A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Weeks Ending April 7, 2011

March 30, 2011 Briefs
• Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa deserts Qaddafi and escapes to London.
• Syrian ruler Assad blamed a world conspiracy led by the US and Israel for the unrest “in the last bastion of Arab resistance”.
• Israeli air strike hits two Jihad Islami motorcyclists near Rafah, Gaza Strip early Wednesday.


London parley divided on Libya. More shocks across Arab world


30 March: The London conference ended Tuesday, March 29 divided between the US and Britain in favor of arming the Libyan rebels and France and Italy against. Control passed to a “contact group” with the vague brief to map out Libya’s future. The Libyan conflict was thus relegated to the same uncertain fate as the other Arab uprisings, whose outcomes are unknowable.
These convulsions will buffet the entire region for years.
Bahrain. Tehran, though temporarily set back by Saudi military intervention, is again roiling the Shiite population into rising up against the throne. The oil-rich island kingdom is in for more riotous demonstrations. Here, too, Hizballah’s destabilizing hand has left its mark.
Egypt. The political and religious elites are at each other’s throats. Both are undermining the efforts of the military junta which took over after Hosni Mubarak’s ouster to establish its authority.
Yemen. This strategic Red Sea nation is sinking ever deeper into a bloody, interminable civil war.
Syria. President Bashar Assad’s efforts to offer concessions, including his sacking of the government Tuesday, March 29, as bones to appease the Sunni majority have had the opposite effect. Tempers of the disaffected groups in Syria are rising.


March 31, 2011 Briefs
• US citizens advised to consider leaving Syria in view of ongoing political and civil unrest, especially in Latakia and Deraa.
• US lawmakers urge Obama to abandon engagement policy with Syria and line up solidly behind opposition.
Turkey informs UN Security Council that contraband arms were discovered on Iranian plane bound for Aleppo.


Libyan rebels sold Hizballah and Hamas chemical shells


31 March: Senior Libyan rebel “officers” sold Hizballah and Hamas thousands of chemical shells from the stocks of mustard and nerve gas that fell into their hands when they overran Muammar Qaddafi’s military facilities in and around Benghazi, debkafile’s exclusive sources report. The rebels offloaded an estimated 2,000 artillery shells carrying mustard gas and 1,200 nerve gas shells for cash payment amounting to several million dollars negotiated by Iran. The consignments may still be in Sudan en route for Lebanon and Gaza.
Tehran threw its support behind the anti-Qaddafi rebels because of this unique opportunity to get hold of the Libyan stock of poison gas and arm Hizballah and Hamas with unconventional weapons without Iran being implicated in the transaction.


April 1, 2011 Briefs
• Afghan mob kills up to 20 people, including foreign UN workers in Mazar-e-Sharif north of Kabul. The protesters against Koran burning in Florida beheaded at least two UN staffers – one man and one woman.
• Syrian protesters calling for freedom took to the streets Friday in Damascus, Deraa, Qamishli, Hassakeh and Latakiya. 10 protesters killed in Damascus suburb of Douma by Syrian sniper fire and severe beatings.


April 2, 2011 Briefs
• Israeli tourists advised to leave Sinai without delay, contact their families in view of current Hamas/Al Qaeda kidnap threat.
• Libya rejects rebels' ceasefire terms, says troop pullback would open door to Al Qaeda. More claims of civilian deaths from Western air strikes. Saturday, rebels too accused coalition air strikes of killing 10 of their fighters on the outskirts of embattled Brega.


Israel and Hamas move closer to a Spring war


2 April: After weeks of rising tension, Israel and Hamas have taken another step towards a full-blown military confrontation: Saturday, April 2, an Israeli air strike killed three senior Hamas Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades gunmen in the Gaza Strip, pre-empting a major Palestinian terror-cum-kidnap campaign scheduled for Passover. Hamas warned Israel its "dangerous escalation" would have "consequences." The three gunmen killed were only one tentacle of the network Hamas has put in place in Sinai, Jordan and on both sides of the Israel-West Bank border.
The difference between the present and past conflicts is that Hamas is now drawing encouragement not just from Tehran but also from the new Egyptian regime. It is Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Elaraby's ambition to transfer Hamas's political center from Damascus to Cairo, lift the Egyptian blockade on Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and transform the enclave into Egypt's launching pad for an anti-Israeli policy harking back to the hostility predating the epic peace relations President Anwar Sadat forged with Israel in 1979.


April 3, 2011 Briefs
• Libyan Dep. foreign minister flies to Athens with message from Qaddafi for Greek prime minister.
• Taliban claims twin suicide bombings which killed at least 41 people in Pakistani Sakhi Sarwar shrine in Punjab.
• Palestinian missile from Gaza explodes on empty ground in Eshkol region Sunday.
• Violent protests against Koran burning spread in Afghanistan Sunday.


America's exit from Libya ends no-fly zone, military campaign


3 April: The US has quietly withdrawn its air and sea assets from Libya and ended its military intervention against Muammar Qaddafi. This action over the weekend exposed NATO's leading powers Britain and France as badly short of the air and sea capabilities necessary for halting Muammar Qaddafi's military advances, enforcing a no-fly zone or maintaining a sea blockade on Libyan ports. The scale of Western coalition air attacks dropped by 80 percent.
As their sponsors seek diplomatic channels to an exit, the rebels angle for a ceasefire.
Qaddafi has taken advantage of coalition shortcomings to start deploying his fleet of 145 large air transports. Free of around 90 percent of Libyan airspace, they are now moving troop reinforcements and ordnance from place to place.


April 4, 2011 Briefs
• Ahmadinejad demands Saudi forces leave Bahrain. The Iranian president added there would soon be a new Middle East "without the Zionists, without the US and their lackeys".
• Qassam missile from Gaza explodes south of Ashkelon Monday after Iron Dome anti-missile deployed there.
• US weapons shipments to Lebanon quietly frozen over concerns about Hizballah's expanding role in Beirut.
• Netanyahu creates panel to minimize damage to IDF's good name caused by Goldstone report on the 2008-9 Gaza campaign now that its author has retracted charges. Its author no longer believes Israeli army intentionally targeted civilians and committed war crimes. But he left same charges against Hamas in place.
• Second Iron Dome anti-missile system deployed at Ashkelon after first at Beersheba.


Palestinian engineer charged with upgrading Hamas missiles


4 April: Dirar Abu Asisi, the Gazan Palestinian who claims to have been abducted by Israel's secret service from the Ukraine, was charged before the Beersheba district court Monday, April 4, on 15 terror-related counts, including manufacturing and upgrading the range and capabilities of thousands of Grad and Qassam rockets launched from Gaza at Israeli towns and cities in recent years as well as anti-tank missiles. As commander of the military academy run by Hamas' armed wing, he was nicknamed Dr. Rocket.
He obtained his PhD degree from the Ukrainian military engineering academy where he specialized in missile control systems and upgrading the ranges of Grad and Qassam missiles.
Charged with the attempted murder of thousands of Israelis, membership of a terrorist organization, providing services to an illegal organization, conspiracy to commit a crime and illegal weapons manufacture, his family claims he was abducted in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine, on Feb. 19.


Iran squares off against Saudi Arabia over Bahrain


4 April: The accord reached between Saudi King Abdullah and the Bahraini monarch Hamas bin Isa Al Khalifa for the oil island's virtual annexation by Riyadh has so incensed Tehran that armed Iranian-Saudi clashes with the potential for all-out warfare may be unavoidable. Shiite-ruled Iraq would back Tehran in the first Shiite-Sunni collision to be sparked by the wave of unrest sweeping the Arab world.
In closed meetings with senior Saudi princes, King Abdullah reported that Iran and its Hizballah surrogate were actively stirring up Shiite opposition in Manama as the first step toward fomenting a Shiite uprising against the Saudi throne.
debkafile's military sources estimate that some 11,000 Saudi and United Arab Emirates boots have accumulated in Bahrain.
March 31, the Iranian parliament's security and foreign affairs committee strongly condemned Saudi military steps: "Saudi Arabia knows better than any other country that playing with fire in the sensitive Persian Gulf region is not in their interests," said the statement.


April 5, 2011 Briefs
• Libyan rebels demonstrate in Brega accusing NATO of being too slow to act.
• Presidents Obama and Peres agreed in White House talks that current Arab turmoil was challenge and also opportunity to restart Israel-Palestinian peace talks. Obama said "it's more urgent than ever to seize the opportunity to create a peaceful solution. Peres raised Iranian issue and noted Obama reiterated US commitment to Israel's security as top US priority. He asked for Jonathan Pollard's pardon but received no answer on the spot. They also discussed Gilead Shalit.
• PM Netanyahu is due in Washington in early May.
• Two mortar shells fired from Gaza explode on open ground at Shear Hanegev.


In first Damascus firefight, 2 Syrian policemen, 15 demonstrators shot dead


5 April: The Syrian uprising took a new turn Tuesday, April 5, when armed protesters ambushed and shot dead 2 policemen in the Damascus suburb of Kfar Batna. Syrian troops then shot dead 15 inhabitants.
Earlier Tuesday, Syria's opposition groups and Muslim Brotherhood launched a fresh wave of street protests and passive resistance under the combined banner, "The Syrian Revolution 2011."
Both sides of the conflict realize that the Assad regime is not yet at the tipping-point for its survival after two weeks of clashes.
Because it is hard to get ordinary Sunni Muslims out on the streets, the protest leaders have instigated a campaign of passive resistance.


April 6, 2011 Briefs
• Goldstone refuses to withdraw his negative report on Israel in the 2008-9 Gaza campaign despite his retractions of war crimes charges.
• Yemeni president accepts GCC offer to host talks between protesters and government.
• Human Rights Watch accuses Palestinian Authority of abusing and detaining scores of journalists on West Bank.
• EU joins US and UN in condemning new Israeli construction in Jerusalem as "obstruction to peace".


April 7, 2011 Briefs
• Israeli helicopters, mortars, tanks and navy pound the Gaza Strip after Cornet anti-tank missile is fired for the first time at an Israeli school bus. A 16-year old boy was critically injured and the driver slightly hurt shortly after he dropped most of the 50 children at Negev Kibbutzim Nahal Oz and Saad. As the missiles kept coming from Gaza, Israel's Iron Dome debuted by intercepting its first Qassam in Ashkelon. Three came later. Three Palestinians killed, 20 injured in Israel counter-attacks most aimed at Hamas training camps.
• Police in Santa Monica, California, are investigating an explosion at a local synagogue Thursday. No one was hurt but extensive damage was caused to buildings.
• Shin Bet rounds up five-man Hamas terror cell in Sur Baher, Jerusalem. It is accused of plotting multi-casualty attacks in Israel modeled on the 2008 Mercaz Harav massacre.
• At least 60 injured in collision between two trains near Netanyahu on Tel-Aviv-Haifa line Thursday. Most injuries minor.
• US Defense Secretary Gates hears angry complaints against Washington when he meets Saudi King Abdullah in Riyadh Wednesday night.
• British planes bomb Libyan oil pipeline hours after Qaddafi halted production of oil for which the rebels hoped to raise $100 m for their uprising. Libya said British air attack on Sarir oil field killed three guards, calling it aggression not covered by UN resolution.


Special ops unit hit top Iranian-Hamas arms smugglers in Sudan


7 April. In accusing Israel of killing the two passengers of a Hyundai Sinai near Port Sudan Tuesday, April 5, Khartoum claimed a missile was fired from an aerial drone or a vessel on the Red Sea. debkafile's exclusive sources reveal that a special operations unit landed by sea and used a surface missile to hit the car and kill two top handlers of the Iranian-Hamas arms smuggling network in Sudan. They did not come from Port Sudan airport but by road from the northeastern Sudanese town of Atbara, headquarters of one of the largest and most ruthless arms smuggling network operating out of Sudan which once in the 1980-1990s served al Qaeda. Over the years, Iranian and Hamas agents were given a niche in the expanding Sudanese smuggling ring to oversee the execution of the deals they commissioned for smuggling arms into Gaza. Its most recent commission was the covert transfer of mustard and nerve gas consignments which Hamas and Hizballah buyers purchased with Iranian funding and direction from Libyan rebels in Benghazi and which were bound for Lebanon and the Gaza Strip – as debkafile was first to disclose on March 31.

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