A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending May 5, 2011

April 29-30, 2001 Briefs
• Three suspected Al Qaeda members arrested in Duesseldorf and Bochum, Germany. Authorities: "A concrete and imminent danger" of attack averted.
• Egypt steps up security around Jewish synagogue, Coptic church in Alexandria after threats received.
• Egyptian justice minister: Deposed president Hosni Mubarak will be put to death if convicted of order demonstrators shot.
• Shelling and heavy gunfire hit Syrian town of Daraa as scores of funeral processions got underway.
• Taliban launches spring offensive, Afghans advised to avoid crowd centers, roadblocks, military and NATO positions.
• Israel's jobless figure drops to 6 percent.

Qaddafi escapes NATO air strike which kills his son

30 April. The Libyan war took a new and dangerous turn with the killing of Saif al-Arab, 29, the youngest of Muammar Qaddafi's six sons, and three of his grandsons by a NATO air strike in Tripoli Saturday night April 30. Muammar and his wife were present in the targeted villa but unhurt. NATO has not confirmed this report. debkafile: The Libyan ruler's resolve to fight the Western alliance will be strengthened and he is expected to seek out NATO targets inside and outside Libya.
A Libyan government spokesman said the attack violated international law and had no moral, legal or political foundation. What is happening now is the law of the jungle and had nothing to do with the protection of civilians as required by UN Resolution 1973. The house was attacked shortly after Muammar Qaddafi went on television to offer to negotiate a ceasefire, an offer later rejected by NATO.

Western intelligence: Syrian uprising has gone too far to be suppressed

30 April. After shelling, tank assaults and siege left 100 protesters dead in the last 48 hours without quelling the unrest, Western intelligence sources believe it has careered beyond President Bashar Assad's ability to save his regime. It is likely to keep on spreading and evolve into armed rebellion. Those sources estimate the uprising as already encompassing 6-7 million Syrians (out of a population of 26 million) and a third of its area.
President Assad has thrown into his crackdown every military asset he can spare without further jeopardizing his regime. At the end of the week, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was worried enough to send a delegation to Damascus to warn Assad to stop his six-week old bloodbath or his regime would go down.
Iran is meanwhile backing extremist elements of the Assad regime, including his brother Mahar Assad, who call for harsher action against the protesters. Iranian Brig. Gen. Qassem Suleimani has set up a secret operational base close to the Syrian border.

May 1, 2011 Briefs
• Libyan ambassador given 24 hours to leave the UK after empty British ambassador's Tripoli residence destroyed. This was in reprisal for the NATO air strike which killed Muammar Qaddafi's son and three grandsons Saturday. London refuses to verify their deaths.
• Yemen peace accord postponed indefinitely after Ali Saleh refuses to attend signing ceremony in Riyadh.
• Israel threatens to suspend transfer of funds to Palestinian Authority. Finance Minister Steinetz: Onus on PA to prove not a shekel reaches Hamas or other terrorists. Egyptian finance minister Radwan: Peace treaty does not oblige us to sell Israel gas.
• Duke and Duchess of Cambridge cancel honeymoon trip to Jordan over Al Qaeda terror concerns.

Hizballah prepares to pull its heavy missiles from Syrian safekeeping

1 May. The Lebanese Shiite Hizballah has decided the Assad regime is sinking. debkafile's military sources report the organization is preparing to pull its heavy, long-range weapons out of storage in Syrian military facilities – no longer sure they are safe there – and transport them to Lebanon. Hizballah may even risk Israel making good on its threat to destroy the Iran-made Fatah-110 surface missiles, its Syrian equivalent, the M-600 and mobile SA-8 (Gecko) anti-air battery – if they cross the border.
Tehran paid for their upkeep in Syrian storage. Transferred to Lebanon, this hardware would be game changers in the balance of strength against Israel, capable of reaching every corner of the country and seriously restricting Israeli Air Force operations.

May 2, 2011 Briefs
• AP: Obama officials say DNA testing confirms bin Laden's identity.
• Clinton: Our message to Taliban: You cannot wait us out or defeat us. You can abandon al Qaeda and participate in a peaceful process. The syndicate of terror did not end with Osama bin Laden's death, she said.
• Hamas PM Haniyeh condemns US "assassination of a Muslim and holy Arab warrior".
• Israel's president and prime minister joined congratulations flooding in from world leaders.
• Annual Memorial Day for Victims and Heroes of Nazi Holocaust marked in Israel with ceremonies. Places of entertainment closed for 24 hours. Thousands honor 6 million murdered Jews with March of Living from Auschwitz to Birkenau Nazi death camps.

How does the bin Laden killing tie in with the Arab revolt?

2 May. Far from dispensing with electronic gadgetry and computers as widely reported, photos of the fortress-villa in Abbottabad, Pakistan, occupied by Osama bin Laden prove it was equipped with both and therefore vulnerable to penetration and surveillance. Puzzling questions include: Why did the US and Pakistan who must have known where he was not lay hands on him sooner? Was al Qaeda's spirit and mastermind eliminated before his networks could move in on the Arab uprisings?
The linkage was drawn by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: "…history would record that bin Laden's death had come at a time when peoples in the Middle East and North Africa were rejecting the extremist narrative and were standing up for freedom and democracy."
That of course will depend on how those peoples view the US targeted operation to kill him. This statement by "an American intelligence official" to Reuter was not helpful: "US Special forces set out to kill Osama bin Laden and dump his body in the sea to make it harder for the al Qaeda founder to become a martyr."
The head of the Al-Azhar Supreme Sunni Council of Egypt condemned the dumping of bin Laden's body in the sea as violating the tenets of Islam and human norms.

Osama bin Laden buried at sea. His last haven a Pakistani garrison town

2 May. Far from being holed up in a remote mountain cave, bin Laden lived in comfort in a three-storey villa with his close family around him in a semi-urban area almost certainly under Pakistani intelligence oversight.
It is also emerging that the town of Abbottabad came to the notice of US intelligence four months ago: It was there that Indonesian al-Qaida's Umar Patek was arrested in Jan. 2011. He was on the run from a $1 million US bounty on his head, for helping mastermind the 2002 suicide bombings of nightclubs in Bali that killed 202 people. It would therefore seem that Abbottabad in Pakistan's North West Frontier region provided sanctuary not only for bin Laden but also for some of high-profile Al Qaeda operations officers.

Obama confirms Osama bin Laden killed in US special operation

2 May. The announcement that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had been killed in an American operation in Abbotabad (150 north of Islamabad in Pakistan) was made early Monday, May 2, by US President Barack Obama at the White House.
"After a firefight, bin Laden was killed and the US force took possession of his body."
Upon hearing the news, jubilant crowds gathered around the White House and other parts of America singing, dancing and shouting USA… USA! debkafile's counter-terror experts note that Bin Laden's death while momentous has not terminated the threat of al Qaeda terror, whose main thrust has refocused in recent years on the Middle East and Africa, especially in places like Yemen, Somalia, Algeria and the Sahara.
For years, al Qaeda sources claimed that bin Laden had kept a special strike force ready to go into action in the West on the news of his death or capture. This report was never confirmed.

Osama bin Laden is dead

2 May. American TV networks interrupted their broadcasts at 05:45 IST Monday, May 2, with the news that US President Barack Obama will soon deliver a statement on reports that Osama bin Laden, head of Al Qaeda, the most wanted terrorist in the world and author of the 9/ll attacks on America, is dead after a ten-year pursuit. The US is in possession of his body. debkafile's counter-terror sources report that if this is confirmed, Bin Laden had not been on the run as generally reported but living in under the protection of Pakistan military intelligence. It is not clear whether US intelligence tracked him down or was tipped off by the Pakistanis.

May 3, 2011 Briefs
• Prominent member of Abbas' Palestinian Fatah lines up with Hamas in condemning US killing of Osama bin Laden.
• Security services across West on high alert for revenge attacks. Also US international airports, Washington and New York public transport systems. Vigilance advised in Israeli overseas offices.
• In bin Laden raid, US Navy SEALs took a stash of computer files, disks and electronic equipment.
• Syrian army continues house-to-house arrests. At least 1,000 detained.
• Muammar Qaddafi's son buried in Tripoli in his absence. Mourners chanted calls for revenge for deadly NATO bombing which missed the father.
• Iran claims Israeli warplanes drilling at US Iraq bases for striking targets inside Iran. F-15, F-16, F-18, F-22 and KC-10 fighters said to have held night exercises at al-Asad base.

Six fortified villas in Gaza like the Abbottabad compound

3 May. Like Iran and its surrogates, the late Osama bin Laden's organization has established networks around Israel's borders in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egyptian Sinai. In the Gaza Strip, al Qaeda operatives harbored by Hamas have built six villas on the model of Bin Laden's compound in Pakistan. This will not stop Mahmoud Abbas signing a Palestinian unity accord that opens the West Bank door not only to Hamas terror but to the al Qaeda cells enjoying sanctuary in Gaza. Israeli TV networks claimed incorrectly that Al Qaeda had never attacked Israel, when only in the past year, Gaza-based Al Qaeda cells carried out many of the armed attacks launched on the Gaza-Israeli border and Jewish civilian locations.
This is played down by Washington for the sake of sanitizing Hamas as a fit peace partner for Israel.

May 4, 2011 Briefs
• Obama decides finally not to release Osama bin Laden photos, video-clips or any visuals relating to his death or DNA sampling results.
• ICC seeks three arrest warrants for crimes against humanity in Libya.
• Netanyahu: Cairo pact reuniting Fatah with Hamas is a mortal blow to peace and victory for terror.
• Palestinian Fatah and Hamas factions sign pact in Cairo ending their four-year rift.
• Egypt blacked out on ceremony and arguments which delayed signing for two hours.
PA chairman Abbas said he Palestinians were bound by all agreements. Hamas' Meshaal: We will never give up a millimeter of our land, Jerusalem, refugee rights to return and a Palestinian state cleansed of settlers.
• US. State Department: Hamas condemnation of bin Laden kill is “outrageous”.

White House fumbles getting its Osama bin Laden story straight

4 May. The White House is fighting a losing battle for credibility: Its first statements on the special forces' raid which killed the al Qaeda leader in Abbottabad, Pakistan on May 2 are proving incorrect: Washington has been forced to admit that bin Laden was not armed when he was killed and his wife was not used as a human shield. This further fuels Arab-Muslim skepticism about the affair, especially with Pakistan actively challenging the US version with the help of survivors in its custody.
Wednesday, May 4, the dead terrorist's daughter told Al Arabiya TV most damagingly that her father was captured alive and then shot by US forces. Even before that, amid rising demands for evidence that Osama bin Laden was dead, White House spokesman Jay Carney confessed Tuesday night: "Even I'm getting confused."

May 5, 2011 Briefs
• Pakistan's army says it will review cooperation with US in case of another raid similar to that which killed bin Laden. Islamabad will cut US military personnel in Pakistan to "minimum essential" levels.
• All flights set to take off from Israel grounded over fears of contaminated fuel.
• White House announces Obama-Netanyahu meeting May 20.
• Israeli PM visits Paris Thursday for talks with Sarkozy after meeting PM Cameron in London.
• Hundreds of Syrian troops raid Damascus suburb for mass arrests.
• Rome meeting considers Libyan rebels' bid for $1.5 bn in aid.

High alert on Israeli-Syrian border for refugees

5 May. Thursday, May 5, Israel augmented the units deployed on its border with Syria and the intersection of the Israel-Syria-Jordan frontiers in the Har Dov area against the spate of tens of thousands of Syrian refugees in flight from President Bashar Assad's bloody crackdown in Damascus and the Daraa region. The UN force on the Golan Heights – UNDOF – is likewise beefing up the contingents policing Israeli-Syrian ceasefire lines.
Some, turned away at Turkish, Jordanian and Lebanese borders, are heading for Israel.

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