A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending May 8, 2008

Palestinian Hamas control spreads to Jordan, looms over Egyptian Delta


2 May: debkafile‘s Middle East sources disclose a signal victory in Hamas’ expansionist drive Friday, May 2, when its members scooped up 28 of the 50 seats of Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood Shura Council in a secret ballot and Hamam Said, 64, a Palestinian Hamas operative from the West Bank town of Jenin, was elected the movement’s General Guide.

Jordanian and Israeli counter-terror officers say the Palestinian Hamas takeover of the kingdom’s largest movement is potentially more destabilizing in regional terms than its victory in the Palestinian Authority’s 2006 election. It the short term, it presents hazards to Jordan’s internal security and could create new flashpoints on the long Jordanian-Israeli frontier.

debkafile‘s counter-terror sources report several arrests by Egypt’s security forces in Cairo, the central Delta town of Tanta and El Arish, northern Sinai, of fundamentalists suspected of founding a joint Hamas-Muslim Brotherhood armed cell at Tanta, Egypt’s fifth largest city.


Six suspected al Qaeda terrorists tried in Beirut


2 May: The alleged al Qaeda cell is charged with conducting missile attacks against Israel from South Lebanon and planning attacks on UN peacekeepers. Another three members are still at large. The Beirut police believe they are followers of the al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi and after his death in 2006 moved from Iraq to the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain Hilwa in South Lebanon to establish a new terrorist cell.


Gaza mother and children not killed by Israeli fire, video shows


2 May: The Palestinian mother and four children who died in the Gaza town of Beit Hanoun April 28 were killed in secondary blasts from explosives carried by four Palestinian gunmen near their home. A video clip released by the Israeli army spokesman Friday, May 2, taken by a drone overhead shows that the Israeli air force only hit the gunmen. The explosives they were carrying were powerful enough to killed Miyasar Abu Meatak and four children and destroy their home. The probe conducted by Col. Shai Alkilai ruled out the Palestinian accusation that they died as a result of Israeli fire. The spokesman regretted the deaths of innocent people but laid the blame on Hamas which mounted attacks out of populated areas.


Analysis: Who Put “Deep Throat” up as Olmert’s Nemesis? And why now?


3 May: A mysterious stranger from America laid fresh information before the Israeli police last week, initiating corruption Investigation No. 5 against Ehud Olmert. All five pre-date his two years as Israeli prime minister and none have so far produced an indictment. But this time, the Attorney General ordered the police to question the prime minister urgently within 48 hours in a case termed “a grave criminal offense” – the most serious he has yet faced.

In the view of debkafile‘s political sources, barring a political or personal vendetta, Olmert’s anonymous accuser was put up to it by a party, domestic or foreign, who wants to get rid of him. This may connect with the battle Israel has fought to debunk the National Intelligence Estimate in which 16 US agencies concluded that Iran gave up nuclear weapons development in 2003.

Add to this the impatience in parts of the US administration with Olmert’s foot-dragging on his promised breakthrough in peace talks with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas by the end of 2008.

On the other hand, the American whistleblower may have been sent – not just as Olmert’s private nemesis but to cut short his “peace talks” before he and foreign minister Tzipi Livni give too much away.


Natural gas from Egypt starts flowing to Israel


3 May: Natural gas from Egypt began to flow to Israel through the underwater Sinai-Ashkelon pipeline for the first time Thursday, the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) said.

It follows an agreement signed in 2005 between IEC and the East Mediterranean Gas Company (EMG). The contract provides for the annual supply of 1.7 billion cubic meters over 20 years. In the first stage, gas will be delivered to power plants in the cities of Tel Aviv and Ashdod and enable IEC to increase its production of electricity from natural gas, which stands at 20%.


British secret service seeks Mossad update on Iran’s nuclear program


4 May: The head of the UK’s MI6, Sir John Scarlett will visit Israel later this month for an update by Mossad chief Meir Dagan on Iran’s nuclear program and other subjects of common interest. The London Times reports that it is understood Israel has made a breakthrough “on intelligence gathering within Iran.”

debkafile reports Israeli transport minister Shaul Mofaz maintained in America last week that Iran may attain full command of the uranium enrichment process before the end of 2008. Israeli officials have consistently challenged the conclusion reached by the US National Intelligence last December that Iran halted its covert military nuclear program in 2003.


4 May: Rice meets Olmert, calls for painful Israeli concessions, removal of more roadblocks


An early Israeli general election is becoming unavoidable


5 May: debkafile‘s political sources report that circles closest to Ehud Olmert, prime minister and leader of the Kadima party see little hope of him surviving the political fallout from the new, as-yet unpublished police investigation against him.

Whether or not Olmert escapes conviction at the end of the road, his position as prime minister is becoming untenable ahead of the legal battle to clear is name.

Our sources do not credit the reports that Monday, May 5, visiting US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice leaned hard on Olmert to mark President George W, Bush’s May 14 visit with a declaration defining the final frontiers of a Palestinian state acceptable to Israel. They say Rice is fully aware he is in no state for radical decisions that would finalize Israel’s state borders as well.


Polish police rescue three Jewish boys taken hostage by Muslim man


5 May: First identified as a drunk, the man is now named as Mohammed A. He burst into a Warsaw Holiday Inn hotel room, cursing the three boys, said he was holding them hostage and would detonate a bomb.

They had come from Brazil for the March of Life from Auschwitz last week. The Warsaw police cleared the guests and staff from the hotel while a Polish counter-terror unit stormed the room, freed the boys and arrested the man. No explosives were found in his possession. Security was stepped up for all the delegations attending the Holocaust remembrance events in Poland.


LAW anti-tank rockets found in Palestinian Shufat camp in Jerusalem


5 May: A joint Israeli military-border police raid of the northern Jerusalem Palestinian camp turned up a large weapons cache, Monday, May 5. Seven men were arrested.

debkafile‘s military sources report this was Israel’s first large-scale counter-terror operation in the Jerusalem municipal area. Uncovered were a large quantity of pistols, hand grenades, stun grenades, ammo and military equipment as well as LAW anti-tank rockets. Most of the Shufat camp’s 10,000 inhabitants have Israeli identity cards with benefits. It fringes northern Jerusalem’s main transport hub: highways heading north and out to the Dead Sea and the road connections from the French Hill, Pisgat Zeev and Neve Yaacov suburbs to the city center.


Iraqi officials back away from US charges of Iranian interference


5 May: Asked about reports that some rockets made this year and seized in raids against Shiite militias came from Iran, the Baghdad government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said Sunday, May 4: “There is no conclusive evidence.”

Al-Dabbagh said Iraq wants friendly ties with Iran. “We are fed up with past tensions that we have paid a costly price for because some parties have pushed Iraq (in the past) to take an aggressive attitude to Iran.”

But he also said a crackdown on Shiite militias will not stop, despite word that Iran will not restart security talks with the United States until the fighting is halted.


Israel honors memories of 22,437 fallen in defense of nation in state ceremonies


6 May: Victims of terrorist and anti-Semitic attacks outside Israel were also remembered at Jerusalem ceremonies, as well as 1,634 civilians murdered by terrorists.

Bereaved families attended graveside ceremonies at 43 military cemeteries and the Bedouin Soldier’s Memorial Wednesday after sirens signaled two minutes’ silence.

Places of entertainment closed until sunset Wednesday when Israel’s 60th anniversary celebrations were to begin.


Olmert case: Court delays decision on foreign witness’s pre-trial testimony


6 May: Jerusalem district court allowed publication of the prosecution’s request to hear a foreign witness’s sworn testimony in the case against prime minister Ehud Olmert in a pre-trial proceeding. However, the court delayed its reply until after Independence Day, Thursday, May 8. The gag order on the case remains in place despite petitions from three Israeli media organizations and its publication by the New York Post.

The witness’s departure before the hearing could seriously damage the prosecution’s case. The prime minister’s former confidential assistant Shula Zaken was grilled by police for the fourth time Tuesday. She is under house arrest until Friday for refusing to answer questions. Her attorney Micha Fetman denied she had been asked to turn state witness against her former boss. Later, he suggested that she might consider breaking her silence if one of four previous probes against Olmert were dropped.


Lebanon slides towards new civil war


8 May: Gunfire and explosions filled the streets of Beirut Wednesday and again Thursday, May 7and 8 in violent confrontations between pro-Western Siniora government and Iran-Syria-backed Hizballah forces.

During the day, Hizballah blocked the roads leading to the airport and vowed to keep it under siege until the Siniora government backed down from its decision to shut down the private telecommunications network Iran installed and reinstate the pro-Hizballah airport director.

On August 9, 2007, debkafile first revealed that Iranian military engineers were installing a secret underground telecommunications system to support Hizballah’s missile unit and connect it to Syrian divisions massed on the border for a possible new war with Israel.


Qassam missile fired at Sderot from Gaza explodes at Shear Hanegev. Air force strikes back at Palestinian missile team hitting four


Israel‘s 60th anniversary holiday marred by accident


8 May: Seven spectators and a paratrooper were seriously injured when he was swept off course by a gusting wind and landed at the edge of a crowd watching a free fall-aerobatic spectacle on the Tel Aviv beach.

Across the country, after a night of fireworks and free entertainment in town centers, Israelis were out on family picnics in national parks and nature spots and visited open military installations and historical sites, museums and galleries. Air force aerobatics roared overhead up and down the country, with no further incident, and the Navy put on a show opposite the beaches. Blue and white flags festooned many buildings and cars.

There were carnival events for children and in Haifa, the Israeli army band marched with eight visiting military ensembles. Police leaves were cancelled after the receipt of 12 tip-offs of threatened terrorist attacks.

The Israeli population has multiplied nine fold to 7.3 million in 60 years. One fifth are Arab citizens – the same proportion as 1948. The population has grown by 1.8% (112,000 births + 18,000 immigrants) since last May. More than 70 percent of Israelis are home-owners.


Ehud Olmert says he will not quit although suspected of taking bribes before he became prime minister


8 May: Thursday night, May 8 the court gag order imposed on the police investigation against the prime minister was partially lifted. Olmert immediately denied ever taking the charge of bribe-taking, admitted only accepting political campaign funds which never reached his pocket and said he would only resign if indicted.

The charge against him is of receiving from an outside party or parties hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes over a period spanning his terms as mayor of Jerusalem and minister of trade and industry between 1999 and 2005.

The evidence against him came from two sources: the millionaire financier Rabbi Morris Talanksy, CEO of Global Resources Group, Long Island and Olmert’s former partner in his law practice and close friend Uri Messer.

Talansky, who arrived in Israel before Passover, gave police investigators details of the sums in cash he handed to Olmert directly and indirectly through Shula Zaken, his personal assistant as mayor and minister, with dates.

She then passed the cash to Messer.

In his statement, the prime minister admitted receiving money from Talanksy for all his election campaigns. He said he handed the moneys to Uri Messer, whom he hoped had managed the financial affairs of his political campaigns professionally and lawfully.

According to the investigation, Messer is willing to testify against his former partner. No records were found to establish how the moneys were used.

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