A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending November 3, 2011
October 28, 2011 Briefs
• Pakistan successfully test-fires nuclear-capable stealth cruise missile Hatf VII.
• Another nuclear-capable ballistic missile test-fired successfully by Russia from a submarine, hitting a target 6,000 km away.
• India opens bids for $12bn contract for 126 warplanes. Rivals are France's Dassault and the Eurofighter consortium.
• US sources report American drones transferred out of secret Ethiopian base for action in Somalia and Horn of Africa.
• Kenyan troops in first clash with al Shabaab since crossing into S. Somalia.
Syria sows mines along its borders
28 Oct. In the last 48 hours, the Syrian engineering corps has laid minefields along the Jordanian, Turkish borders to cut down on the influx of weapons and armed manpower supporting the anti-Assad opposition and the outflow of army deserters. They started at the juxtaposition of the Syrian, Israeli and Jordan borders thereby linking the newly mined sector to the existing field on Syria's Golan boundary with Israel.
debkafile's military sources add: By this action, Syria also aims to seal itself off against foreign military intervention by Arab or NATO troops. Since Muammar Qaddafi's death Bashar Assad fears he is facing Arab military intervention backed by NATO.
There has been no official comment from the Syrian government on Qaddafi's death, but opposition activists have gone to town on it. This week, they ordered demonstrators to turn out in force Friday, Oct. 28, and to call on NATO to declare Syria a no-fly zone to prevent the air force attacking rebels – in the same way as Western military intervention in Libyan began last March.
October 29, 2011 Briefs
• At least 20 NATO soldiers, including 13 Americans, killed in suicide bombing attack on NATO convoy in Kabul Saturday. Attack claimed by Taliban.
• Serbian police arrest 15 suspects in Islamist shooting attack on US embassy in Sarajevo Friday. They were rounded up in raids of three radical Wahhabi strongholds in SW Serbia. he shooter was injured and captured after wounding two embassy guards.
• Syrian tanks blast Homs residential districts killing at least five people early Saturday.
• Friday up to 50 protesters killed in clashes mostly in Homs and Hama one of deadliest days in seven-month uprising.
Jihad used Grad multiple rocket launchers in assault on S. Israel
29 Oct. Saturday, Oct. 29, Jihad Islami was shown firing 20 rounds in succession from a Grad multiple rocket launcher mounted on a small truck which then drove off at speed – the same weapon used by Libyan rebels in Sirte. A residential building in Ashkelon took a direct hit injuring 2 people and in Ashdod a fire was started between high-rise buildings. Some 45 shock victims were treated.
Israel's Homeland Defense commander in the South warned that the escalation is just beginning. The police have raised national security preparedness to one below the highest level.
debkafile's military sources report that it took the IDF five hours from the first launch of Jihad Islami's massive missile offensive Saturday to activate the Iron Dome anti-missile system and deploy the air force against the missile teams firing from Gaza.
An Israeli killed, 7 injured in Jihad Islami's missile offensive on 8 towns
20 Oct. Of the eight people injured in the massive Jihad Israeli 35-missile offensive Saturday, Oct. 29, one man died of wounds sustained when his home in Ashkelon was hit. Schools in southern Israel and Beersheba University will stay closed Sunday and people living within range of missile fire from Gaza must stay near fortified buildings. The missile assault included 25 heavy Grads launched in several rounds at eight towns, sending dozens of shock victims to hospital and causing extensive damage to buildings and vehicles.
An Israeli air strike against a Palestinian Jihad Islami camp near Rafah, southern Gaza, Saturday Oct. 29, killed Ahmad Sheikh Halil, head of its missile engineering and production arm and foiled another attack.
October 30, 2011 Briefs
• Israeli air force foils another Palestinian missile attack Sunday after Jihad Islami accepted Egypt-brokered truce. One killed, one injured. Netanyahu: There is no truce. If the attacks continue, they will pay a heavier price than before until they stop. The IDF has standing order to liquidate missile teams.
• Tel Aviv court sentences former soldier Anat Kam to 4 and-a-half years prison for collecting top secret data while on duty and passing it to journalist.
• ICC Prosecutor: We have substantial evidence Saif al-Islam involved in organizing attacks on civilians and hiring mercenaries".
• Assad threatens regional earthquake if West intervenes in Syria.
Qaddafi's son's options for escaping with life and fortune
30 Oct. Muammar Qaddafi's eldest son Saif al-Islam, on the run across Africa since his father's death, is weighing the options for his survival with the Qaddafi fortune in hand. He may decide to take his chances on an International Court trial and meanwhile stay safe in an ICC cell to work on his case, provided he can keep control of this fortune. Alternatively, he may throw himself on the mercy of unstable African dictators and rely on mercenaries to protect him from Libyan rebel vengeance.
October 31, 2011 Briefs
• UNESCO approves Palestinians as full member, loses a quarter of its budget contributed by US.
• Germany threatens to halt submarine sale to Israel in protest against plan for building thousands of new homes in Jerusalem suburb.
• The Israeli air force attacked two Palestinian missile teams in Gaza late Sunday – the first poised to launch, the second after firing six rockets.
• Monday night, NATO ends seven-month campaign for Libyan rebels to overthrow Muammar Qaddafi. Alliance carried out 9,600 air strikes destroying 5,900 targets.
• Israeli authorities demolished four unauthorized structures at Bat Ayin, West Bank.
Palestinian missiles pound S. Israel for third day
31 Oct. Beersheba, Ashkelon, Ashdod and Sderot were again under missile fire from Gaza Monday night, Oct. 31 for the third day running – although Israel's Home Front Minister Mattan Vilnai had stated the Jihad Islami offensive was over. Of the 7 missiles, one was intercepted by an Iron Dome battery in Beersheba.
Skeptical of military assurances, several southern mayors kept schools closed. The continuing barrage and the army's decision to park an Iron Dome in Rehovot, 32 kilometers from the Gaza Strip, proved they were right.
In the third Palestinian missile offensive this year, Israel saw its first ever crisis of confidence between a large normally docile civilian population and the heads of the armed forces. The mayors of Beersheba, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Kiryat Gat and Gan Yavneh, announced Sunday night, Oct. 31 that they don't believe the army's claim the missile offensive besetting them since Saturday is over.
After a decade of missile violence from Gaza, the people still living within range said they were fed up with being told that the military and powers-that-be know best and meanwhile the missiles start flying whenever it pleases the Gazan Palestinians, a recurring blight which has seriously stunted the region's development.
November 1, 2011 Briefs
• Israel to expedite construction in Jerusalem, Gush Etzion and Maaleh Adummim. Other sanctions would include cutting off fund transfers to the Palestinian Authority.
• Israel's Defense Minister Barak warns Israel may be forced to defend itself without outside help. It has the strongest army between Tripoli and Tehran, he added. Since rising social demands clash with security needs Barak advised adding $8 bn to the budget.
• Saif al Islam dismissed news about his intended surrender to the ICC as disinformation. He pledged: "We will win or die".
• UNESCO's 107 to14 vote for Palestinian membership had 52 abstentions – more than expected. They included 3 critical Security Council members, Portugal, Colombia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Abbas is left with at least one short of the 9 SC votes needed to approve his UN membership bid coming up on Nov. 11.
• Iran wants an American apology for accusing Tehran of plotting to assassinate Saudi ambassador.
• Al-Shabaab posts tape allegedly of US citizen who blew him self up on an AU base in Mogadishu killing ten people.
• Clinton: Turkey must smooth prickly ties with neighbors such as Israel if it is to be a guarantor of ME stability.
A Syrian uranium enrichment plant "discovered" to squeeze Assad
1 Nov. The disclosure Tuesday, Nov. 1, by the International Atomic Energy Agency – that a spinning factory built in the northeastern Syrian town of Hasaka in 2003 was in fact an enriched uranium site – had a purpose: To crowd Bashar Assad into talking to the leaders of the revolt against him instead of slaughtering them. debkafile's intelligence sources report that although the NATO commander firmly denied an alliance role in Syria, NATO is already there – and not just members like Turkey.
debkafile's intelligence sources report that Syria procured the enriched uranium and equipment for the plant in early March 2003 from Iraq when its ruler Saddam Hussein decided to dispose of the bulk of his nuclear plant and weapons of mass destruction by spiriting them out to Syria, then his closest ally.
The IAEA inspectors who visited the site two years ago found no traces of nuclear activity although aerial photos accompanying this article show long, disused structures standing at a distance from the factory alongside water pools. They would not have been needed for cotton spinning, but would indicate a facility housing a uranium enrichment project probably run in parallel to the clandestine plutonium reactor which Israel demolished in 2007.
Israel debates ending its nuclear ambiguity
2 Nov. In the last fortnight Israeli leaders are debating the usefulness of abandoning the longstanding policy of nuclear ambiguity at this time. The International Atomic Agency in Vienna is due to publish next Tuesday, Nov. 8 a more revealing report than ever before on the advances the Islamic Republic has made toward producing a nuclear weapon.
US President Barack Obama hopes it will help him go all the way with really tough sanctions, such as international boycotts of Iranian fuel and the Iranian state bank.
The pressure on Bashar Assad to halt his crackdown on protest could at any moment galvanize Tehran into radical action in the wake of the nuclear controversy. Counter-responses by the West and Israel could light the fuse of a regional war.
In the last two weeks, therefore, Western governments led by the US as well as Israel have been considering their options in the face of potential Iranian aggression.
November 3, 2011 Briefs
• Israel suspends contribution to UNESCO after Palestinian admitted as full member.
• Palestinian shots against an Israeli army patrol start a firefight in northern Gaza Thursday involving Israeli tanks.
• UN Secretary Ban: Palestinian bids to join UN agencies will cause suffering to millions worldwide because of reduced budgets.
• Obama and Sarkozy: We discussed the Iranian nuclear question and agreed to sustain international pressure on Tehran.
• Iran can hide secret nuclear weapon tests by using new simulation program, IAEA finds.
• Iranian FM Salehi: Iran is ready for war on Israel.
• Syrian opposition discounts as fake Assad's consent to Arab league peace plan for Syria.
• Sirens sound in the towns of central Israel for a Home Command exercise against missile attack.
• Israel navy will prevent two foreign aid ships heading for Gaza to bust blockade.
A military war of nerves against Iran: The US leads, Israel and the UK jump in
3 Nov. The sudden rush of military news Wednesday, Nov. 2, was part of an orchestrated Western performance to convince Tehran that the US, Britain and Israel are on the verge of a military operation against its nuclear installations. Directed from Washington, it is meant to warn Iran that the play could become a reality show if it refused to give up the drive for a nuclear weapon.
All on the same Wednesday, Israel carried out a successful test launch of a new intercontinental ballistic missile, Jericho 3, capable of carrying a nuclear warhead 7,000 kilometers; the IDF released photographs of Israeli Air Force squadron leaders on Italian air base runways reporting to the media on joint exercises in long-range maneuvers carried out with the Italian air force "and other NATO nations" to familiarize the IAF with NATO military tactics.
Next, the IDF's Home Command announced a large-scale anti-missile exercise in central Israel starting Thursday morning, Nov. 3.
Finally, Defense Minister Ehud Barak left for an unscheduled trip to London shortly after a secret visit to Israel by the British chief of staff General Sir David Richards earlier this week as guest of Israel's top soldier Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz.
debkafile's military sources report that if the US, Britain and other NATO nations, such as France, Italy and Germany, participate in the attack, Israel will not. Its army, air force and navy will defend the home front, be available to engage Iran's allies to prevent them striking the assault forces from the rear, and act as a strategic reserve. This danger would come from Syria, the Lebanese Hizballah, and the Palestinian Hamas and Jihad Islami in the Gaza Strip.
These contingency plans are subject to changes, especially if President Obama and other NATO allies decide after all against attacking Iran this year.