s back – except that debkafile‘s military sources report that the Palestinian Authority can barely deploy 400 trained military men after years of huge investment and effort by the US.

3. The Palestinians would finally have to stand on their own feet and start looking after their own citizens, spending the billions of dollars donated by the international community to start creating jobs, build roads and infrastructure, provide proper education and medical services and construct industries. This they have never been prevented from doing.

But the huge donations they receive are diverted to two destinations.

One, into the pockets of Palestinian Authority and Fatah leaders.

Two, into the war chests of Palestinian terrorist organizations.

Abd Rabbo’s colleagues therefore lost no time in disowning his Kosovo vision in case it was accepted, while some Israelis commented: Let them create another Kosovo; let’s see how long they manage to survive on their own.


Israel expects another whitewash job on Iran from UN nuclear watchdog


21 Feb. Israel’s UN ambassador Danny Gillerman says Israel is losing patience with the wishy-washy reports delivered by Mohammed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, on Iran’s nuclear work.

Wednesday, Feb. 20, Mohammad Mohaddessin,of the exiled Iranian National Council of Resistance, claimed Iran had accelerated its nuclear weapons program. He told a news conference in Brussels that Tehran had established its first command and control center to work on a nuclear bomb and was setting up a center to produce warheads southeast of the capital.

debkafile: The council’s previous allegations of Iran’s covert nuclear activities, including the Natanz site, have proved reliable.

Addressing the watchdog agency, the exiled Iranian activist advised action against Iran now, for tomorrow would be too late.

Ahead of the ElBaradei report, whose release is expected Friday, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said his government would ignore calls by major powers to halt its nuclear work.

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