A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending May 1, 2008

Israel Air Force Chief: Iran is a serious threat. We should trust only ourselves


25 April: Maj. Gen. Eliezer Shkedy told CBS’s 60 Minutes that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s threats are very serious for Israel, but more than this, to the whole world.

He said it reminds him of the Holocaust. “We should remember. We cannot forget. We should trust only ourselves.”

Gen. Shkedy likened ignoring Ahmadinejad today to the atmosphere that enabled the Holocaust yesterday. “In those days, people didn’t believe Hitler was serious about what he said. I suggest we do not repeat this way of thinking and… prepare ourselves for everything.”

Veterans of the 1981 Israeli mission, which destroyed Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor, said: “Israelis hope they won’t have to undertake such a mission today, but a bombing mission to Iran… is a different thing.

Zeev Raz, commander of that mission, compared the situations: “We had one point to destroy. They have many points, many of them deep under the mountains… underground and it’s a much more complicated problem than in 1981. I hope it will be solved another way.”

Raz commented: “The only thing worse than the Israeli air force having to do it is Iran having a nuclear bomb.”

Col. Ziv Levy, an air force base commander said: “We spend a lot of time and a lot of effort in training and being prepared for the worst. We cannot lose a single war. The first war we lose, Israel will cease to exist.”


Closest aide of Hamas hard-line Khaled Meshaal dies in suspicious accident


25 April: debkafile‘s counter-terror sources report that Hisham Faiz Abu Libda, Khaled Meshaal’s chef de bureau, was killed in Damascus by a hit-and-run car. Syrian authorities ordered a blackout on the incident. His was the second mysterious death of a high-profile terrorist in the Syrian capital in recent weeks after Hizballah’s military chief Imad Mughniyeh was blown up in a high-security district on Feb. 13.

Our sources note that Abu Labda’s death the day after the Syria’s North Korean nuclear reactor and its destruction by Israeli raiders were exposed in Washington, will serve as a warning to Damascus. It is Bashar Assad’s second reminder that his undercover agencies are seriously penetrated.

Abu Libda organized Meshaal’s contacts with Hamas operations chiefs in Gaza and other places and his regular meetings with Syrian and Iranian officials.


Assad’s one half-truth and three lies to al Watan


27 April: In an interview Sunday, April 27with the Qatari daily al Watan, Syrian president Bashar Assad said: We don’t want a nuclear bomb, even if Iran acquires one.” debkafile‘s military sources say that was only half true.

He omitted to mention the division of labor agreed between Damascus and Tehran in a potential war against Israel: The Syrian reactor Israel destroyed last September would produce “dirty weapons,” while Iran would go for a nuclear bomb.

Assad’s first outright lie was his insistence that future Middle East wars would be conventional. debkafile‘s sources point out that Syria and Iran are supplying the Lebanese Hizballah with surface missiles capable of carrying chemical warheads. Syria’s own air defenses are composed of Scud C and D missiles able to deliver chemical and biological weapons.

His second lie was that the site Israel raided last year was no nuclear site but a military facility under construction.

Assad’s third lie was the real point of the interview, when he said “no Arab hand” took part in the slaying of Imad Mughniyeh after burying the Syrian inquiry’s findings which found Saudi involvement. The interview aimed more at placating Riyadh than highlighting the Syrian ruler’s issues with Israel.


Kabul Shambles Makes Sorry Spectacle for US, NATO


28 April: Some serious stock-taking in the Afghan capital and US-led NATO command followed the Taliban’s success in breaking up the Afghan army parade in Kabul Sunday, April 27. As a 21-gun salute boomed, half a dozen Taliban fighters opened up with anti-tank RPGs, mortars, heavy machine guns and Kalashnikov rifles. The dignitaries were hustled to safety, each by his personal bodyguards.

Not a single military or political figure stayed on the platform to take command of the chaos, curb the stampede and organize an effective counter-attack to let parade go on.

The low casualty rate indicates that the Taliban attack was limited and could have been checked.

Another inescapable conclusion drawn by debkafile‘s military sources is that the Taliban attack must have had confederates among the Afghan military and security organizers of the parade. Otherwise, they could not have positioned themselves in a building 500 yards from the platform.


Roadblock removal north of Nablus bares central Israel to revived West Bank terror menace


28 April: Military authorities told debkafile Monday, April 28, that the removal of the permanent roadblock at Asariya a-Shemaliya north of the West Bank town of Nablus lays the entire area including central Israel open to terrorist attacks which that very roadblock had long been a key element in frustrating.

The decision was taken by defense minister Ehud Barak in line with his promise to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to ease Palestinian traffic on the West Bank by reducing the number of roadblocks..

Worried anti-terror planners predict:

1. The roadblock’s removal enables a link-up between the terrorist strongholds of Jenin and Nablus and helps them strengthen their networks in both.

2. The sleeper cells of armed Palestinian factions between Nablus and Tulkarm will now have unimpeded access to weapons, explosives, reinforcements and an exchange of intelligence for their reactivation.

3. They will have a clear path to Trans-Israel Highway 6 and the Israeli heartland cities of Netanya, Kfar Saba, Rosh Ha’ayin and Hadera.

One military source said to debkafile: “The countdown has begun for the next suicide attack in Israel.”


IDF: Palestinian mother and four children killed by exploding Palestinian charges


29 April: Prime minister Ehud Olmert opened the cabinet session Tuesday, April 29, with regrets for the deaths of 4 Palestinian children and their mother in Bet Hanoun Monday., He also regretted the Palestinian missiles hurting Israeli children and, most of all, the Palestinians custom of mounting attacks out of populated areas.

Contrary to Palestinian claims, the mother and her four children died when bags of explosives carried by Palestinian gunmen past their house were detonated in an Israeli air strike before they were launched against Israeli troops.

The troops had entered the Gaza side of the Erez crossing early Mon. April 28 for an operation to keep armed infiltrators, missile-launchers and snipers away from the border fence. The operation ended Monday night, after two Israeli soldiers were slightly hurt.

Hamas retaliated by blasting Sderot, Ashkelon, Netav Ha’asara in the north and Kerem Shalom in the south with at least 11 missiles and mortar fire.


Gates: Second US carrier deployed to Gulf is “reminder” to Tehran


30 April: US defense secretary Robert Gates said April 29 that the arrival of the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Gulf should be seen as a reminder of US military power in the region. As debkafile and DEBKA-Net-Weekly have reported in the last ten days, the US rhetoric against Iran has hardened, underscored by the carrier’s arrival and additional US military steps, although so far the Tehran government is not backing off.

Friday, April 25, Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters in Washington that the Pentagon is planning for “potential military courses of action” against Iran. He spoke of rising concern about the Tehran government’s “increasingly lethal and malign influence” in Iraq.

A conflict with Iran would be “extremely stressing” he said, but not impossible and “it would be a mistake to think that we are out of combat capability.” The admiral stressed the reserve capabilities of the Navy and Air Force.


Damascus co-opted to Hamas-Cairo talks on Gaza truce


30 April: debkafile‘s Middle East sources report: The dozen Palestinian radical factions, led by Hamas, which are negotiating terms in Cairo, want to bring Syria into any ceasefire deal as co-sponsor with Egypt.

The Syrian complication has drawn even more vehement denials of direct talks with Hamas from prime minister Ehud Olmert and defense minister Ehud Barak. Israel has suggested that Egypt arrange for Israel and Hamas to coordinate reciprocal pauses in hostilities on a pre-agreed date and time without any formal announcement. But this will not work either, because Israel cannot meet Hamas demands to re-open all the Gaza crossings and end its blockade, any more than Egypt will make the Rafah crossing to Sinai fully operational and unsupervised.

Hamas leaders have said bluntly that any pause would be “tactical” to permit its “fighters to recuperate” for the next round of war against Israel. This is the most Israel can expect.


Olmert fends off ministerial revolt against Gaza truce with Hamas


30 April: debkafile reports that prime minister Ehud Olmert was faced with pressing demands at the defense and foreign affairs cabinet session Wednesday, April 30, to explain why Israel is accepting a truce in negotiation with Hamas instead of knocking out its missile capabilities.

Already, in the first four months of 2008, Hamas and allied Palestinian organizations in Gaza have fired 900 missiles against Israeli civilian locations, compared with 1,100 in the whole of 2007.

Some of the ministers, led by Avi Dichter, internal security, angrily accused Olmert of carrying on clandestine ceasefire negotiations with Hamas through Egypt, granting the terrorist fundamentalists legitimacy. Four months, he said, the cabinet had been kept waiting for the military to produce a plan of action against Hamas’ offensive.

This week, Qassam missiles have been exploding in Israel at the rate of between 10 and 18 Qassam per day.


Mofaz: Israel will not accept a nuclear-armed Iran. All means of prevention are legitimate


1 May: The Israeli transport minister Shaul Mofaz, speaking at Yale University on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, warned Iran may attain command of enrichment technology before the end of this year. He said: “Israel will not stand for a nuclear-armed Iran. This time, the Jewish people won’t let it happen. For prevention, all means are legitimate.”

Israelis stood in silence as sirens wailed for two minutes in remembrance of the victims of Nazi World War II genocide, two-thirds of Europe’s nine million Jews. Cafes and places of entertainment were closed and TV and radio broadcast special programs.

In Sderot, memorial ceremonies took place in a new, fortified social center under relentless Palestinian missile fire from Gaza – nine by midday.

In Poland, Israel’s chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi led the March of Life from the gates of the former Auschwitz concentration camp to Birkenau.

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