A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Two Weeks Ending Jan. 17, 2008

Israeli Military up in Arms over Bush-Olmert Plan for Major Operation in Gaza on Behalf of… Palestinian Authority


11 Jan. President George W. Bush gave Israel the nod for its long-delayed military operation against Hamas in the Gaza before he ended his 50-hour visit to Jerusalem and Ramallah on Friday, Jan. 11 – except that the Israeli military would have to give up its key objectives.

debkafile‘s military sources disclose his caveats:

1. Israeli forces must limit their incursion to Gaza-Israeli border strips.

2. The IDF must operate only in sparsely-populated areas and refrain from causing extensive Palestinian civilian casualties.

3. The IDF may not capture the main cities.

4. The Israeli army must pull out of cleared areas and hand them to Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas to help him reverse Hamas’ success in throwing him out of Gaza six months ago. The notion that members of Israel’s people’s army, which is duty bound to defend the state, may be ordered to fight and lay down their lives as a political favor to the Palestinian Authority presents the Israeli high command and every serviceman with an irreconcilable dilemma.

One of the plan’s fundamental flaws is that the Palestinian Authority is in effect leaderless, rudderless and bereft of the professional security strength for following up on the deal. Its security services would quickly disintegrate and be swallowed up the Hamas.

When this flaw was explained to the US president, he said: “I agree. That really is a problem.”


USS Harry Truman on high alert for repeat Iranian incident


11 Jan. Kuwait is the US President George W. Bush’s first stop in the Persian Gulf Friday, Jan. 11, at the end of talks in Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The high security focus has therefore shifted to the Persian Gulf region, centering on the USS Harry Truman.

In the last two years, the Revolutionary Guards have taken over Iran’s regular navy and built up a new backbone of small, speedy boats manned by marine commandos, like those which provoked three American warships in the Strait of Hormuz on Jan. 6.

They have also boosted Iran’s submarine force with home-made mini-subs, which are designed for underwater guerrilla tactics that catch American and Israeli vessels unawares.. The IRGS is now working on a “living torpedo,” a suicide bomber who rides in to attack enemy shipping athwart a torpedo with a powerful, fast engine. In practice operations, the bomber jumps out of a fast boat as it sails close the target-vessel and blows it up.


Barak slaps down Israeli prime minister at Knesset panel


14 Jan. Defense minister Ehud Barak remarked: “Words won’t stop missiles, or declarations centrifuges” after prime minister Ehud Olmert told the Knesset foreign affairs and security committee: “Israel will not accept a nuclear-armed Iran and therefore no options are ruled out in advance for preventing it.”

Barak’s “centrifuges” barb referred to Iran’s uranium enrichment program, which was not only alive but, like its missile program, thriving, since Olmert came to power, while the international sanctions policy endorsed by his government had petered out.

Barak added: “A lot can be done, but the last thing needed is a surfeit of words.”


The Moskva missile carrier takes part in big Russian navy maneuver in Mediterranean


14 Jan. Russia has drawn eleven warships from its Black Sea and Atlantic Northwest fleets for a joint war game in the Mediterranean to underline its drive for a naval presence in all the world’s seas and oceans. They rendezvous off Malta Tuesday, Jan. 15. debkafile‘s military sources report: Air carrier Admiral Kutznetsov is on current missions in the Mediterranean, escorted by four ships, including the large anti-submarine Admiral Levchenko and the command and supply ship Sergei Osipov. On its decks are 47 Su-33 fighter-bombers and 10 helicopters.

Dmitry Medvedev, President Vladimir Putin's chosen successor, said Friday, Jan. 11: “Russia must restore its sea power. The Soviet Union's naval might commanded respect.

As part of their maneuvers the Moskva and other units will launch ship-to-air, marine missile interceptor and shore-to-ship missiles and carry out air force drills. During the joint fleet’s 71-day stay in the Mediterranean, the Russian vessels will call in at eleven ports of 6 countries.

debkafile reports that the Russian vessels will dock at the two Syrian military ports of Tartous and Latakia. Another flotilla led by the Ivan Bubnov fuel tanker will call in at Tripoli, Libya, to set up a logistical base for the exercise.

The extended Russian war games challenge the US Sixth Fleet and NATO’s domination of the Mediterranean. Israel is negatively affected by the Russian vessels visits to Arab – not Israeli ports.


Israel-Palestinian “final-status” talks begin in shadow of Bush benchmark: agreed adjustments to 1949 armistice lines


14 Jan. Israel’s foreign minister Tzipi Livni and former Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qureia held their first round of talks on “core issues’ of the conflict in Jerusalem, Jan. 14, – as promised President George W. Bush during his visit.

Since becoming the first US president to advocate Palestinian statehood, Bush has raised the 1949 armistice line as a benchmark:

On April 14, 2004, he said: “… I believe that any peace agreement …will require mutually agreed adjustments to the armistice lines of 1949 to reflect current realities and to ensure that the Palestinian state is viable and contiguous.”

At the time, debkafile emphasized that unlike the pre-1967 war boundaries, the 1949 lines leave open several “demilitarized zones” inside Israel for a final peace accord. Biblical Jerusalem and the Western Wall, in Jordanian hands for 19 years, would be handed over to the Palestinians, as well as part of the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway – unless they agreed to give them up.

Bush further demands: “A viable two-state solution must ensure contiguity of the West Bank.” As has been pointed out, this linkage would cut through and truncate Israel.


Four arrested in Kabul hotel bombing which left 8 dead Monday


15 Jan. A Taliban spokesman threatened to target Kabul restaurants patronized by Westerners and the foreign military for more attacks, the day after eight people were killed, including a Norwegian reporter and an American, in a brazen suicide-shooting attack on the five-star Kabul Serena Hotel.

Four men were arrested, included one of the gunmen who was disguised in police uniform. They were found with a video made by two of the attackers. The fourth was caught fleeing to Pakistan.

Mullah Abdullah was named mastermind of the attack, He is, a close ally of Siraj Haqqani, a well-known Islamist leader based in Miran Shah,in Pakistan's tribal region of North Waziristan. The U.S. military has a $200,000 bounty out on Haqqani.


A kibbutz volunteer from Ecuador shot dead by a Hamas sniper in Gaza


15 Jan. Carlos Andres Chavez, 20, a volunteer from Ecuador, was shot in the back by a sniper while working in the potato fields of Israeli Ein Hashlosha kibbutz farm, Tuesday, Jan. 15. In Sderot, four Israelis, including a mother and two small children, were injured and 5 suffered from shock from a triple-missile volley.

The sniper attack presented Israeli farmers working in their fields with a deadly new threat.


Israeli skirmishes on fringes of Palestinian strongholds may lead up to long-delayed Gaza offensive


15 Jan. Our military sources report that the Hamas, Jihad Islami and Fatah-al Aqsa leaders are under no illusion they can stand up to IDF tank columns with air force cover if they are confronted with a major campaign for capturing sections of Gaza to stamp out Palestinian missile attacks. They are therefore practicing hit-and-run tactics for strikes against advancing Israeli forces as a ploy to cover their retreat to Gaza City.

They plan to barricade themselves in the city into which they calculate the IDF will not venture. Hamas chiefs expect Israeli troops to lay the Gazan capital to siege with occasional sorties into the town. The Palestinian jihadists will meanwhile set up a base for launching hundreds of missiles a day against neighboring Israeli communities and the towns of Ashkelon, Netivot and Ofakim. By night, suicide teams plan to harass Israeli deployments and transport routes.

IDF field officers commanding Gaza operations are therefore questioning the methods to which prime minister Ehud Olmert, defense minister Ehud Barak and chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi are currently holding them, of nibbling at the fringes of – but never entering – the Palestinian bastions. The other side is meanwhile honing its fighting skills without giving up its missile offensive, undeterred by casualties.


Israel attacks kill 15 Palestinian gunmen, including Hussam a-Zahar, son of Hamas Gaza leader


15 Jan. The son of Hamas’ Gaza bureau chief Mahmoud a-Zahar was one of 19 armed Palestinians killed in IDF counter-terror operations in Zeitun and Sejaiya, Gaza Tuesday, Jan. 15. More than 80 injured. His vehicle was struck from the air in Zeitun.


Congressmen object to US sale of sophisticated precision-guided bomb technology to Saudis


15 Jan. US president George Bush’s decision to sell Saudi Arabia 900 Joint Direct Attack Munitions – JDAMs has run into objections in Congress. Some members are concerned it would give the Saudis a qualitative military edge that could be used to attack Israel. Republican Rep. Mark Kirk of Illinois said: “The administration must guarantee to Congress’ satisfaction that selling JDAMs to Saudi Arabia will not harm US forces or our democratic ally Israel.”

Democratic Reps Anthony Weiner of New York and Robert Wexler of Florida said: “It’s mind-bogglingly bad policy because the Saudis at every turn have been uncooperative,” regarding US interests in the Middle East.

debkafile‘s military sources add: US-Saudi policy differences are extensive. They range from arguments over the war on terror, the continuation of private Saudi financing for Islamist terrorists, the passage of young Saudi extremists to Iraq, the al Qaeda strongholds building up in Lebanon as well as cells in Syria, the oil kingdom’s continued support of the Palestinian Hamas terrorists and push for their reconciliation with Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah.


Serious crack in Olmert government coalition with Israel Beitenu walkout and call for elections


16 Jan. Party leader Avigdor Lieberman announced Wednesday, Jan. 16, his faction was making good on its promise to quit his government post as strategic affairs minister if talks on “core issues” of the conflict were launched with Palestinian leaders.

He refuted the argument that Israel’s conflict with the Arabs was territorial and rejected the “land for peace” convention as a trap. He urged that Israel adopt instead the principle of territorial exchanges. Lieberman called for an early general election.

The departure of Israel Beitenu’s 11 Knesset members cuts the Olmert government’s majority in the 120-strong Knesset to 7 in. Without Shas’ 12 members, the government would hold only 55. Even if the prime minister can make up some of the missing numbers with the left-wing Meretz (4) and Torah Front (6), his government’s survival will hang on support from the 10-strong Arab factions. Olmert’s own Kadima party (29) also has potential defectors.


American ex-congressman indicted for raising funds for al Qaeda and Taliban


17 Jan. Mark Deli Siljander, who was also a former delegate to the UN, was charged with belonging to a terrorist fundraising ring alleged to have sent more than $130,000 to an al Qaeda and Taliban supporter. The 42-count indictment in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Mo., alleges the Republican from Michigan was paid by the Islamic American Relief Agency $50,000 in lobbying fees, which were stolen from the US Agency for International Development – USAID. The counts against him include money laundering, conspiracy and obstructing justice by lying about lobbying senators on behalf of an Islamic charity which secretly funds terrorists.


17 Jan. Israel carries out successful engine propulsion tests on long-range missiles at its Palmachim base


First IDF helicopters go into action over Gaza after massive three-day Palestinian missile barrage on Israeli civilians


17 Jan. Thursday afternoon, Jan. 17, after 50 missiles were fired from early morning, the copters directed heavy machine gun fire on northern Gaza’s Beit Lahiya and Beit Hanoun to chase away the missile crews. debkafile‘s military sources report that this helicopter action is not capable of fundamentally quelling the Palestinian missile offensive, which is conducted from sites and arsenals buried deep inside the refugee camps of Gaza City. They can only hit crews and keep some of them on the run.

Early morning, two volleys of 20 missiles slammed into Sderot and its environs as children were on their way to school. Four Israelis were injured, including two border guards.

Wednesday, Jan. 16, the Palestinians fired 55 missiles from Gaza and 20 mortar rounds, up from 41 Tuesday.

debkafile‘s military sources report a standoff in the crisis. The Palestinian missiles’ extended range means the launchers are now embedded in the densely-populated camps around Gaza City – the classical terrorists’ human shields. Prime minister Ehud Olmert promised US president George W. Bush last week to hold Israeli army back from ground attacks on missile sites if Palestinian civilians were at risk.

Jihad Islami and Fatah could therefore afford to take a 10-hour break Wednesday night for rest and reloading their missile launchers and mortars before redoubling their assault Thursday, while the Israeli authorities discussed the need to evacuate children, elderly and sick from Sderot, which is still short of shelters.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat threatened to halt the final-status talks begun Monday with Israel as long as… Israel attacks Palestinians.

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