A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending March 17, 2011

Two Palestinians stab to death five members of Israeli family at Itamar

11 March. At least two Palestinians armed with knives stabbed the mother, father and three of their children, aged, 11, three and a baby of a month in their sleep at Itamar, south of Nablus early Saturday. Two small children were unhurt. Their sister aged 12 found them when she returned home at 12:30 and called for help. Hamas Websites hailed the murder as a "heroic operation," without taking responsibility.
The terrorists had broken through the electronic fence guarding the settlement without setting off an alarm.
Military and police units fanned out to hunt the perpetrators and set up checkpoints.
debkafile's counter-terror sources report: There were no terror alerts prior to the attack although Hamas networks had been known to be regrouping in Judea and Samaria for the purpose of attacking and kidnapping Israelis on both sides of the Green Line. Several Palestinians were recently detained at the few remaining West Bank checkpoints carrying pipe bombs, knives and fire bombs. Nonetheless the military did not recommend putting any of the checkpoints back even though the Palestinian Authority's security services had slowed down their counter-terror cooperation with Israel, therefore failing to keep their side of the bargain for the removal of the checkpoints.

Five Israelis murdered by Palestinians at Itamar were Gaza evacuees

12 March. The five members of the Israeli family stabbed to death at Itamar on the West Bank, Friday night, March 11, have been identified as Udi Vogel, 38, the father; his wife Ruth Vogel, 35, their sons Yoav , 11 and Elad, 3 and their four-month old daughter Hadas. The three children who survived are Roi, 8, Yishai, 2 and their sister Tamar, aged 12, who found the victims when she arrived home later that night.
The family moved to Itamar after Jewish communities were forcibly evicted from the Gaza Strip in 2007 as part of the Sharon government's disengagement plan.
They were murdered in the first operation of a master plan drawn up at a secret radical Muslim Brotherhood summit funded by Tehran in Khartoum last week attended by the Palestinian Hamas, which was instr;ucted to launch multi-casualty terrorist assaults on Israelis on both sides of the Green Line in order to ignite the third Palestinian uprising (intifada).

March 13, 2011 Briefs
• Israel approves 500 new housing units for four West Bank settlement blocs in response to Itamar murders. Construction approvals delayed for months in forlorn hope of Palestinian consent to talks.
• Israeli government denounces hate Israel propaganda disseminated by Palestinian Authority.
• Libyan state TV: Oil town of Brega "cleansed of armed gangs" Sunday.
• Tens of thousands demonstrate in central Beirut in support of Hariri tribunal, against Hizballah armament.

Syria supplies Qaddafi with arms. Exodus begins from Benghazi

13 March. As Washington commended the Arab League for approving a proposed no-fly zone over Libya and European powers drew up plans for saving the anti-Qaddafi movement from defeat, Syria began sending Muammar Qaddafi supplies of arms, ammunition and weapons spare parts to sustain his effort to crush the uprising.
In the last 24 hours, rebel militias were pushed out of the two key oil towns of Ras Lanuf and Brega in eastern Libya by pro-Qaddafi troops landed by sea. debkafile's military and intelligence sources report that over the weekend a Libyan army general arrived at the Syrian Naval command at Tartous to establish a liaison office for organizing military hardware supplies from Damascus to the Libyan army and arrange shipping schedules.
Our sources report that another Libyan official was in Damascus early last week to negotiate with Syrian President Bashar Assad the types of weaponry required, prices and transport arrangements. After he left, Assad ordered Syrian emergency military stores to be opened and civilian freighters chartered to carry the consignments they had decided on across the Mediterranean to Libya.
The Syrian and Libyan arsenals are fairly compatible: both are dominated by Russian military products, Mig and Sukhoi fighters and bombers, T-72 tanks, BM-21 rocket launchers, the same armored personnel carriers and anti-air and anti-tank missiles.

Israeli navy intercepts ship carrying arms offloaded by Iranian warships at Latakia

15 March: The Israeli Navy's elite Shayetet 13 commandos intercepted the German-owned AS Victoria Tuesday, March 15 about 320 kilometers off Israel's Mediterranean coast on its way from the Turkish port of Mersin to Egyptian El Arish with Alexandria its final destination.
The Liberian-flagged vessel was carrying 50 tons of weapons offloaded in Latakia by the two Iranian warships which transited the Suez Canal February 22. Although the US and Israeli navies did not stop the Iranian Alvand missile destroyer and Kharg logistical cruiser from transiting the canal last month, they kept the Iranian ships' movements under close surveillance and registered the offloading of their cargoes at Latakia, whence they were collected by the A.S. Victoria.
debkafile's sources are not sure whether the shipment was destined for Hamas or the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. In either case, Israel judged it essential to cut this link in Iran's latest arms smuggling route.

Two Saudi brigades of 3,500 troops plus tank battalion in Bahrain

15 March. The Saudi force that went into Bahrain Monday, March 14, along with UAE and Kuwaiti units, to stabilize the royal regime is larger than reported, consisting of a National Guard brigade, a mechanized brigade of the Saudi army and a tank battalion – altogether 3,500 men.
Until recently close American allies, the two Gulf rulers flouted President Obama's policy of supporting popular uprisings, encouraged by Qaddafi gaining the upper hand against Libya's rebels and Washington's constraints against military intervention.
Official spokesmen in Riyadh said the units were put up by the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council to guard Bahrain's oil facilities and the financial district of downtown Manama. They quickly took up positions on the island-kingdom's main roads and traffic hubs including the routes to the King Fahd Causeway link to Saudi Arabia.
Saudi King Abdullah and Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa are no longer listening to advice from Washington to go easy on the protesters and introduce reforms. The Obama administration for its part has made known its concern about Saudi action to buttress the Bahraini throne.

March 16, 2011 Briefs
• Hamas claims 2 operatives killed in Israeli air bombardment of training camps in northern and central Gaza Wednesday.
• Syrian police violently disperse 500 protesters outside Interior Ministry in Damascus.
• Bahrain TV reports three police officers, three protesters killed in clashes Wednesday.
• Manama stock market closed until further notice as Bahraini forces launch offensive on protesters.
• Egypt restores gas supply to Israel only in token quantities to escape pressure for full restoration.
• Pakistani court acquits US CIA contractor Raymond Davis of murder after families of two men he was accused of shooting accepted "blood money".

Tehran warns of dangerous consequences for Saudi intervention in Bahrain

16 March. The contest between Iran and Saudi Arabia and the Sunni-Shiite split in the Arab world were ramped up Wednesday March 16 by the crackdown Bahraini security forces launched with tanks and helicopters to drive the mostly Shiite protesters off the main square and key points of the island-state while Saudi troops guarded strategic points.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi warned: “The unexpected interference of foreign forces in popular uprisings in different countries, including Bahrain will have dangerous consequences."
To prevent the demonstrators regrouping, the authorities, empowered by the three-month emergency declared Tuesday, March 15, imposed a curfew from late afternoon until early morning, banned all street gatherings and warned violators would be shot.
The security crackdown was preceded by the entry of Saudi, UAE and Kuwait military contingents into the island-kingdom Monday, March 14. Local units could disperse the demonstrators and leave Saudi troops to secure strategic compounds.
debkafile's Gulf sources reported Wednesday from circles close to the throne that Saudi King Abdullah was utterly resolved to crush the Shiite revolt in neighboring Bahrain which he sees as a threat to the integrity of his own kingdom – even at the cost of a showdown with Iran.

March 17, 2011 Briefs
• Israeli imposes closure on West Bank from Thursday night until after Purim festival Tuesday.
• UN Security Council approved no-fly zone at 2200 hours GMT.
debkafile: Five air forces set to strike Qaddafi's forces when resolution carried.
• Tripoli vows retaliation against Europe and Middle East if attacked. He warns rebels in Benghazi there will be no mercy. Qaddafi's forces earlier set temporary ceasefire for Sunday to let rebels surrender.
• US. Sen. John McCain: Obama's military inaction against Qaddafi is "disgraceful".

Five air forces set to attack Libya. Qaddafi threatens reprisals in Europe and the ME

17 March: Shortly before the UN Security Council met Thursday, March 17, to discuss a no-fly zone resolution for Libya, Moscow promised Washington and other Western capitals not to apply a veto, debkafile's sources report exclusively. The US, British, French, UAE and Qatar air forces were on standby to attack Libyan army targets as soon as the resolution is passed. If attacked, Libya threatens retaliation against civilian and military targets in Europe and the Middle East said a statement Thursday night from the Defense Ministry in Tripoli.
In Tunis, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explained that a UN no-fly zone over Libya "would require the bombing of targets to take out the threat posed by Muammar Qaddafi's regime."
She spoke after Cairo rejected Washington's request for the use of Egyptian air bases to enforce the no fly zone against Libya and from which to launch US air attacks on Qaddafi's army. The point of this action would be less to preserve rebel control of Benghazi and more to keep Qaddafi from proclaiming his victory over the opposition to his rule and its foreign champions.
The US fleet present off the Libyan coast includes the nuclear attack submarine USS Providence.

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