A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Weeks Ending Feb. 10, 2011
Feb. 4, 2011 Briefs
• Obama: Mubarak must take meaningful concrete steps for the transition that begins right now and includes all the parties.
• Egyptian PM Shafiq sees no chance of Mubarak handing rule to his deputy Suleiman.
• Pro and anti-Mubarak activists come to blows in central Cairo late Friday. Casualties reported. Egyptian troops make arrests – thought to be of protesters. Sustained gunfire heard north of Tahrir Square, Cairo Friday night.
• Egyptian police HQ building in El Arish, N. Sinai, is on fire after an RPG hit.
• All Syria's opposition groups call people out for Day of Anger Friday- Saturday.
• Hizballah transfers 1,000 gunmen to Damascus to defend Assad regime on Day of Anger.
• Egyptian defense minister and top army officials visit Tahrir Square.
• US continues push for Mubarak's immediate resignation in talks with Egyptian officials. They discussed a military-backed caretaker government until elections.
Hizballah team breaks 22 members out of Egyptian jail
4 Feb. A joint Hizballah-Hamas unit used the havoc in Egypt to storm the Wadi Natrun prison north of Cairo Sunday, Jan. 30, and break out 22 members of the Hizballah's spy-cum-terror network, tried and convicted in Egypt for plotting terrorist attacks in Cairo, the Suez Canal and Suez cities and on Israeli vacationers in Sinai in 2007-2008, debkafile reports. They are back in Gaza.
Muslim Brotherhood inmates were also freed to boost the anti-Mubarak street protests now in their second week.
Feb. 5, 2011 Briefs
• Egypt's ruling party secretary and Mubarak's son Gemal step down from party functions.
• Anti-Mubarak protest begins to dissipate as some accept regime's concessions.
• Egyptian government seeks to restore country to normal life Sunday, after 12 days of protest fail to unseat Mubarak.
• UK PM Cameron: Multicultural Britain has failed. British Muslims must subscribe to British mainstream values. He said passive tolerance to extremism has gone on too long.
• George W. Bush cancels keynote speech at UJA conference in Geneva. He was said to be threatened with detention for allegedly approving torture of captives.
Sinai gas pipeline explosion. Cairo: Gas for Israel, Jordan stopped for Egypt's domestic use
5 Feb. Egypt's suspension of gas supplies to Israel after the North Sinai pipeline was blown up Saturday, Feb 5 has suddenly cut Israel off from more than 40 percent of its gas needs and 80 percent of Jordan's. A few hours after the blast, Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmad Shafiq announced the gas supplied to both countries under contract would henceforth be diverted to domestic requirements.
With Egyptian gas cut off for the foreseeable future, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu went into hasty non-stop consultations with ministers and energy and military and security officials. They declared an emergency at the power stations, and discussed the expanding occupation of North Sinai by Palestinian Hamas extremists from Gaza, the failure of joint Israeli and Egyptian military efforts to contain it and, thirdly, concerns that Hamas may cross into Israel and sabotage Israeli power facilities.
Feb. 6, 2011 Briefs
• Two Qassam missiles fired from Gaza explode at Shear Hanegev: No warning signal.
• At least 50 killed as Sudanese army mutiny spreads through South which prepares for independence. Members of a unit refused to redeploy in the North following the South's vote for secession.
• Egyptian Vice President Suleiman: Demos against the regime were not sparked by the protesters, but came from outside Egypt. He rejects calls to take on Mubarak's powers.
• Cairo government and opposition agree to set up constitution reform panel.
Egyptian army opposes Mubarak's ouster
6 Feb. debkafile's military sources disclose exclusively that the army heads, who have kept to the sidelines of the anti- and pro-Mubarak standoff till now, have decided to stand against the president's premature removal before his term runs out in 200 days. "We can on no account permit an Egyptian general, hero of the October (1973) War against Israel, to be humiliated, whatever the political price may be," the generals now say. Vice President Omar Suleiman's compromise proposals have split the opposition.).
Obama's Egyptian policy criticized in US as missing its mark
6 Feb. Many Western and Middle East observers were astonished to hear US President Barak Obama's special envoy Frank Wisner insisting that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stay after all to steer changes after twelve days of Washington-backed protests failed to unseat him. Some US sources suggested Wisner's words were a pointer to a White House flip flop in its policy on Egypt in view of the clear impression that it had missed its mark and was facing rising criticism at home. Washington said his comments had not been coordinated with the government.
Vice President Omar Suleiman, shortly after he was sworn into office by Mubarak, went on state TV Thursday, Feb. 3, with strong criticism of "foreign elements" who, he said, when they fail to make us obey their orders, "incite the people against us."
Feb. 8, 2011 Briefs
• Clinton now opposes Mubarak's hasty departure in dramatic US U-turn.
• Gen. Galant withdraws High Court petition against Gen. Gantz's appointment as chief of staff. Petition against Galant in land dispute also withdrawn.
• Former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevi says Israeli leaders should give up scare tactics against Iran. They are winning the fight to keep a nuclear bomb from Tehran, he says.
• Finance Minister Steinitz accuses Israeli media of exploiting Galant affair for incitement against government and defense minister.
• Egyptian Foreign Ministry: Unnamed foreign embassies smuggled arms and communication equipment into Cairo by diplomatic mail.
• Gunmen again attack Egyptian North Sinai police station with RPGs.
• Closed-door trial of three US hikers for spying goes into second day in Iran Monday. One of three Sarah Shourd absent after her release on bail.
• Huge trade pact signed between Turkey and Iran.
UN Hariri tribunal to charge Hizballah with terror, conspiracy, murder
7 Feb. The UN Special Lebanon Trial was asked to define crimes of terrorism, conspiracy and premeditated murder at its first hearing in the Netherlands Monday, Feb. 7. Its response will for the first time define terror as an international crime. debkafile's sources report that within days, pretrial Judge Daniel Fransen is to publish indictments in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minster Rafiq Hariri. The judges have therefore jumped the gun on Hizballah. A showdown looms large in Lebanon too because the carefully crafted plan put together by Iran, Syria and Hizballah to make sure that that point was never reached is coming undone at the seams. Its linchpin, Najib Migati, is unable to form a puppet government in Beirut and the SLT is therefore not threatened of being disqualified by Lebanon.
Feb. 8, 2011 Briefs
• Fresh outburst of anti-Mubarak demos in Cairo, Alexandria and Fayum Tuesday. Tens of thousands again pack Tahrir Square. Large group placed prime minister's office under siege.
• New Egyptian government promises 15% pay hike for state employees. debkafile: No one knows how to finance wage hikes for 6 million workers.
• Qassam missile from Gaza explodes near a Shear Hanegev kibbutz Tuesday.
• Ahmadinejad: Iran to launch several home-built satellites by March 2012. Monday, Iran unveiled prototypes of four new satellites: Rasad, Fajr, Zafar and Amir Kabir-1. Also Safir-B1 rocket engine and first center for receiving satellite images.
• Netanyahu again warns Egypt could go the way of Iran if Islamists exploit revolution. Talking to European Friends of Israel, he stressed interests of both countries in preserving 32-year old peace.
• Chief of Staff Ashkenazi says IDF in good shape for new challenges, such as multi-front and unconventional warfare.
Hamas tightens grip on N. Sinai, transfers al Qaeda
8 Feb. Hamas while preparing follow-up attacks on the Sinai gas pipeline after Saturday's explosion has opened the Egyptian-Israeli border region to Al Qaeda jihadists redeployed in Gaza from Iraq, international smugglers and criminal gangs. A Hamas-Muslim Brotherhood command center is operating in North Sinai.
Egypt is undermanned for securing the entire Sinai Peninsula. Its troops are concentrating on securing Sharm el Sheikh and the eastern bank of the Suez Canal. Hamas is left to prey on North Sinai and make it a launching pad for terror attacks on Israel.
Since the uprising began in Egypt two weeks ago, more than 1,000 Hamas gunmen have infiltrated North Sinai from the Gaza Strip and seized control of the region. Israeli officers serving in this border sector told debkafile's military sources that the situation there was getting dangerously out of control.
Egypt nears military coup. USS warships in Suez
8 Feb. A fresh surge of popular anti-Mubarak protest ripping through Egypt Tuesday, Feb. 8 has brought the country close to a military coup to stem the anarchy. Vice President Suleiman conveyed this warning to a group of Egyptian news editors as the disorders began their third week began to spread to places of work.
The arrival of US naval, marine and air forces in the Suez Canal's Greater Bitter Lake indicated that the crisis was quickly swerving out of control.
For a few hours Tuesday, it looked as through Egypt was finally going back to normal after two weeks of popular protest. But then, suddenly, thousands again took to the streets and squares of Egyptian towns for their biggest rally yet shouting "Death to Mubarak!" and "Hang Mubarak!"
Feb. 9, 2011 Briefs
• At least 8 Iraqis killed, 80 injured in three bomb attacks in northern oil town of Kirkuk.
• Egypt's VP says protests cant be allowed to continue much longer without the military stepping in.
• At least 3 killed in clashes in Egyptian oasis town of El Khargo 500 km. south of Cairo Wednesday. Security forces used live rounds against 3,000 protesters. Cairo bans entry of Palestinians to Egypt. Notice sent to Jordanian and Kuwaiti airlines.
• Israeli Air Force bombed a Gaza tunnel dug under Israeli border and two others Tuesday night. A series of smaller explosions triggered.
• Biden calls Egyptian VP Suleiman to demand repeal of emergency laws.
• Egyptian gas cutoff costs Israel $1.5 m a day for alternative power supplies. Supply to Jordan partially restored – not to Israel.
Egypt's economy fast approaching meltdown
9 Feb. Egypt and its population of 82 million are on the point of a calamitous breakdown as large sections of its economy are shut down by strikes against state-appointed managements and Vice President Omar's Suleiman's leadership. As protesters continue to fill Cairo's Tahrir Square, trains have stopped running, food is running low and lifeline highways are blocked by protesters.
Men of the 2nd and 9th divisions on street duty in Cairo have had no food rations for 12 hours. Customs officers have stopped levying toll fees from the approximately 50 ships transiting the Suez Canal every day and netting the Egyptian treasury $3 billion a year, its main source of revenue. Around 1.300,000 foreign tourists have fled the country. Schools are closed.
Egypt's Foreign Minister Abul Gheit called on the army Wednesday, Feb. 9, to take over government to save Egypt from total anarchy. He accused Washington of trying to impose its will on Cairo."
Feb. 10, 2011 Briefs
• Mubarak refuses to resign. In a live speech to the nation from Cairo, he refuted reports of his imminent resignation. The crowds massed in Tahrir responded with howls of rage. He lifted the state of emergency depending on law and order being restored. Mubarak said he would transfer powers to his vice president. From now until he ends his term in September he would oversee the transition of power. "I want to finish the constitutional reform process".
• Mubarak praised the army for safeguarding the people. He said he would not bow "dictates from foreign countries". He announced a committee for constitutional reforms to meet the people's demands.
• Saudi king Abdullah is alive, says a senior ruling family adviser, denying rumors of his death. According to one report, the king was so furious after his conversation with Obama over the Egyptian situation that he suffered a sudden heart attack.
• Turkel appointments commission approves Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz as next Israeli armed forces chief.
• At least 27 killed in NW Pakistani army training camp by child suicide bomber in school uniform.
• Egyptian crisis in Barak's talks in Washington with Gates, Clinton, NSA Donilon.
• Three cabinet ministers visit refurbished Joseph's Tomb site near Nablus. Overnight more than 1,000 Jewish visitors at site.
Deep US-Saudi rift over Egypt: Abdullah turns to Tehran
10 Feb. The conversation between President Barack Obama and Saudi King Abdullah early Thursday, Feb. 10, was the most acerbic the US president has ever had with an Arab ruler, debkafile's sources report. Their falling out on the Egyptian crisis so enraged the king that some US and Middle East sources reported he suffered a sudden heart attack. Rumors of his death rocked world financial and oil markets that morning and were denied by an adviser to the ruling family.
The king condemned Obama's treatment of Egypt and its president Hosni Muhbarak a disaster that would generate instability in the region and imperil all the moderate pro-US Arab rulers and regimes. He pledged to make up the losses to Egypt if Washington cuts off military and economic aid to force Mubarak to resign.
He also ordered the level of diplomatic relations with Tehran raised.