A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending May 15, 2008

Preliminary court hearing of US witness allowed after he claims fears for his safety


 


9 May: The Jerusalem district court Friday, May 9, approved the prosecution’s application to allow the US financier Morris Talansky, 75, from Long Island, to testify in a pre-trial hearing to handing large sums of cash to prime minister Ehud Olmert.


The court decided to open the session to the public. Talansky told the police who questioned him that he is afraid Olmert will “send people to hurt him.”


State prosecutor Moshe Lador told the court it was inconceivable that the prime minister, who is under investigation on suspicion of accepting bribes over a long period, would try to influence the witness or alter his testimony. But because Talansky, who has known Olmert through close ties over a long period, might change his mind, it was advisable to depose him quickly.


Olmert’s attorneys have appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court which will hear it next Monday, May 19.


 


Lebanese PM opens door to surrender. Army grants two key Hizballah demands


 


10 May: After four days of fierce fighting, the Lebanese army revoked two government measures in obedience to Hizballah demands: the Shiite group’s independent telecommunication network will not be shut down and the pro-Hizballah Brig. Gen Wafiq Shqeir will keep his job as Beirut international airport head of security.


In a broadcast speech, Saturday, May 10, the pro-Western prime minister Fouad Siniora asked the army to defuse the crisis after Hizballah seized control of western Beirut.


(On August 9, 2007, debkafile first revealed that Iranian military engineers were installing a secret underground telecommunications system to support Hizballah’s missile unit. The network runs through south Beirut, the Beqaa Valley’s Yohmor region near the Syrian border – where Hizballah and the Palestinian Popular Front-GC keep their training facilities – and connect the southern towns of Tyre on the Mediterranean with Abassieh, seat of Hizballah’s southern headquarters.


For the ten months during which this military telecommunications network was being installed, the Beirut government did not dare touch it.


 


Iran-backed Hizballah offensive closes in on Israeli border


 


10 May: debkafile‘s military sources report: Hizballah’s advance on two key Lebanese locations Saturday, May 10 had immediate effect on effect on the strategic balance between the Iran-backed Shiite group and Israel.


One is Sidon in the south, Lebanon’s second largest city. The second is located on the northern slopes of the Hermon range. After Hizballah seizes control of this enclave and the Syrian 10th and 14th armored divisions step over the border into Lebanon, the two forces can join to form a strong military line opposite Israel near the Litani River.


Our military sources report that the vanguard of the 10th Division has already moved across to the Lebanese side of the border.


Yet Israel’s prime minister is too busy with the political fallout of the bribery case against him to lift a finger to arrest Lebanon’s decline to a Tehran satellite before it is too late – any more than Hamas is stopped from developing into a major military menace.


 


Shiite Hizballah advances on Sunni strongholds across Lebanon


 


10 May: debkafile‘s military sources: After seizing control of Sunni West Beirut and besieging the seat of the pro-Western government, Hizballah fighters Saturday, April 10, turned their guns on Sunni Muslim centers in the rest of Lebanon.


Our sources report Iran’s proxy Shiite terrorists, commanding a 45,000-strong army, are bent on breaking up and disarming Lebanon’s Sunni militias, especially that of the majority leader of the Future Movement, the anti Syrian Saad Hariri.


Then they aim to establish a united Muslim bloc dominated by Tehran and Damascus for confronting and then routing the pro-Western, pro-Israeli Christian camp, the traditional key to power in Lebanon.


The pro-Western prime minister Fouad Siniora is trapped by a Hizballah-Amal siege force in his Beirut office, taking supportive calls from Western leaders who denounce Hizballah's Iranian and Syrian backers. None have offered tangible assistance for holding out against the Hizballah onslaught.


 


Hizballah received 35 new Iranian speedboats shortly before Beirut offensive


 


May 11: debkafile‘s military sources report that three weeks before Hizballah seized western Beirut, the Shiite terrorist group took delivery from Iran of 35 fast speedboats for use with explosives. The craft can threaten US Sixth Fleet and Israel Navy shipping close to Lebanese shores, reach Israel’s Haifa and Ashdod Mediterranean ports and raid its coastal oil installations.


The speedboats were tailor-made for Hizballah by Iranian Revolutionary Guards shipyards at Bandar Abbas. They are the only marine terror fleet in Mediterranean waters. Our military sources report the boats are capable of carrying chemical, biological and radiological weapons systems.


 


Gaza missile against Moshav Yesha kills Shuli Katz, 70, from Kibbutz Bar-Am


 


12 May: Shuli Katz, 70, mother of four, grandmother of five, from Kibbutz Bar-Am, was on a family visit to Moshav Yesha south of Ofakim. She was killed instantly as she stepped out of a car by an exploding Qassam missile fired from Gaza. Jihad Islami claimed the second Israeli fatality of Palestinian attacks in four days.


Jimmy Kedoshim from Kibbutz Kfar Azza died after being struck by a Palestinian mortar last Friday, May 9. Over the weekend, more than 22 missiles were fired from Gaza. Early Monday, May 12, two Katyusha rockets from Gaza exploded in southern Ashkelon. One just missed a school, leaving several children in shock and damaging buildings. An alert sent town-dwellers diving for shelter.


 


Israel‘s diplomatic positions eroded by PM Olmert’s police probe


 


May 11: debkafile‘s Middle East sources report the police investigations hanging over prime minister Olmert’s head are beginning to undermine his government’s ability to engage in Middle East diplomacy. Most political circles have begun the countdown to his political demise in the short term.


Olmert is tied up in long conferences with his lawyers on his legal strategy in the grave allegations against him of accepting large sums of money from an American financier.


In his present state, the prime minister’s strength to assert his authority in this or any other Middle East diplomatic issue is gravely diminished. As a result, Syria has hardened its positions and retracted its peace feelers to Israel


 


Lebanese army will let Hizballah fight pro-government forces to the finish


 


13 May: debkafile‘s military sources report: After six days of fighting between government loyalists and Hizballah leave close to a 100 dead and 200 wounded, Hizballah has a strategic interest in crushing the Druze militias of the anti-Syrian pro-government Walid Jumblatt, which control the Chouf mountains east of Beirut. Over and above this goal, debkafile‘s military sources stress that, after capturing most of Beirut last Saturday, Hizballah has focused on isolating and disarming the Sunni supporters of the Siniora government.


 


Israel encourages Egyptian Hamas ceasefire effort against military advice


 


13 May: Egyptian intelligence minister Gen. Omar Suleiman Monday, May 12, presented the truce plan he negotiated with Hamas leaders in Cairo to Israel’s prime minister Ehud Olmert.


debkafile‘s sources report he essentially accepted the offer with some caveats and sent the Egyptian general back for a second round of bargaining. He agreed to treat kidnapped Israeli soldier Cpl Gilead Shalit as a separate issue.


Israeli military sources reacted angrily to the truce plan, accusing the prime minister of yielding to Hamas aggression in the same way as Lebanon’s Fouad Siniora capitulated to Hizballah, although Israel, unlike Lebanon, has a strong and loyal army.


The main points of Suleiman’s truce plan, according to our sources, are a call for Israel to lift its blockade on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and open all the crossings and steps for reconciliation between Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas. Egyptian guarantees were offered to halt the smuggling of arms and fighting men into the Gaza Strip through Sinai.


 


Outgoing Israeli Air Force commander: Israel faces unparalleled threats


 


13 May: Handing over command of the air force Tuesday at a ceremony on May 13, Maj. Gen. Eliezer Shkedy warned that Israel faces threats which were unknown in the past. Israel must prepare itself to withstand them as a nation, an army and an air force.


The incoming air force chief Maj. Gen. Eidan Nehushtan said the regime in Tehran combines poisonous rhetoric with actions drawn from an ideology that denies Israel the right to exist.


 


At least 100 injured by Iran-made rocket which wrecks crowded Ashkelon shopping mall


 


14 May: Four people were seriously hurt including a mother and her four-month old baby. Two women suffered moderate injuries and the others of whom many were children were slightly hurt. Four were dug out of the debris.


The Palestinian rocket crashed without warning into the roof of the three-floor building. It was fired from the ruins of the former Israel Dugit site in N. Gaza just as President Bush was in conversation with Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert. The attack revived fresh demands for a major operation to put a stop to the daily attacks from the Gaza Strip.


Furious complaints were heard in the streets of Ashkelon over the failure of the warning siren. Homeland Command officers said it was not activated because of many false alarms and the wish not to disturb the Bush visit.


Casualties have mounted recently from the daily Palestinian attacks on Israeli communities outside Gaza. Two people were killed in the last week.


 



Palestinians step up tempo of missile, mortar attacks Thursday night


 


15 May: debkafile‘s military sources report: A barrage of 6 Qassam missiles was fired in two volleys at Sderot, the day after a rocket wrecked the Ashkelon shopping mall and injured 100 people.


The Ashkelon attack is believed by our sources to have carried a message from Tehran to visiting US president George W, Bush that Iran’s arm was long enough to reach an American presence anywhere.


Our military sources also disclose that the Grad rocket was in fact fired by a team of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command headed by Ahmed Jibril. The team was smuggled into the Gaza Strip fresh from a special course in the precise targeting of rockets at an installation near Tehran.


 


President Bush says America is proud to be Israel’s ally


 


15 May: Addressing a special Knesset session marking Israel’s 60th anniversary, Thursday, May 15, US President George W. Bush declared: America stands with you in firmly opposing Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions. “It would be an unforgivable betrayal of future generations,” he said, to let Tehran acquire atomic arms.


Washington sees Israel as one of its partners in the fight against “extremists including Hamas, Hizballah and al Qaeda, as well as its efforts to deal with Iran’s nuclear ambitions.” Israel’s population may be just over 7 million, but when you confront terror and evil, you are 307 million strong because America stands with you.”


“Massada will not fall again,” said Bush.


The Knesset seats and gallery were packed for the special session.


The US president predicted that in 60 years, Israel will celebrate its 120th anniversary “as one of the world's great democracies” and the Palestinians “will have the homeland they have long dreamed of and deserved”.


Arab lawmakers were removed when they displayed placards representing Arab children killed in Gaza and Iraq. Two nationalist lawmakers walked out when prime minister Olmert said the majority of Israelis supported the Bush two-state vision.


Tuesday, Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said it is futile to hold a 60th birthday ceremony for a regime that will soon be swept away by the Palestinians, for “something that is already dead.”


 


Obama takes exception to Bush remark in Israel as “false political attack”


 


15 May: The Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said: It is “sad” that president Bush would use Israel’s 60th anniversary “to launch a false political attack. George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists.”


He was responding to the comment in George W. Bush’s speech to Israel’s special Knesset session Thursday, May 15, in which he said: “Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along… We have an obligation to call this what it is – the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.”

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