A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending May 27, 2010
May 21, 2010 Briefs
• Obama's chief of staff Rahm Emanuel arrives in Israel with family Friday to celebrate son's Bar Mitzva at Western Wall. From Ben Gurion, he flew for the weekend to Eilat, from which he dropped in to Aqaba, Jordan.
• New Iran sanctions will not prevent Russia supplying Iran with advanced S-300 interceptors, says Russian lawmaker.
• US Congress overwhelming approves President Obama's $205 million request for developing Israel's Iron Dome anti-rocket system. It is designed to counter Hamas' Qassams, Hizballah's rockets against civilians.
• Israeli air force strikes three Gaza tunnels after Qassam fired Thursday night.
Troops shoot dead two Palestinian gunmen from Gaza. Israeli soldier hurt
21 May: A Palestinian sniper in the Gaza Strip injured an Israeli soldier Friday, May 21, shortly after a firefight with Palestinian gunmen who managed to cross into Israel from the southern Gaza border and advance some 100 meters into Israel while exchanging fire with troops of the Givati Brigade. The incident ended with two terrorists killed by tank fire, no Israeli casualties.
Hamas spokesman said the gunmen were sent on "an operation to attack Israel." Jihad Islami also claimed responsibility.
debkafile's military sources report a rising number of Palestinian infiltrations from the Gaza Strip in recent weeks, although they were never got as far as they did Friday. The Palestinian Hamas, Hizballah, Jihad Islami and al Qaeda-linked groups are believed to be bringing pressure on Israel's borders ahead of the countrywide homeland security exercise Turning-Point 4 beginning Sunday, May 23.
Hizballah's South Lebanon commander Nabil Qauq announced Friday his organization was on war preparedness and thousands of fighters were on their way to the Israeli border region.
Lifting US ban on Russia's S-300 sale to Iran blows hole in Israel's security
22 May: Israel's security suffered a major setback exercise from three Obama administration concessions, granted to buy Moscow's backing for a weak UN Security Council sanctions against Iran. It scrapped sanctions against the Russian state arms export agency and three other Russian entities that were penalized in the past for transferring sensitive technology or weapons to Iran. Also lifted were penalties against a fourth Russian entity for illicit arms sales to Syria, including technology for developing the very missiles against which Israel's five-day exercise is preparing the public next week.
May 23, 2010 Briefs
• Israeli ministerial panel approves "Gilead Shalit Bill" cancelling visits and other privileges for jailed Hamas terrorists. Hamas's Israeli captive has had no visits of any kind since he was kidnapped four years ago.
• US-born Imam Anwar al-Awlaki urges Muslims to kill US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and on their way there. On new videotape from his hiding place, he said was proud of protégé Nidan Hasan who murdered 13 US soldiers at Fort Hood.
• Taliban claims Sat. night attack on Kandahar Air Field, NATO's biggest base in S. Afghanistan.
Special NYPD protection for Fifth Ave. Salute Israel parade
The New York Police laid on exceptionally heavy measures to protect the annual Salute Israel parade on Fifth Avenue, New York, against terrorist attack. Sunday, May 23. debkafile's counter-terror sources report that all the entrances to Fifth Avenue between 55th and 83rd Streets were blocked by patrol cars and huge trucks packed with cement as counter-measures against car bombs, as around ten thousand marchers celebrated Israel's 62nd anniversary under a sea of waving blue and white flags.
Israel general: IDF can be ready to fight within hours
23 May: Three top US emissaries, Sen. John Kerry, Rahm Emanuel and Jeffrey Feltman, are in the Middle East to try and allay the war tensions as Lebanon and Syrian play up Israel's homeland missile defense exercise.
As the exercise began, OC Northern Command, Brig. Gady Eisenkott, said: "No party concerned has an interest in another showdown, but the IDF could be ready to fight within hours. [If confronted] Israel could take on both the Syrian-Lebanese front and Gaza."
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the weekly cabinet meeting that the drill is just routine, not the consequence of any unusual security event. Israel seeks calm, stability and peace, he stressed, adding: "It is no secret that we live in a region beset with rocket and missile threats."
The five-day exercise covering the whole country will test local and national authorities' responses to simultaneous missile and rocket attacks against civilian locations from Lebanon, Syria, Iran and the Gaza Strip.
Syria has placed its air force and air defense forces on high alert, while Hizballah has transferred thousands of its militiamen to South Lebanon and placed the border region on a war footing against a supposed Israeli attack.
May 24, 20101 Briefs
• Only 60 pc of all Israelis are equipped to withstand chemical attack, says Homeland Defense Chief Brig. Yair Golan on Day 2 of exercise.
• Iran notifies nuclear watchdog of uranium swap deal struck with Brazil and Turkey, but says deal is off if US imposes sanctions.
• Ahmadinejad says Israel's destruction is near.
• Egyptian intelligence minister Omar Suleiman in Israel, holds talks with Israel's Ehud Barak in Tel Aviv.
• Ex-PM Ehud Olmert is questioned for 8 hours by police Tuesday on bribes charges – for the first time as a private citizen.
Ankara threatens reprisals if Israel halts flotilla for Gaza
24 May. A secret message from Ankara to Jerusalem threatens reprisals if Israel impedes the Turkish-led "Freedom Flotilla" of nine vessels reaching Gaza Port for the avowed objects of breaking Israel's naval blockade on the Gaza Strip and delivering humanitarian aid. Israel has imposed a 20-nautical mile closure on the enclave, beefed up its naval forces and warned Turkey the convoy will be stopped before it reaches Gaza's shores.
It is backed by the unreported presence of a helicopter on one of the Turkish vessels for challenging Israeli Air Force support for the naval blockade.
The venture, on behalf of the Hamas-linked Turkish-based Humanitarian Aid Foundation is sponsored personally by Prime Minister Recep Erdogen.
In Gaza the UN Relief and Works Agency protested the vandalization by extremist Islamic groups of one of its 435 holiday camps for a quarter of a million Palestinian teens and children.
In the past month, the Hamas regime has sanctioned five executions – three last Tuesday in front of their families – and dumped their bodies in the Shifa hospital.
May 24, 2010 Briefs
• Hizballah leader Nasrallah threatens to sink any vessel bound to or from Israel if its navy blockades Lebanon and its ports.
• North Korea cuts all relations with South amid war preparations.
• Gaza offensive against Ashkelon continues with two mortar shells on coastal farm-land after two missiles which fell short earlier Tuesday. No one hurt.
• Iron Dome in numbers planned is not an effective shield against short-range missiles-rocket attacks.Avi Dichter, chairman of Knesset subcommittee on security, said military systems must guarantee civilian populations against becoming a front line of attack.
• Australian opposition accused government of expelling Israeli diplomat to win Arab support for UN Security Council seat. He was expelled because Canberra accused Israel of faking Australian passports for Dubai hit against Hamas leader. Dep. opp. Leader Julie Bishop retorted: Australia forges passports too, and there is no hard proof against Israel.
North Korean army on war readiness
25 May: North Korean ruler Kim Jong-il ordered his military to prepare for all-out war after Barack Obama ordered the 28,000 US soldiers stationed in Korea to "work closely with the Republic of Korea to ensure readiness and deter future aggression."
Military observers in the Korean Peninsula and Japan were predicting limited skirmishes on land, sea and air or even that North Korea might go all the way to test-fire a nuclear warhead for the first time. Iran is closely following the crisis – especially China's reactions, which have disappointed Washington's hopes of a move to calm the dispute caused by the North Korean torpedo attack on a South Korean Chenan in March.
debkafile's military sources point to the Korean crisis's impact on current Middle East war tensions. North Korea and Iran have worked closely together in their clandestine nuclear weapons programs. The two rogue powers often pursue the same diplomatic tactics for fobbing off international pressures. For Syrian president Bashar Assad, the brazenly defiant Kim Jong-Il is a role model.
Above all, Pyongyang is the primary source of nuclear technology and sophisticated missiles for Iran and Syria.
May 26, 2010 Briefs
• Netanyahu is invited to meet Obama at White House next week.
• White House C-of-S Emanuel meets PM in Jerusalem Wednesday with the invitation.
• Netanyahu denounces Iran's uranium swap deal with Brazil and Turkey as a piece of trickery.
• Homeland defense exercise sirens are heard across Israel at 11 a.m.. It was the signal to run for cover in sheltered spaces. and test emergency, first aid and police responses to missile attack.
• Air Force attacked Hamas training base, Rafah airfield, two tunnels following concentrated missile-mortar attacks on Ashkelon Tuesday.
Syrian points 1,000 ballistic missiles, Hizballah 1,000 rockets at Israel
26 May: The colossal Syrian-Hizballah missile deployment funded by Iran points in only one direction: Israel. It is controlled from a joint Iran-Syria-Hizballah-Hamas command center established in March at Syrian GHQ in Damascus for coordinating attacks on Israeli military and civilian sites, including the Tel Aviv region's dense population.
Syria has smuggled most of its stock of liquid-fuel powered ballistic missiles over to Hizballah in Lebanon, while its own production lines have been working day and night for five months to upgrade its stock solid fuel-propelled missiles, so improving their accuracy. North Korean military engineers and technicians are employed on those production lines.
May 27, 2010 Briefs
• Gazan Palestinians intensify missile-mortar attacks. Wednesday night, a Qassam explodes outside a kibbutz south of Ashkelon, two mortar rounds land near another kibbutz in Eshkol region, a third blows up over Gaza fence. No one hurt.
• South Korean Navy, Air Force launch major anti-submarine exercise off western coast. Obama announced earlier the US military would take part.
• Netanyahu sets off Thursday for Paris, Canada and a White House working session with Obama Tuesday. Before leaving, he orders Navy to prevent Turkish-led flotilla from anchoring in Gaza – politely without jeopardizing lives. Aid supplies aboard the 9 vessels to be requisitioned, inspected for terrorist materials and sent overland to the Gaza Strip. The pro-Palestinian activists aboard will be detained.
Syrian ballistic missiles on standby
27 May: As Israel's homeland defense exercise entered its fifth and last day Thursday, May 27, debkafile's military sources disclose that all Syrian military units were placed on combat standby with missile batteries ordered to take up firing positions and armed with new "target updates."
In Athens, it was announced that a joint Israeli-Greek air force exercise focusing on new in-flight refueling methods begins next Tuesday, June 1.
Western intelligence sources report that Wednesday night, long military convoys carrying mobile missiles were sighted rolling down Syrian highways – especial in the North.
In Athens, Greek military sources announced a joint Israeli-Greek naval and air force two-day exercise beginning next Tuesday, June 1, over the mainland and the Aegean and Ionian Seas. Exercise Minoas 2010 would serve Israeli Air Force F16s and F15s (five each) for drilling long-range flights covering roughly the same distance as between Israel and Iran and new in-flight refueling methods using Israeli KC-807 flying fuel tankers. Greece will deploy 15 F16s.
With all parties on the move, including the boosting of Lebanese army units on the Israeli border, the war tensions swirling around Israel's northern borders show no signs of early dissipation.
US nuclear sub in Strait of Hormuz
27 May: Western sources confirm Tehran's report that an Iranian naval patrol Thursday, May 27, detected a US nuclear submarine sailing through the strategic Strait of Hormuz, through which most of the oil produced by Persian Gulf states passes on its way to world markets. Tehran placed its navy and air force on high alert.
The arrival of a US nuclear submarine in the Persian Gulf also ties in with rising Middle East war tensions. It confirms debkafile's May 20 report that President Obama had decided to boost US military strength in the region.