A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending July 14, 2011

July 8, 2011 Briefs
• Erdogan backtracks on normalizing ties with Israel. Israel must first apologize for 9 deaths on Turkish vessel last year, compensate victims and end Gaza blockade.
• Barack replies: Israel acted legally according to UN report. Responsibility for deaths rests with Turkey and IHH.
• Syrian security forces kill 15 protesters in Hama Friday as quarter of a million turned out under slogan: No to dialogue with Assad!
• Qaddafi again threatens to send hundreds of Libyans as "martyrs" to Europe.

July 9 2011 Briefs
• US within reach of strategically defeating al Qaeda, Defense Secretary Panetta. Most of 20 remaining leaders are in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, North Africa, he said on way to Afghanistan.
• Iran says it test-fired missiles to the Indian Ocean for the first time earlier this year. Tehran also claims it can hit US aircraft carriers.
• Syrian security forces kill 16 protesters demonstrating in several towns Friday.

July 10, 2011 Briefs
• An Israeli woman killed, 14 injured, two seriously in Israeli tourist minibus accident in Georgia 200 km west of Tbilisi.
• Israeli cabinet approves exclusive economic zone in Mediterranean that includes Tamar and Leviathan oil wells. The maps and coordinates will be submitted to the UN. It is based on partition treaty last year between Israel and Cyprus and challenged by Lebanon.
• Israel air force strikes N. Gaza tunnel Sunday after Palestinians fired 3 Qassams overnight.
• Syrian FM summons US, French ambassadors to explain Hama visits to protesters.
• Assad government opens two-day "dialogue with opposition leaders". Organizers of anti government protests boycott the event.

Murdoch's News of the World and Israel's media tycoons

10 July. The News of the World hacking scandal hanging over Rupert Murdoch's global empire and British Prime minister David Cameron could conceivably erupt in Israel where tycoons with large media holdings also aspire to determine who rules the country. Tabloid methods are just as dodgy in Israel, but the difference lies in the influence the British media has over the voter thanks to their high professional standards which attract huge audiences.
In Israel, local and foreign billionaires have successfully wielded the media against government decisions and persons more than once, but they miss influencing the voter. In every general election in the last two decades, the average Israeli voter has turned against the op-ed views of the mainstream newspapers and TV news channels.
Israeli newspaper and news broadcasts' audiences are shrinking because they offer too little competently-produced news and are swamped with over-aggressive advertizing.

July 11, 2011 Briefs
• French call for talks with Muammar Qaddafi causes dismay in NATO.
• Defense minister Gerard Lonquet said it was time the rebels talked to the Libyan ruler.
• Armored Syrian forces storm third-largest Syrian city of Homs, killing at least two, injuring 20.
• Cyprus news agency reports at least 10 killed in massive explosion at southern Evangelos Florakis military base early Monday. debkafile: The blast hit a munitions dump storing thousands of rockets and shells confiscated in 2009 from the Iranian Francop bound for Hizballah. The blast cut off power for most of the island.
• US will take unilateral action to deal with Iran-armed Shiite militias threatening US troops in Iraq. Leon Panetta made this pledge Monday on first visit to Iraq as defense secretary.
• June saw 14 US service deaths, July three, for which Washington holds pro-Iranian Shiite militias responsible.

Clinton: The US has no interest in Assad staying in power

11 July. Monday, July 11, after a pro-Assad mob invaded the US embassy in Damascus, a personal attack on Syrian President Bashar Assad was heard in Washington for the first time. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Assad "is not indispensible and we have absolutely nothing invested in him remaining in power."
Assad's hooligans rampaged through the building, damaged equipment, raised the Syrian flag and smeared offensive graffiti on the walls. Syrian security officers stood by and did nothing.
debkafile's intelligence sources reported that the ambassador, a small number of personnel on duty and the US Marines guarding the building took shelter in a fortified wing of the building behind concrete walls and steel doors equipped with supplies to sustain them for a week against a siege. They used a special video link to stay in touch with the situation room of the State Department in Washington. .
Five years ago, the American embassy in Damascus itself was attacked for the first time. On Sept. 13, 2006, al Qaeda detonated a bomb car outside the building as a gang of armed men tried to break in. Then, they failed to gain entry. This Monday was the first time a large number of intruders has ever managed to storm an American embassy and ambassadorial residential compound in the Middle East.

Gaza blockade in reverse: Hamas fortifies Egyptian border against Libyan infiltrators

11 July. Hamas complains about the Israeli and Egyptian blockades. However, bizarrely, while continuing its own smuggling operations underground, illicitly importing munitions, rockets and explosives for terrorist use, on the surface, Hamas is putting in place a rampart for blockading its own border with Egyptian Sinai, debkafile reports. They are concerned by the spillover of post-revolutionary chaos from Egypt and Sinai and the new influx of fighters and smugglers from Libya. The Libyans and al Qaeda-linked Sinai Bedouin have gone into the smuggling tunnel business on their own account and are causing mayhem.
Hamas blames the unwelcome Libyans, housed by the "Army of Islam" (Al Qaeda affiliates) in the Gaza Strip and provided with shelter and food in the refugee camps around Gaza City, for the resurgence of rocket fire into Israel in violation of the informal ceasefire agreed with Israel four months ago.
A Palestinian work force is working overtime to throw up a fortified earthworks barrier 10-12 meters high and 14 kilometers long, running from the Rafah crossing up to the Mediterranean 50 meters inside Gaza territory.

July 12, 2011 Briefs
• Obama says US ready to support Libya negotiations provided Qaddafi steps aside.
• French FM Juppe denies direct talks with Qaddafi government but admits contacts and urges early government-rebel negotiations.
• Masked saboteurs blow up Egyptian gas pipe to Israel and Jordan in Sinai for fourth time in six months, second time in a week. The blast occurred near El Arish early Tuesday.
• French PM Fillon says pro-Assad loyalists attacks on French and US embassies make it increasingly difficult for Syrian ruler to stay in power.
• String of US drone attacks Tuesday kills 30 in North and South Waziristan terrorist strongholds.
• Middle East quartet will reconvene to break impasse on Israeli-Palestinian talks.
• Cyprus' navy commander Andreas Ionnides was among 12 killed when 90 containers of explosives and weapons exploded at military base Sunday. The illegal cargo was seized in 2009 from an Iranian ship bound for Syria.
• Cypriot defense minister and military chief resign as island struggles against extensive blackouts caused by destruction of main power station.

Afghan President's half-brother's assassination attests to superior Taliban capabilities

12 July. Tuesday July 12, the day French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrived in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai's half-brother, Kandahar strongman Ahmad Wali, was shot dead by a bodyguard. This was no coincidence, debkafile's sources note: It was Taliban's way of again refuting as unreal the accounts of the situation in Afghanistan presented by US, British and French leaders and parading its penetration of NATO and Afghan government's top counsels.
Four insurgent terrorist attacks in the two weeks since June 28 had these objectives.
One was the attack on the Kabul Intercontinental shortly before a top-secret high-level security conference. A US helicopter had to be called in to end their siege. The day before British Prime Minister David Cameron arrived in Afghanistan, a British soldier was abducted from his base in Helmund province and murdered. And the day Leon Panetta paid his first unannounced visit to Afghanistan as defense secretary, one of the bodyguards of a high-ranking deputy of Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security opened fire on a group of US military advisers and killed two of them.

July 13, 2001 Briefs
• Palestinian killed in clash with IDF force in Al Fara camp NW of Nablus on West Bank. Force attacked with firebomb on arrival to arrest Jihad Islami suspect.
• A fourth Qassam fired from Gaza in 12 hour Wednesday without causing damage.
• Israeli air force overnight targeted two Palestinian munitions workshops in N. Gaza after first two missiles were aimed at Shear Hanegev.
• First Israeli homeland drill in evacuating population in war emergency starts Wednesday in Herzliya, Kfar Shmaryahu north of Tel Aviv.

US, French envoys to visit more anti-Assad protest hubs. First attack on Syrian oil infrastructure

13 July. After Hama, US and French ambassadors to Damascus Robert Ford and Eric Chevalier will Friday, July 15, try to reach the eastern Syrian oil town of Deir al-Zour on the Iraqi border to meet opposition leaders, although debkafile's reports government forces are poised to stop them. The town is also a Sunni tribal and Kurdish center.
In a key policy shift, US President Obama Tuesday questioned Bashar Assad's legitimacy. And another first: A bomb blast damaged East Syrian gas pipelines.
Friday, July 15, the half a million dwellers of Deir al-Zour plan their fifth consecutive weekly anti-Assad rally, braving the two 9th Division tank brigades and commando units besieging the city and using live ammunition against them. If the ambassadors gain entry to this town, they will also make for another flashpoint Euphrates Valley city, the much smaller Abu Kemal (100,000).

July 14, 2011 Briefs
• A suicide bomber killed four people in a Kandahar mosque holding memorial service for Afghan president's assassinated half-brother.
• Two more Qassam missiles fired from Gaza Thursday – three in all. Aimed at Ashkelon and Shear Hanegev they exploded harmlessly.
• Israeli air force in action over Gaza Wednesday night after three more missiles rounds struck two tunnels.

The Libyan War is over. Obama makes Moscow peace broker. NATO halts strikes

14 July. Bar the shouting, the Libyan war virtually ended Thursday morning, July 14, when US President Barack Obama called Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to hand Moscow the lead in peace negotiations for Muammar Qaddafi to step down and make way for a transitional administration. He thereby accepted the Russian-Libyan peace formula over NATO's heads. Instead of standing in the dock in The Hague, Qaddafi and his sons will take their seats in talks for Libya's next regime, having waited out NATO's operation to unseat him.
By the time Obama called Medvedev, the individual governments which had spearheaded the anti-Qaddafi campaign were quietly melting away. From Saturday, July 9, NATO air strikes against Tripoli and government targets were discontinued; Italy withdrew its warplanes last week; France urged negotiations to start and the British defense secretary admitted his ground corps, naval and air forces do not have the means to continue the war.

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