A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending Jan 14, 2010

January 8, 2010 Briefs

  • Israel says its latest offer for Gilead Shalit's freedom is final.
  • Palestinians shoot 13 mortar rounds and missiles into Israel in three days.
  • Iranian opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi escapes harm from gunfire on his armored car.
  • Egypt deports British pro-Palestinian MP George Galloway after he led clashes against Egyptian troops over aid convoy for Gaza. Declared persona non grata, he was put on a flight to London.

Gaza Palestinian infighting triggers missile barrage on Israel

8 Jan. debkafile's military sources report that a bitter feud within the Popular Committees, climaxing in a failed attempt to murder the group's leader Zakaria Doghmush, triggered the mortar volleys against the Kerem Shalom goods crossing and missile attack on Ashkelon Thursday, Jan. 8.
It also marks weakened Hamas control. Israel retaliated Thursday night with air strikes on three smuggling tunnels in southern Gaza, another snaking under the Israeli border and a missile foundry.
The attempt on the clan leader's life, which the Popular Committees and Hamas kept dark, was staged last Monday. A taxi driver pulled in at Doghmush's headquarters in the Sabra district of Gaza City insisting to his bodyguards that the large package he was carrying was for personal delivery to their boss. It went through without being examined and exploded thereupon. Doghmush was out of the room in those seconds and survived.
Doghmush is credited with opening the Gaza door to al Qaeda four years ago and sharing in the 2006 operation to kidnap the Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit.

Taliban-Pakistan claims Khost suicide bomber was one of its own

9 Jan. A video clip released to al Jazeera Saturday, Jan. 10, shows double agent Hammam Khalil al Balawi, the suicide bomber who killed eight people at a base in Khost, Afghanistan on Dec. 30, saying before the attack: "We will never forget the blood of our Emir Baitullah Mehsud" (the Pakistan Taliban leader killed by a US drone in South Waziristan in August last year.)
The Jordanian suicide killer is shown shortly before his attack sitting beside Mehsud's brother and successor, Hakimullah, while referring to "Hamza Abdul Mutalleb," the Nigerian who failed to blow a US airliner out of the sky on Christmas day, as a fellow martyr.
These references, debkafile's counter-terror sources note, clash with the accounts given by president Barack Obama and US intelligence chiefs, which linked both attacks and their perpetrators directly to al Qaeda. Balawi's success in duping the CIA and Taliban allegiance places a question mark over the Obama administration's entire Afghanistan surge policy and its declared objectives.

Two more arrested in ongoing NYC terror investigation

9 Jan. Two men, 25-year-old Adis Medunjanin and 24-year-old Zarein Ahmedzay, were arrested Friday, Jan. 8, in connection with an ongoing inquiry into a bomb plot against New York City's mass transit system. They are suspected of being accomplices of Naijubullah Zazi, who was charged on this count a year ago in Colorado. The suspects, the son of an Afghan-born taxi driver and a Bosnian immigrant, travelled to Pakistan in 2008.
Friday too, the Nigerian, Umar Abdulmutallab, flanked by two American lawyers, told a federal court he was not guilty of trying to blow up the Northwest Airlines jet on Christmas Day. Earlier this week, a grand jury indicted him on six charges. The most serious, attempted murder and the attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, carry life sentences. None cited terror or al Qaeda. Abdulmutallab is quoted as boasting that 20 young Muslims were trained in Yemen to blow up airliners. "There are many more just like me," he said.

Planned new Israel-Egyptian border fence will tighten Gaza siege

10 Jan. Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu approved Sunday, Jan. 10, the construction of a security barrier along the Israeli-Egyptian border. The NIS.1.5 billion (app. $50 million) structure will be fitted with radar, cameras and sensors for spotting approaching terrorists from the Gaza Strip and Sinai as well as criminal elements, smugglers and job-seekers when they are still on the Egyptian side of the barrier.
debkafile's Middle East and military sources report that Washington and Cairoprevailed upon Israel to build this fence to complement the iron wall and water barrier Egypt is constructing along the Philadelphi route dividing the Gaza Strip from Sinai. Together, they will restrict the movements of Hamas and al Qaeda's Sinai-Gaza cells and prevent them opening up their next war front against Israel and the West, as well as blocking the path of Hamas operatives from the Gaza Strip into the West Bank via Sinai and the Israeli Negev.
Meanwhile, Hamas is giving fellow Palestinian terrorists free rein to shoot missiles and mortar shells into Israel – more than 20 firings in a week.

January 11, 2010 Briefs

  • Six NATO solders killed in Afghanistan Monday – 3 Americans a Frenchman and two whose nationalities have not been released.
  • Defense minister Barak: Israel will take action to stop rising Gaza attacks this time too. Hamas advised to think twice now "before shedding crocodile tears over consequences."
  • Israeli Jerusalem district judge terms to two life sentences plus 40 years the Palestinian terrorist who murdered two Jerusalem policemen, Rami Zouari and David Shriki.
  • Sunday night, an Israeli air force assault killed three Palestinians poised inGaza to shoot a missile.
  • An 8,000-year old Neolithic period building was discovered in 100-year old Tel Aviv. Archeologist Ayelet Dayan said the area was thought to be unsettled before its foundation.

Petraeus: Iran's nuclear infrastructure can be bombed

11 Jan. The six-month deployment in the Middle East of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower carrier strike group in the first week of January adds muscle to the words of Gen. David Petraeus, CENTCOM commander, on Jan 10 that Iranian nuclear infrastructure, albeit strengthened against attack with enhanced underground tunnels, "certainly can be bombed." He added: "The level of effect would vary with who it is that carries it out, what ordnance they have and what capability they can bring to bear."
This judgment contradicts recent US media estimates that Iran's nuclear facilities buried deep in fortified tunnels are now protected against air or missile strikes.
Declining to comment on the likelihood of an Israeli strike, Gen. Petraeus said there was still time for diplomacy, but pointed out: "It would be almost literally irresponsible if Centcom were not to have been thinking about 'what ifs' and making plans for a whole variety of different contingencies."
The USS Eisenhower, which carries eight air squadrons on its decks, was the first carrier President Barack Obama has deployed to the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean in view of the rising tensions around Yemen and Iran. Its deployment ties in with Obama's statement this week that no US combat troops would be sent to Somalia and Yemen.

Covert war on Iran's nuclear program reaches into Tehran

12 Jan. debkafile: The covert war against Iran's nuclear program struck deep inside the Islamic Republic with the death Tuesday, Jan. 12 of nuclear physicist professor Masoud Ali-Mohammadi, 50, by a remote-controlled exploding motorbike as he left his Tehran home. He was a senior professor at TehranUniversity which debkafile's Iranian sources say is an important hub for experiments related to the development of nuclear weapons.
State-run Press TV described him as a "staunch supporter" of Iran's 1979 revolution.
Before launching their investigation, Iranian spokesmen lay the incident at the door of the Israel Mossad or the Paris-based Mujaheddin Khalq dissidents, whichTehran believes is a sponsored by the CIA and the Mossad.
Iranian authorities see Mohammadi's death as ramping up the Western effort to recruit, intimidate or liquidate the brains behind Iran's nuclear progress and a warning. Last year two nuclear scientists apparently managed to defect to the US: Shahram Amiri went missing while on a pilgrimage Saudi Arabia and a man known as "Ardebili" was allegedly arrested in Georgia.

January 13, 2010 Briefs

  • Iran knew Israel, US planned "terrorist acts" in Iran days ago, said parliament speaker.
  • Larijani said a pro-monarchy group which claimed responsibility for killing nuclear scientist was controlled by the CIA.
  • Jerusalem district court sentences radical Israeli Muslim leader Saed Salah to nine months jail for spitting at a police officer and unruly conduct.
  • Baghdad shut down second day Tuesday after 4-10 suicide car bombers were headed off from attacking government buildings. Raids turned up large explosives-mortar caches, led to 25 arrests.
  • At least seven killed by suicide bomber at Saqlawiya police station west ofBaghdad.
  • Biological warfare drill takes place in Tel Aviv.
  • Miep Gies, the Dutch woman who helped hide Ann Frank and family from the Nazis and retrieved her diary, has died aged 100.

Israel bends to Turkish ultimatum, Ankara prepares next anti-Israel move

13 Jan. Israel-Turkish relations reached another low Wednesday, Jan. 13, when Jerusalem was forced to send a letter of apology to Ankara Wednesday, Jan. 13, by Turkey's president Abdullah Gul's threat to recall the Turkish ambassador from Jerusalem. Turkish prime minister Tayyep Recip Erdogan, buoyed up by is power to force Jerusalem to bend, is reported by debkafile's sources to be planning to intensify his campaign against the Jewish state, also targeting Egypt's Hosni Mubarak for a share in the ignominy and playing to the radical galleries in Tehran, Damascus, Gaza and Beirut.
The apology related to a foolish maneuver by deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon for putting Ankara in its place by seating the Turkish ambassador on a sofa lower than his Israel hosts and calling TV cameras to witness his humiliation.Ankara hit the ceiling. But when, instead of firing Ayalon, prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu forced him to write an abject letter of apology, the rest of the Middle East took note of Jerusalem's weakness and susceptibility to outside pressure.
Erdogan is pressing forward with a plan to break the blockade of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip by enlisting Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and South African president Jacob Zuma to personally lead ship-borne aid delegations Gaza.

January 14, 2010 Briefs

  • Pakistan confirms Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsed escaped US drone attack which killed 10 people Thursday. He was targeted at NW Pakistan Taliban base as handler of Jordanian who killed seven CIA agents inAfghanistan last month.
  • Israel is sending a first party of 40 doctors, 24 nurses, 20 paramedics toHaiti with a field hospital equipped with operating theaters, intensive care and X-ray facilities and a pharmacy. Israel's Zaka sent an advance team early Thursday with Mexican aid group.

Israeli embassy staff escapes unhurt from bomb blasts in Jordan

14 Jan. An Israeli embassy convoy was driving from Amman to the AllenbyBridge crossing Thursday, Jan. 14, when two roadside bombs exploded on the Jordanian road approaching the crossing. None of the four passengers and two security guards was hurt. Ambassador Daniel Nevo had stayed back in Amman.
debkafile reports that Israeli embassy staffers in Amman usually go home for the weekend. Al Qaeda or Hamas spotters appear to have discovered the convoy's regular route to the international crossing.
They were able to plant the bombs accordingly because of a serious lapse in Jordanian counter-terror security.
Amman has been on high terror alert since the Jordanian triple agent Hamam Khalil al-Balawi succeeded in murdering seven CIA agents and a Jordanian intelligence officer at a remote base in Afghanistan on Dec. 30. That episode exposed theHashemite Kingdom's close partnership with US intelligence in combating Islamist terror. Amman was braced for reprisals but did not count on the first one being directed against an Israeli target.

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