A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending September 22, 2011
September 16, 2011 Briefs
• Egyptian Ambassador Yasser Rida summoned to Israel Foreign Ministry Friday. Jerusalem protested over repeated demands for amendments of the peace treaty heard from PM Issam Sherf and other senior Egyptian officials. Israel does not intend revising treaty although allowances were made for Cairo's request to deploy troops to Sinai.
• An Israeli and a Palestinian injured in fight between Israeli hikers and villagers near Kufra, on the West Bank. An Israeli accused a Palestinian of holding a knife to his throat following which the hikers shot a Palestinian in the foot. The Palestinians say the Israeli shot first. They retaliated by setting fire to the Esh Kadosh settlement's vineyard.
• Syrian troops kill 46 anti-Assad demonstrators in rallies across the country including Damascus.
Abbas claims 1947 borders for future Palestinian state
16 Sept. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas announced Friday, Sept. 16, in Ramallah that once the Palestinians had a state, a flag and recognition, they would be open to negotiating on all other issues with Israel. While citing the 1967 borders for a future Palestinian state in reference to his UN application, Abbas stressed that the true Palestinian borders were laid down by the UN in 1947. All other areas [meaning large parts of the state of Israel] are "occupied territory" which the Palestinians intend to claim.
He emphasized the Palestinian claim to Jerusalem as state capital, pledged to work for the refugees' return and strive for national unity by healing the rift with Hamas.
Mahmoud Abbas boasted about the democracy prevailing in the Palestinian Authority (West Bank). debkafile: The last Palestinian elections took place in 2006. The president, the legislature and the municipal councils are no longer legally in office. Abbas and the Palestinian Authority rule on the guns of Palestinian armed security forces.
Israeli-Greek-Turkish military preparedness for first Cypriot gas drilling Monday
17 Sept. Military tension is building up among Greece, Turkey and Israel as Cyprus prepares to start exploratory drilling for gas Monday, Sept. 19 in the face of Turkish threats. All three have placed their air and sea forces in a state of preparedness. Turkish warplanes and fighters kept watch on the rig belonging to Houston-based Noble Energy as it moved from Israel's offshore field Noa opposite Ashdod to Cyprus's Aphrodite field. US Noble Energy and Israel's Delek are staked in both fields.
Ankara questions the rights of Israel and Cyprus to drill for hydrocarbon reserves in the respective Exclusive Economic Zones marked out in an accord they concluded last year.
The UN-approved Law of the Sea authorizes nations to mark out their Exclusive Economic Zones for the exploration of natural resources to a distance of 200 miles outside their territorial waters. Cyprus's Block 12 where drilling starts Monday borders on the huge Leviathan field Israel is developing in the eastern Mediterranean, whose proven gas reserves have been calculated as 8.5 trillion cubic feet.
September 18, 2011 Briefs
• Iranian FM Salehi: We hope Turkey can provide necessary justification for posting NATO missile radar on its soil. Two Turkish jets parachute food and supplies to Libyan Bani Walid where Qaddafi loyalists hold off rebel assaults.
• Fresh Muslim outbreaks against Christian Copts in Egyptian Aswan region.
• New flare-up of Shiite-led riots against Bahraini throne.
• Amid crisis with Israel, Turkey threatens to freeze ties with EU if Cyprus elected to presidency.
• Al Ahram: Egypt's first post-revolution elections Nov. 21-Jan. 3 for lower house; Jan. 22-March 4 for upper house. No date set for presidential vote.
September 19, 2011 Briefs
• Clinton warns Turkish FM Davutoglu to avoid actions that further strain ties with Israel. She urged Turkey to actively seek ways to repair its important relationship with Israel.
• Bomb threat clears Berlin university hall ahead of Turkish President Abdullah Gul's appearance.
• US Noble Energy starts drilling at Cyprus offshore Block 12 Monday in defiance of Turkish threats – as debkafile anticipated. Sunday Ankara called Nicosia's offshore gas, oil exploration "a provocation" and also threatened the adjacent Israeli Delek gas drilling.
• Libyan rebels retreat again from Bani Walid, repelled by Qaddafi forces.
• Qaddafi spokesman claims capture of foreign "mercenaries" French, British and Qatari in embattled Bani Walid. NATO denies alliance troops captured.
Top US Intel official in Ankara bids to head off Mediterranean clash
19 Sept. The US National Intelligence Director James Clapper began a surprise visit to Ankara Sunday Sept. 18, prompted by Turkish saber-rattling against key US interests: Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the information gathered by the US radar system planned for Turkey as part of the NATO missile-shield must not be shared with Israel – which would disable the entire system; Monday, US Noble Energy began drilling gas off Cyprus in defiance of Turkey; and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, egged on by Ankara, headed for the UN to bid for acceptance of a Palestinian state.
debkafile's intelligence sources report that Clapper was in Ankara for a last-ditch Obama administration bid to avert sea and air hostilities erupting between Turkey, Greece, Cyprus and Israel in the eastern Mediterranean.
On the Palestinian issue, Intelligence reaching the Obama administration traced Mahmoud Abbas' obduracy to a quiet conversation with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan in Cairo on Sept. 12 at which he received a Turkish promise to make up for the reduced flow of aid from the US and Israel – provided he stuck to his guns on the UN application.
Turkey boasts successful Syrian policy as Assad terminally smashes protest
19 Sept. "We sided with the Syrian people because regimes will go but the people always stay," said Turkish foreign minister Ahmed Davutoglu Sunday, Sept. 18 in a bid to vindicate the "zero conflict" doctrine against its many critics. In fact, debkafile reports, most of "the Syrian people" had gone to their graves when Davutoglu made his remark: Bashar Assad and his army had virtually smashed their six-month protest, aided substantially by Turkey reneging on its pledge of military backing for "the people."
September 20, 2011 Briefs
• Karzai cuts short UN visit after Afghan ex-President and leader of peace talks with Taliban Burhanuddin Rabbani killed in Kabul.
• President Obama is sending US ambassador back to Tripoli this week.
• Saudi Arabia to advance Palestinian Authority $200 to ease its financial crisis.
• Egypt's military rulers ban radical Gamaa al Islamiya participation in November general elections. The group spearheaded assault on Israel embassy in Cairo 10 days ago.
• Three dead, dozens wounded in car bomb explosion in central Ankara.
• Netanyahu to Abbas at UN Center: Let's sit down here and start talking now.
• Abbas insists on first pushing forward with Palestinian UN membership bid.
• Scores of Palestinians confronted Israeli soldiers at Gush Etzion, West Bank, stoned passing vehicles until soldiers dispersed them.
Egypt resumes gas flow to Jordan – but not to Israel
20 Sept. Egyptian natural gas is flowing again to Jordan – but not to Israel, debkafile reports, through the Sinai pipeline which was sabotaged five times since February. Cairo has broken off negotiations with Jerusalem on new prices – so making sure that supplies to Israel are cut off for good. As Egypt pulls away from peace ties with Israel, security is breaking down on their common border and the Israeli ambassador's return to Cairo has been indefinitely postponed.
And in a symbolic snub, the military junta banned the traditional export to Israel of palm fronds for the Four Species blessing on the Sukkot festival next month. Last year, Israel imported 650,000 palm fronds from northern Sinai.
The Prime Minister's Office and defense officials shy away from admitting that relations with the Supreme Military Council ruling Egypt are going from bad to worse. Since the terrorist attack from Sinai on the Eilat highway on Aug. 18, which left 8 Israelis dead, beefed up Egyptian forces have not carried out a single operation against the thousands of terrorists loose in the peninsula – even though a Palestinian Jihad Islami gang of 30 armed terrorists has been hanging about since Aug. 25 waiting for the right moment to cross over for a multiple attack inside Israel.
September 21, 2011 Briefs
• Obama said there are no short cuts to peace. It can only be achieved through negotiations – not statements and resolutions at the United Nations. In his address at the UN General Assembly opening Wednesday, the US president stressed: Ultimately it is up to Israel and the Palestinians to negotiate and agree on borders, security, refugees, Jerusalem. Palestinians deserve a territorial base for their state, he said (No mention of 1967 borders). But they must acknowledge the very real security concerns Israel faces every day including the aim of far bigger nations to wipe it off the map. Peace depends on compromise. The US president stressed that US is unshakably committed to Israeli security.
• Ahead of Obama's meeting with Abbas, Palestinian officials bitterly slammed his speech as taking Israel's side and aimed at the American Jewish voter.
• Palestinians lobbed rocks and firebombs at passing Israel cars on West Bank roads, one injuring an Israeli baby. At the Kalandia checkpoint into Jerusalem, Israeli soldiers broke up a clash with rubber bullets. Four Palestinians were wounded. The turnout in Palestinian towns in support of the UN state bid was sparser than expected.
• Iran release US hikers Josh Fattaal and Shane Bauer into care of Omani official Wednesday.
• Turkey and Turkish Cyprus sign an agreement in New York Wednesday marking out undersea gas exploration boundaries in the E. Mediterranean as Turkish warships lurk in the region.
Israeli forces on high alert for Hamas-led anti-US riots in Jerusalem and West Bank
21 Sept. Israel's military, security service and police went on elevated preparedness for trouble Wednesday night, Sept. 21, after receiving information that the Palestinian Hamas and other radical groups were preparing to stage violent confrontations against Israel on the West Bank, exploiting the anti-US mood sweeping Palestinian areas following President Barack Obama's support for Israel's case in his UN address.
Palestinian Holy Places Minister ordered all the imams of Jerusalem mosques to switch on their loudspeakers at full volume after Friday prayers and shout Allah is Great!
The call would also go up from al Aqsa Mosque on Temple Mount. Directives went out to Palestinian extremist cells to break into Jewish settlements and ransack and torch homes, taking their model from the mass storming of the Israeli embassy in Cairo on Sept. 10 and ram the checkpoints guarding Jerusalem.
At UN Center, Palestinian determination to go through with their application for UN acceptance as a state shows its first crack. They now agree to postpone a vote at the Security Council.
No big UN showdown on Palestinian state this week
21 Sept. Accounts of the big diplomatic showdown at the United Nations over the Palestinian bid for statehood to be filed Friday, Sept. 23 are premature. debkafile: The Palestinian application is likely to be put on hold for weeks if not months, during which Palestinian independence celebrations could turn violent.
The Middle East Quartet failed to reach a decision this week on how to deal with the diplomatic crisis posed by the Palestinian bid. Composed of representatives from the US, Russia, the European Union and the UN, the Quartet used to be the supreme body for shaping international consensus on the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Now, the Russians are doing their best to slow the momentum of Middle East diplomacy and block sanctions against Syria in protest for US and European participation in the conquest of Libya.
September 22, 2011 Briefs
• US, UK and other delegations walk out of UN General Assembly when Iranian president attacks Israel in his speech and calls 9/11 a mystery.
• Netanyahu and Abbas address UN General Assembly Friday.
• Israel police mobilize 22,000 officers, declares elevated preparedness in all parts of country, including Green Line.
• Hamas cells get set for attacks on settlements and checkpoints, riots in Jerusalem.
• Turkey closes its airspace to planes carrying military equipment to Syria from Russia and Iran.
• Israel's Labor elects MK Sheli Yechimovitch as its new leader. A new face, she defeated veteran Amir Peretz in the runoff vote.
• The Palestinians to file application for UN membership Friday as planned but not push for an immediate vote because it lacks Security Council majority.
Qaddafi enlists 12,000-strong army, all Tuareg tribal fighters
22 Sept. Muammar Qaddafi and his sons have assembled a new army of 12,000 soldiers – all desert warfare-trained fighters of the loyal Tuareg tribes, debkafile’s military sources report. Last week, the Tuareg tribal council met in Niger and placed Qaddafi, his sons, military chiefs and members of the ousted regime still loyal under the tribes’ protection. The council declared members of the rebel National Transitional Council enemies of the tribes.
Thursday, Sept. 22, the NTC claimed the capture of the southern Libyan desert town of Sabha, even though they only reached its outskirts. NATO approved the extension of its naval and air operations in Libya by another 90 days to help the rebels dislodge Qaddafi's loyalists from the cities in Libya they are still holding.