A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending June 3, 2010

May 28, 2010 Briefs
• At least 70 killed, hundreds injured by Taliban gunmen who stormed two large mosques in Lahore, Pakistan during Friday worship. They subjected hundreds of trapped worshippers, members of the minority Ahmadiyeh sect to hours of systematic shooting and grenade attacks.
• London Times: Hizballah runs weapons from secret depots in Syria. Satellite images showed a Hizballah-run compound near Adra, NE of Damascus.
• A Qassam missile caused damage in Shaar Hanegev region Thursday night.
• A US soldier killed in south Afghanistan Thursday was the 1,000th to die in the 10-year conflict.

May 29, 2010 Briefs
• Palestinians in Gaza keep up attacks on Ashkelon for fifth day. Two Qassam missiles exploded outside town Saturday night, a third fell short on border fence.
• Netanyahu verifies information that Hizballah is housing its Scud missiles in a Syrian base.
• Israel will not cooperate with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty conference's motion.

Egyptian forces battle Sinai Bedouin jihadist smugglers

29 May: For four days, Egyptian special forces have been fighting Bedouin tribesmen in rugged central Sinai in an effort to shut down the arms-cum-fighter smuggling highway they run for al Qaeda and the Palestinian Hamas, debkafile's counter-terror sources report. The al Qaeda-led tribesmen are battling Egyptian APCs, artillery and helicopters with heavy machine guns and RPGs in battles so fierce that the Egyptians retired to El Arish Saturday, May 29, to recuperate, restock on ammo and collected reinforcements for the next round.
The tribesmen have developed a lucrative trade as Al Qaeda's main clandestine pipeline for moving weapons and fighters out of the Red Sea countries of Somalia, Yemen and Saudi Arabia and over to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. The Bedouin also run a regular supply line of arms and goods to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip through the Sinai tunnels.
Of late, the Bedouin have expanded their service to running fighters and weapons into the Gaza Strip to bolster Al Qaeda-affiliates.

May 30, 2010 Briefs
• Israeli naval vessel broadcasts warning to Gaza-bound pro-Palestinian flotilla 120 miles from the coast. Captain advised to stay clear of Israel's 20-nautical mile blockade zone around Gaza. He was told he would be held responsible for the consequences if he failed to heed warning.
• Like Israel, India again refuses to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty calling it "discriminatory".
• Gen. McChrystal, NATO commander in Afghanistan finds clear evidence that Iran provides Taliban with weaponry and training.

Israel condemns nuclear conference resolution

30 May: Israel will not implement the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Review conference resolution due to its "flawed, hypocritical and distorted nature," according to a government statement. Earlier, President Barack Obama deplored Israel's mention in the resolution, which called for a Middle East nuclear-free conference in two years. "We strongly oppose efforts to single out Israel," said Obama, "and US delegation leader NSA James Jones said this placed the 2012 conference prospects in doubt and called Iran the greatest nuclear proliferation threat in the region.
Iran which is racing to develop nuclear weapons and threatens to wipe Israel off the map was not even mentioned in the resolution, said the Israeli statement.
After the Obama administration voted for the motion despite its mention of Israel – the first US government to do so in 15 years – Jerusalem is likely to hold out for guarantees that Washington will thwart future steps against its security interests. Jerusalem has made preservation of its security the sine qua non for progress in peace diplomacy.

Iranian Guards general assassinated in Damascus

30 May: The death of Khalil Sultan, a high-ranking general of the IRGC's al Qods external terror branch, at his home in the exclusive Damascus district of Al Mezzeh Sunday, May 16 is now revealed to have been assassination by an unknown hand. Syrian and Iranian government circles are deeply shocked. Working under deep cover, Khalil ran Iranian Revolutionary Guards' covert operations in Damascus and Beirut, including hits against anti-Iranian elements.
The authorities in Damascus said at the time that the general, whom they described as a rich Syrian businessman, sales agent for the Iranian Kordo automobile manufacturers, was killed in the course of a robbery. But the gang which burst into his luxury villa and gunned him down removed documents and laptops but not valuables.
The victim was close to the al Qods Brigades chief Gen. Qassem Suleimeni, and also al friend of the Iranian general who recently defected to the West, whom they name as Gen. Reza Baba Hossein.
Sultan's duties and diverse connections suggest three different parties may have wanted him dead.

May 31, 2010
• Demonstrators tried to storm Israeli consulate in Istanbul.
• Arab-Israeli protesters against flotilla incident at Umm al-Fahm northeast of Tel Aviv pelt police with rocks and firebombs. Arabs from Jerusalem's Issawiyeh tried to storm Hadassah, Mt. Scopus hospital after cutting fence. A thousand demonstrators in Nazareth.
• Mortar shell from Gaza exploded outside Sderot Monday night.
• Israeli PM Netanyahu cuts short N. American visit and return home. His White House talks with President Obama postponed.
• Netanyahu: Obama promised Israel guarantees strengthening our security and deterrent capabilities.
• Barak regretted loss of life but held pro-Hamas flotilla activists wholly responsible.
• The embargo-busting flotilla was initiated by Turkish PM and aid society associated with Hamas. Israel says there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, the boats are a pro-Hamas political provocation to delegitimize the Jewish state.
• Chief of staff Ashkenazi said Turkish vessel passengers were exceptionally violent. Israeli commandos shot back only when their lives were at risk and anti-riot measures failed.
• Ankara recalls its ambassador from Tel Aviv, calls for emergency UN Assembly session.
• Israel's Counter Terror Bureau warns Israelis to avoid traveling to Turkey.

Why was Israeli raider force unprepared for violent resistance?

31 May: More questions than answers came from the IDF video shots of the violent reception for the Israeli naval commandos who raided a Turkish ship bound for Gaza early Monday, May 31.
Prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, who cancelled his trip to the United States and is flying straight home from Canada, will have to fill in the gaps.
Israel's chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi, and Navy commander, Maj. Gen. Eliezer Marom, reported that a fierce clash developed aboard the ship as the soldiers dropped on deck from helicopters and were mobbed by passengers wielding firebombs, stun grenades, broken glass, slingshot, iron bars, axes and knives. The soldiers nonetheless performed their mission of preventing the flotilla from docking in Gaza Port and diverting it to Ashdod – but at what cost?
The Border Police would have handled themselves better against the activists' arsenal of and with far less risk of loss of life.
The operation's planners seriously underestimating this resistance and sendt the men in armed only with paintball guns and Glock pistols, with orders to shoot only if their lives were at risk. They opened fire after half a dozen of their number were badly hurt.
The entire episode bespeaks faulty intelligence on what was going on aboard the six vessels bound for Gaza, although they were tracked with daily live broadcasts and were easy to visit.
And another question: The IDF is famous for its innovative electronic warfare capabilities. So why were the signals and images coming from the convoy not jammed as promised and allowed to reach world TV screens hours before the authorities responsible for Israeli information woke up?

June 1, 2010 Briefs
• Two Palestinian terrorists killed in battle after crossing Gaza border to attack Israel civilians. They were intercepted opposite Kibbutz Nirim Tuesday morning. Civilians in surrounding villages took shelter during firefight.
• UN Security Council calls for prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation of the flotilla incident. SC condemns acts causing loss of civilian lives, requests immediate release of ships and civilians held by Israel.
• Al Qaeda reports its No. 3 in Afghanistan Mustafa Abu al-Yazid was killed in US drone attack in Pakistan's tribal areas. Egyptian-born terrorist was believed main conduit to Osama Bin Laden.

June 1, 2010 Briefs
• Egypt temporarily lifts its side of the Gaza blockade to allow aid to enter through Rafah. Action taken to fend off pressure at Arab League meeting on Israel's flotilla raid Tuesday.
• Mossad chief Dagan: Iran runs into many technical hitches in nuclear program, lags behind desired timeline.
• Netanyahu: Flotilla Incident was international provocation by supporters of Iran and its terrorist enclave Hamas.
• Israeli Air Force hit Popular Committees' three-man missile team Tuesday afternoon after killing two who crossed the Gaza border to attack Israeli civilians. Later Palestinians fired a rocket-propelled grenade at an Israel border patrol.

Mossad chief: Obama's perceived softness weakens Israel

1 June: In a rare public expression of concern, Meir Dagan, head of Israel's Mossad external security service, warned Tuesday, June 1, that the progressive decline of American strength over the past decade and the perception of the Obama administration as "soft on military options for solving disputes" have cut deep into Israel's military and diplomatic room for manoeuver and made it fair game for its enemies.
Dagan's uncharacteristic bluntness was a measure of the anxiety gripping Israel's security leaders over the slump in US-Israel relations.
He warned Jerusalem and Jewish leaders not to be taken in by Obama's smiles and understand that he has not given up on an imposed peace solution or radically amended his attitude toward Israel. He is in the process of turning Israel from an American asset to a liability – a process that could lead to extreme situations.

More boats head for Gaza as Israel vows to stop them

1 June: With two more vessels due to continue the challenge to Israel's Gaza blockade, Israel's deputy defence minister Mattan Vilnai stressed the commando raid on the pro-Palestinian flotilla succeeded bravely in its mission – although the loss of life was regrettable. Mistakes were made but the IDF would learn from them and defend the blockade in other ways, he said.
He dismissed rising demands at home for the defence minister Ehud Barak to step down. The images of Israeli elite commandos beaten with iron bars – one was thrown off the top deck – infuriated Israelis.
Vilnai admitted: We underestimated the murderous intentions of the activists aboard the Turkish Marmora vessel and the force of international reaction to televised shots of a brutal situation – real battles never look good on television. In that sense, the Turkish-led international expedition achieved its aim.
Veteran naval officers were especially caustic about the handling of the operation and want the defense minister to be held accountable for sending the naval commandos of the elite Shayetet 6 unit into a clearly violent confrontation without adequate means of defense because he was afraid of international disapproval.

June 2, 2010 Briefs
• Visiting Czech Senate President P?emysl Sobotka calls for more balanced Europeans expressions on flotilla incident. Europeans are not saying what they think, that it was a provocation and that Hamas are terrorists.
• Taliban suicide bombers, gunmen break up big tribal meeting in Kabul to prepare peace conference. Karzai who called the conference flees the scene of carnage.
• Israeli diplomatic families evacuated from Turkey. Diplomats remain in Ankara and Istanbul.
• Ahmadinejad threatens Israel with destruction for any action anywhere.
• Nicaragua severs relations with Israel over the flotilla incident.
• The 20-year old charter line to Anatalia resorts discontinued as Israeli tourism to Turkey dries up.
• Dublin threatens to expel Mossad embassy official over Hamas killing in Dubai – as Irish vessel Rachel Corrie stands by to challenge Israel's Gaza blockade. The Irish PM has warned Israel not to harm the Irish-flagged vessel.

Turkey, Israel near clash. Israel flies embassy families out

2 June: debkafile reports: Acting to stop the flotilla crisis from spinning out of control, US president Barack Obama asked Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu to release all the remaining passengers without delay, to which he acceded. In Ankara, Obama's request for restraint fell on deaf ears. The Turkish prime minister Recep Erdogan said if America did not punish Israel, Turkey would. Israel then began evacuating diplomats' families and preparing for Ankara's next steps.
Erdogan's accusations are negated by his consorting with terrorists, including an al Qaeda offshoot, to harrass Israel in support of the Palestinian Hamas. Passengers told how the Turkish Marmara had been commandeered by terrorists supported by the Ankara government who had been rounded up for the expedition by the Turkish Insani Yardim Vakfi- IHH, which is listed by the American CIA as an al Qaeda-linked Islamist terrorist organization with bases in Turkey, Bosnia and Bulgaria.
Israel intelligence agencies have questions to answer, principally, how they missed this terrorist presence aboard the Turkish ship.

Rachel Corrie stops over in Turkey before heading for Gaza

2 June: Five planes flew out of Israel Wednesday night, June 2, carrying hundreds of foreign passengers and nine bodies from the Turkish-led flotilla raided by Israeli commandos raided and prevented from breaking the Gaza blockade two days ago. The next day they were given mass-attendance state funerals as martyrs. After surrendering to Turkey's ultimatum to release all the passengers, including the seven members of Islamist terrorist groups who assaulted the Israeli boarding party, debkafile reports the Netanyahu government faced a fresh ultimatum from Ankara: Lift the Gaza blockade now.

June 3, 2010 Briefs
• Netanyahu: Foreign ships will not be allowed to reach Gaza. The Rachel Corrie will be stopped if it tries to break through the blockade.
• Police break up stormy protest against PM Erdogan outside Turkish embassy in Tel Aviv.
• Four Qassam missiles fired from Gaza Thursday night caused no harm.
• Turkey gives nine pro-Hamas activists killed in clashes with Israeli raiders aboard the Marmara a state funeral as martyrs.
• Biden: Maybe Israel should be more flexible but it has the right know what arms Hamas is smuggling in to Gaza. So what's the big deal about the blockade? Netanyahu tells foreign correspondents that lifting the blockade would lead to an Iranian port in Gaza – a threat to Israel and Europe.
• Israel tries diplomacy with Turkey, Ireland, to stop Rachel Corrie heading for Gaza.
• Iran's central bank reduces crude oil sales in euros, switches to dollars, starts converting euro reserves to US currency.
• Former French investigating judge Bruguiere confirms Turkish IHH had longstanding ties to terrorism networks including a 1999 al Qaeda plot to bomb LA airport. State Dept. spokesman: "We know IHH reps met senior Hamas officials in Turkey, Syria and Gaza in past three years. This is of great concern to us".

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