A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending July 30, 2009

Al Qaeda aimed for massacre of pro-US target at Gaza wedding


24 July: The al Qaeda cell newly installed in the Gaza Strip, which calls itself Jaljalat, regards the Palestinian Fatah as a pro-American stooge. It therefore sent three assailants on a shooting-grenade rampage against a wedding celebration of kinsmen of the Fatah strongman Mohammad Dahlan at the southern town of Khan Younes Tuesday, July 23, debkafile's counter-terror sources report. Of the 61 celebrants injured, 10 are in critical condition.

It was the biggest operation al Qaeda has perpetrated against Palestinians, ironically employing one of Fatah's favorite terrorist tactics against Israelis.

Hamas knows who the three wedding assailants were but is afraid their arrest will spark bloody reprisals – and not only in Gaza. Jaljalat has aired its agenda as topped by “very large-scale attacks” on US and American targets in the Middle East. Fatah control in parts of Khan Younes and the Dahlan clan are deemed such targets.

The Israeli military southern command is watching Jaljalat carefully in light of its threat to execute cross-border attacks inside Israel.


July 25 Briefs


·        Tehran will strike Israel's nuclear facilities if Tel Aviv attacks Iran – Rev. Guards chief Jafari.

·        Hizballah chief threatens Tel Aviv with missile strike – “when Israel attacks Lebanon in the middle of next year.”

·        Six Taliban suicide attackers and gunmen shot dead in attack on E. Afghanistan town of Khost.

·        At least 7 killed, 22 wounded by car bomb outside Sunni Arab party in Iraqi town of Falujjah.


Obama backs off Mid East peace plan and confrontation with Israel


25 July: A flock of US presidential emissaries descends on Israel this week. Defense secretary Robert Gates leads the way followed by national security adviser James Jones and presidential adviser Dennis Ross. Special Middle East envoy George Mitchell is first stopping off in Damascus Saturday, July 25

The visitors to Israel will be accompanied by a large party of CIA and military high-ups.

Our sources report that Obama began reassessing his Middle East initiatives last month. To complete this turnabout, he is awaiting a response from prime minister Netanyahu, who is drawing much criticism in Washington for failing to respond.

Obama has watered down his demand for a total freeze on settlement construction and is willing to countenance expansion for accommodating natural growth. However, here too, the Israeli government is accused of holding back the figures and refusing to specify whether it covers 400 or 4,000 building starts.


July 26 Briefs


·        Egyptian prosecutor charges 26 suspects of spying for Lebanese Shiite Hizballah and plotting terrorists attacks with Gaza's Hamas. Two are Lebanese, 5 Palestinians, one Sudanese.

·        US envoy Mitchell meets defense minister Barak Sunday after talks with Assad on new peace push.

·        Gates to spend six hours in talks with Israel leaders Tuesday – mainly on Iranian nuclear threat.

·        NSA James Jones holds talks with Netanyahu Wednesday.

·        Netanyahu: US visits reflect strong, broad friendship, but there are differences which we are trying to bridge.


Gates visit to Israel marks US decision to turn military heat on Iran


26 July: debkafile's military and Washington sources report that President Barack Obama is getting set for some military arm-twisting against Iran spearheaded by Israel. This was to be the main subject of defense secretary Robert Gates talks in Israel Tuesday, July 28 and was presaged by a strong message secretary of state Hillary Clinton broadcast to Tehran Sunday, July 28, over NBC: “… if you're pursuing nuclear weapons for the purpose of intimidating, or projecting your power, we are not going to let that happen,” she said. “Your pursuit is futile.”

In an earlier statement she said the US would extend a “defense umbrella” over the Arab Gulf nations against an Iranian nuclear weapon.

Military and verbal pressure against Iran – though not direct military action – is one component of Obama's new Middle East approach; a second focuses on pulling Syria and its president Bashar Assad away from their tight bonds with Tehran. This goal brought Obama's Middle East envoy George Mitchell to Damascus for the second time this month Sunday, July 26.

The passage earlier this month of Israeli nuclear-capable submarines escorted by missile boats through between the Mediterranean and Red Seas through the Suez Canal was a mark of US-Israeli cooperation in the pursuit of Washington's tough new posture for deterring Iran's nuclear drive

Before traveling to Israel, Mitchell stated Barack Obama was “determined to facilitate a truly comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace” that includes the Palestinians, Syria and Lebanon and normal relations with the nations of the region.


Hamas obliges all Gazan women to wear headscarves


26 July: The Palestinian Islamist Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip have enacted a new law obliging all women to cover their hair with the Muslim hijab. Sunday, July 26, “modesty patrols” were out on the streets and beaches of the Gaza Strip enforcing the new edict. They also inspected cars to ascertain that unmarried couples were not alone together. Female attorneys were earlier ordered to wear dresses in court. The Gaza Strip's slide into sharia law emphasizes its separation from the West Bank where secular modes are tolerated, further distancing the extremist Hamas from Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah which rules the West Bank.

It coincides with a British parliamentary group's advice to Gordon Brown's government to seek ways of engaging Hamas “moderates.”


July 28 Briefs


·        Two British soldiers killed in blasts in Helmand, southern Afghanistan, bringing July total to 22. Hours earlier, London halted five-week Helmand offensive. Three N. Nigerian provinces under emergency after two-day Islamist assault on police, government offices leaves more than 150 dead.

·        Seven charged in North Carolina with plotting violent jihad attacks outside US including Israel and Jordan.

·        Gates on unannounced visit to Iraq, holds talks with PM Maliki and defense minister. He stops over in Irbil to try and bridge Kurdish-government disagreements.

·        Obama sends letters to seven Arab leaders seeking backing on Middle East peacemaking.


Lebanese army on the ready for “any Israeli action”


28 July: debkafile's military sources report new tensions on the Lebanese Israeli border Tuesday, July 28.

The Lebanese army has placed troops on alert and sent armored forces to the border region to meet any “Israeli action.” Earlier, Israeli's chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazy denied seeing “war clouds in the north.” He added that the IDF was keeping watch on the situation.

The army chief was responding to Lebanese media reports of Israeli military movements in the border region, including four Chariot tanks claimed to have moved out of their position in the highlands of Arqoub (Mt. Dov) toward the Kfarshouba military observation post.


July 29 Briefs


·        US NSA Jones confers with Israeli army chief Ashkenazi Wednesday, then sums up visit at meeting with Netanyahu.

·        Israel permits first deliveries of cement and building materials to Gaza Strip since anti-Hamas offensive. Included are metal piping such as used by Hamas for making Qassam missiles. The UN gave Israel guarantees they will not serve Hamas' military uses.

·        Gates ends Iraq visit: US forces may speed up withdrawal ahead of late 2011 date.

·        Two of five remaining British hostages abducted in Iraq in 2007 reported to have died.


US-Israeli talks focus on possible Ahmadinejad's ouster


29 July: How to exploit the deep cracks in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's administration for removing the Iranian president was a top item on the agenda of the high-level talks between Barack Obama's advisers and Israeli officials at Mossad headquarters in Herzliya, north of Tel Aviv, Wednesday, July 29.

The US team was led by National Security Adviser James Jones, and heads of the administration's Iranian desks, Dennis Ross, special adviser to president Barack Obama, and Undersecretary of State William Burns.

Israel was represented by intelligence minister Dan Meridor, Mossad chief Meir Dagan, military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin and National Security Council chief Uzi Arad.

Until now, the Obama administration opposed direct action against Ahmadinejad in view of the intelligence estimates that Khamenei and Ahmadinejad were a viable front still worth engaging in nuclear dialogue.

But in the last three days, fresh reports have come out of Tehran indicating that Ahmadinejad's cabinet is falling apart. The Herzliya conference therefore switched its agenda to discuss a final push.

The Iranian president's last champions, the Revolutionary Guards, tried to create a diversion by ordering Hizballah to raise Lebanese-Israeli border tensions.


Abbas' chosen successor Maher Ghneim vows to “liberate every grain of Palestine”


29 July: debkafile disclosed exclusively Monday, July 27, that Abbas wants to crown the Tunis-based PLO veteran advocate of armed resistance to Israel, 71-year old Maher Abu Ghneim, as his second-in-command and successor as Fatah leader – if he manages to stage the Fatah general conference next Tuesday, Aug. 4 in Bethlehem. The new arrival vowed on his arrival at Allenby Bridge Wednesday, July 29, “to continue the struggle until every grain of Palestinian land is liberated under the Palestinian flag.”

debkafile: This pledge is represents the substance of Clause 7 of the rival Hamas charter.

Binyamin Netanyahu was nevertheless persuaded to grant Ghneim permission to enter the West Bank by US envoy George Mitchell who carried a message from Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak stressing the importance of buttressing Mahmoud Abbas' position.


Police break up Tehran mourning ceremony for protest victims


30 July: Thursday, July 30, riot police beat up mourners gathered at Tehran's Behesht-e Zanra cemetery to honor the protesters killed by Revolutionary Guards and Basijj thugs when they rose up against the fraudulent June 12 presidential election. Police bundled opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi into his car as he approached the grave of Neda Agha Soltan, the student who bled to death on camera at a protest rally.. Witnesses report several injured in the clashes.

Popular anger against the regime has been further stoked by the official claim that only 20 people died in the street rallies and by the abuses suffered by the hundreds of jailed detainees. Ceremonies marking the 40th day of a death are an Islamic tradition, but opposition leaders have been encouraged by the declining power of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to push harder in the hope of bringing him down.

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