A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Two Weeks Ending Feb. 1, 2007

IDF special units uncover two Hizballah bunkers in Israel territory east of the Biranit outpost


26 January: The bunkers contained food and digging tools to sustain Hizballah fighters for a long stay before the war of summer 2006. The facilties were blown up in a controlled explosion.


Strategic affairs minister Avigdor Lieberman says defense ministry has not drawn lessons of Lebanon War


27 January: After touring the Israel-Lebanese border, the minister said the army was doing a good job but is not getting the right sort of support from the defense ministry. He reported Hizballah flags flying close to the border.


Candidates for next Israeli president launch election campaigns


27 January: After Moshe Katzav was granted a three-month absence to face charges of rape and abuse of power, three would-be successors threw their hats in the ring: Elder statesman, acting prime minister Shimon Peres (Kadima) and Knesset members Reuven Rivlin (Likud) and Colette Avital (Labor). Prime minister Ehud Olmert, who backs the candidacy of fellow-Kadima member Peres, wants an open ballot in the Knesset in order to impose party discipline. Sponsors of his two rivals are fighting for a secret ballot. Acting president, Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik may join the race.


Fatah is willing to sustain 200 to 500 dead to prevail over Hamas in Gaza


27 January: Mahmoud Abbas’ close associate, the Palestinian-Kurdish tycoon Mohammed Rashid flew into Damascus Saturday night, Jan 27, with an ultimatum for Meshaal. He said this was the Hamas’ last chance for a ceasefire. If Meshaal agreed, Abbas would return to the negotiating table. If not, his Fatah forces were ready to sustain up to 500 dead to win control of Gaza. Abbas’ lieutenant Mohammed Dahlan is commanding the Fatah side.

debkafile‘s military sources report that Saturday both factions turned their guns on each other’s senior commanders. Fatah death squads stormed Hamas mosques, seized and executed three officers of Hamas’ special units. Hamas reciprocated by eliminating Fatah commanders.


Iran’s Space Venture Will Enhance its Nuclear Military Resources


28 January: A ballistic missile converted to a space launcher would pose a greater military threat to Israel than the spy satellite it launched.

The conversion of a BM 25 to a space launcher would produce an intercontinental ballistic missile able to drop a payload weighing 300 km anywhere in the world.

Although most military and intelligence experts doubt the Iranian satellite would survive in orbit for more than a few months before burning out, Tehran’s technological feat cannot be overstated.

Whereas Israel has only a single awkwardly-angled route for inserting its Ofek satellites into orbit, the Mediterranean, Iran can use two routes – northward above the Caspian Sea or southward, over the Indian Ocean, without risking any of its stages falling on Russian or Saudi soil in a failed launch. Washington has been impelled by Tehran’s rapid progress in missile technology and uranium enrichment to seek anti-ballistic missile sites in Poland and the Czech Republic, to intercept Iranian missiles heading towards Europe. Moscow objects strongly, claiming the American missiles will be pointed at Moscow rather than Tehran.

A three stage-missile in Iranian hands, powered by solid fuel with a long-range capability, presents a major military threat to Israel and the IDF. Israel has surface missiles which can cause substantial damage to Iranian targets but the Islamic Republic will survive. Israel’s Arrow system could knock out of the sky one or more of the new Shehab 3ER missiles; it cannot handle the complexities of a multiple Shehab warhead fired to deflect Arrow interceptors from meeting a heavyweight incoming BM25 ICBM.

The only effective resource Israel has at this point is the power of a pre-emptive strike against Iran’s range of sophisticated missiles, a goal no less important than its nuclear installations.


Israeli military and security chiefs fear Eilat bombing signals deadly new wave funded from Tehran and Damascus


January 29: The bomber, Mohamed Faisal al-Siksik, 21, from Gaza, blew himself up in a bakery in the Red Sea resort of Eilat, killing the two proprietors and a third Israeli. This was the first such attack the holiday paradise has ever experienced. debkafile‘s counter-terror sources report that the next wave of suicide attacks is expected to be mounted from Gaza and Sinai by the Palestinian Jihad Islami in conjunction with local al Qaeda cells with funding from Tehran and Damascus.

The bomber’s mother was interviewed on television proudly holding an automatic rifle and declaring she hoped all her children would be “martyrs” like him.

A senior Israeli officer familiar with the Israeli-Egyptian Sinai border region told debkafile after the Eilat attack: “Olmert and Peretz have missed the train. Their mlitary restraint in the face of Qassam missile attacks and a terrorist build-up has given the most violent elements free rein to get set for a fresh, well-organized assault.”

He stressed: “It’s no use expecting the Egyptians to secure the Sinai border. Since Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip 15 months ago, the Egyptian-Gazan-Israeli borders are a highway for smugglers of terrorists, missiles, explosives and traffickers of every kind. The IDF is the only force capable of putting a stop to this traffic and suppressing the collaboration between Hamas, Jihad Islami, Fatah-al Aqsa Brigades and al Qaeda. Unfortunately, its hands are tied by the government.”


Fingerprints of Palestinian Jihad Islami leader Muhammad al Hindi on Eilat suicide bombing


29 January: debkafile‘s military sources disclose that the Jihad Islami leader returned to the Gaza Strip on Jan 19 after a six-month absence in Damascus, Beirut and Tehran during which his Syrian and Iranian masters appointed him chief of the organization in place of Abdallah Ramadan Shelah.

He arrived in Gaza carrying a large sum of cash allocated by the two governments for building a new terrorist militia in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and Sinai in conjunction with al Qaeda. The Islami Jihad plans to reinvent itself from an underground terrorist group to a military militia, like the Hamas special force.

In Damascus and Beirut, the Jihad leader consulted with Qaeda elements operating in the Palestinian camps of Lebanon, which maintain close operational ties with al Qaeda’s Gaza cell.

debkafile adds: The Olmert government holds to the position that the Palestinian factional infighting is not Israel’s business and it should therefore not interfere in the bloody battles between Hamas and Fatah. At the same time, Israel’s non-interference in Gaza’s affairs leaves the field clear for Palestinian and jihadist terrorists to use the Gaza Strip as a base and haven for more attacks in Israel like Eilat’s first suicide bombing Monday, Jan. 29, which left three Israelis dead – not to speak of missile attacks against Israeli civilian locations.


Olmert decides to hold off Israeli response to Monday’s Eilat bombing which killed three Israelis


30 January: After listening to military and security leaders, he rejected all their proposals for military action against the perpetrators.

Prime minister Ehud Olmert keeps on saying that Israel must abide by the informal truce with Hamas, although the Jihad Islami which mounted the Eilat bombing with elements of al Qaeda has refused to honor it.

Olmert and defense minister Amir Peretz, like Ariel Sharon before them, declare that suicide attacks against Israel will not go unpunished. They then proceed to do nothing. The issue of the wide-open Israel-Egypt border fence now being raised is a distraction. The cost of an electronic fence the length of this 200-km border would be prohibitive. But the source of the evil is the Gaza-Egyptian border, through which Palestinian terrorists have made their way into Egyptian Sinai unhindered since Israel’s September 2006 pull-out. That stretch of border – from Kerem Shalom to Rafah – is no more than 20 km long; fencing it would run to less than $20 m. By failing to seal this small line on the map, Israel grants free rein to arms smugglers, missile launchers against Sderot and suicide bombers to reach Eilat. Not a finger is being raised to interfere with the Gaza Strip’s evolution into a world-class depot for terrorists and their armaments.


Israel terrorism victims win landmark victory in US court against Arab Bank


30 January: US District Judge Nina Gershon ruled in favor of 1,600 survivors and family members of terrorism victims in Israel that suicide bombing attacks violate customary international law and that the plaintiffs have successfully stated claims for genocide and crimes against humanity.

The judge found sufficient evidence that the Arab Bank’s provision of banking services facilitated money laundering and payments from (a Saudi Arabian) committee to suicide bombers’ beneficiaries, thereby creating an incentive for suicide bombing.

Iris Almog Schwartz lost her mother, father, brother and two nephews in the Oct. 4, 2003 suicide bombing of the Maxim restaurant in Haifa.

Arab Bank is headquartered in Amman, Jordan, with a global network of more than 400 branches in 25 countries, including the United States.


Russia to demand freeze lifted on aid to Hamas


The demand will be made at the next meeting of the Middle East Quartet in Washington Friday, Feb. 2, according to President Vladimir Putin’s personal envoy Dep. FR Alexander Saltanov. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will attend the meeting hosted by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The blockade on international aid was imposed last year when the Hamas terrorist group was elected to Palestinian government.


An Iranian official postulates first US military action against Iran in two months


31 January: The first commander of the Revolutionary Guards, Mohsein Rezai, estimated in recent conversations with Western sources that the US would not start out with a large-scale attack but only pinpointed military raids against RG bases in Iran. The opposition Mujaheddin al Khalq is reportedly being trained to take part in these operations, which would probably escalate as Iran began retaliating to the American strikes.


Seven Palestinians killed, more than 50 injured in major flare-up of Hamas-Fatah fighting


1 February: After three days of relative calm, Hamas went on the offensive Thursday, Feb. 1, blowing up the Fatah-controlled General Intelligence HQ in Gaza City. Hamas gunmen went on to attack the main facility of the Preventive Security Service facility, which is headed by Fatah adherent Rashid Abu Shbak.


Ex-justice minister Haim Ramon to appeal his conviction for indecent act


1 February: Wednesday, the three Tel Aviv magistrates unanimously found the former minister, 56, guilty of forcibly kissing a 20-year old girl officer, who brought the complaint. The maximum penalty for indecent assault is three years in prison. Sentencing will be announced on Feb. 21. Ramon is therefore barred from returning to the post of justice minister from which he suspended himself for the trial. A movement in the Knesset wants him also to give up his seat on the Kadima list. Prime minister Ehud Olmert voiced deep regret for the conviction. Ramon’s departure opens the way for a cabinet reshuffle.

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