A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Two Weeks Ending Jan. 31, 2008

Abbas declares three days mourning in Palestinian Authority for George Habash, Palestinian pioneer airline hijacker


25 Jan. He died in Amman aged 81.

His Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestinian, the PLO’s second largest group after Fatah, hijacked its first plane, an El Al flight from Rome to Tel Aviv in 1968. Two years later, it carried out its spectacular three-plane hijack to Jordan. Like Hamas, this Christian left-wing radical , a rival to Yasser Arafat, opposed peace deals with Israel and firmly believed there could be no peace unless Israel were destroyed.

In 1972, the PFLP and Japanese Red Army gunmen murdered 24 passengers at Israel’s international airport. In 1976, in cooperation with the German radical Baader-Meinhoff Gang, Habash’s gunmen hijacked an Air France plane to Entebbe where Israeli commandos staged their famous hostage rescue operation.

Four years ago, under a new leadership, the radical Palestinian group assassinated Israeli minister Rehavam Zeevi in Jerusalem.


Saudis allow extremist preacher Sheik Safar al Hawali to raise funds for Hamas


25 Jan. This week, Riyadh assigned the Saudi Sheik Safar al Hawali, an eminent al Qaeda ideological authority and a close personal friend of Osama bin Laden, the task of launching a fund-raiser on behalf of Hamas in the oil kingdom and Gulf.

Al Qaeda’s resources for raising hundreds of millions of dollars in the oil-rich Arab Gulf states is therefore pressed into service to support Hamas and the al Qaeda networks operating in the Gaza Strip and Sinai.

According to our sources, the top Saudi leadership is taking advantage of Hamas’ thrust into northern Sinai to shift the brunt of al Qaeda’s activities out of the Arabian Peninsula and Gulf and over to Israel’s borders. This deepens the ties between the two most violent fundamentalist Sunni terrorist groups, the Palestinian Hamas and al Qaeda.


Barak: We think Iran’s nuclear program is much beyond the level of the Manhattan Project


25 Jan. In an interview for Newsweek by Lally Weymouth, the Israeli defense minister said: We think that they [the Iranians] are quite advanced… working on warheads for ground-to-ground missiles… [and] that they probably have another clandestine enrichment operation beyond the one in Natanz.

debkafile: If they are “working on warheads,” this would indicate that a nuclear weapon is already within reach.

Barak went on to say: “Our interpretation is that clearly the Iranians are aiming at a nuclear capability. …We think that they are quite advanced, much beyond the level of the Manhattan Project [which developed the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II].”

Asked if he thought the Americans would fail to take action as a result of the National Intelligence program, the Israeli defense minister remarked that it had reduced the chances of tough sanctions.


Palestinian terrorist stabs Israeli border guard in Jerusalem – third attack in three days


Jan. 25. A Palestinian asked by a border guard patrol to show his ID in the Atarot industrial zone Saturday, Jan. 26, wrenched open the door of the police vehicle, stabbed a guard and attacked his female partner. Two other guards in the car shot the assailant and wounded him.

Thursday, two Palestinian gunmen murdered Rami Zouari, 20, who was manning the border guard checkpoint outside Shuafat in Jerusalem, and critically wounded his female partner when she fought back.

On the same day, two Fatah terrorists were shot dead in a shootout after storming a Yeshiva in Gush Katif on the West Bank. They had just been released from an Israeli jail.


A senior Lebanese intelligence officer and 9 others killed, 20 wounded, in a car explosion in Beirut


25 Jan. Capt. Wissam Eid was on the Internal Security Forces (ISF) team investigating the car bombings of the last three years attributed to Syria, including the attack which killed former prime minister Rafiq Hariri.

debkafile reports: Lebanon is in the grip of a grave political crisis after being without a president for two months. Damascus has vetoed the presidential candidate, chief of staff Gen. Michel Suleiman, who is backed by the government majority and opposed by the Hizballah-led pro-Syrian opposition. Several incidents of street violence have occurred in different parts of Lebanon in the last week.

Capt. Eid’s car was blown up on the highway leading out of NE Beirut through the Christian Chevrolet quarter. The blast dug a five- meter wide crater in the road and damaged some 20 cars. The dead officer was close to the murdered ex-prime minister and had given the UN commission probing his 2005 assassination information about the crime.


Maj. Gen. (ret) Yoram Yair: Hizballah never managed to obstruct an IDF advance in a single instance


28 Jan. According to the ex-general, the IDF needed no more than a week or two to finish the Shiite Hizballah and end the 2006 Lebanon War – were it not for the ineptitude and hesitancy prevailing at the top of Israel’s government and military and the muddled orders handed down to the fighting men. The prime minister, he said, knows very well that he mismanaged the war and should make himself accountable.

If the war had been properly conducted, said ex-general Yair, there would have been no need to continue fighting for the controversial 60 hours, at the price of 33 lives, after the UN Security Council called for a ceasefire. The conflict would have been settled three weeks earlier.


Hamas backers Saudi Arabia and Tehran Step into Gaza Crisis


28 Jan. Each of the estimated half a million Gazans in flight to Sinai, one-third of the total population, received a $300 grant. Hamas spent $150 million on a maneuver for seizing control of an enclave in northern Sinai.

Cairo, without making a public announcement, has order El Arish to shut down shops, restaurants and gas pumps, to make the town less attractive to the roving Palestinians. In Riyadh, meanwhile, Saudi foreign minister Saud al-Faisal and Hamas’ Khaled Meshal prepared the ground for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s meetings in Cairo Wednesday with a Hamas delegation. They are expected to agree on a formula for resolving the crisis that will keep the Gaza-Egyptian border terminal of Rafah open under the joint control of Egypt, Hamas and a token Palestinian Authority presence. The Saudis will use this formula as the key to unlock their long-sought objective of a process of reconciliation between Hamas, Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah and the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority and talks on the reconstitution of a Palestinian national unity government.

Tehran, for its part, sent Iran’s foreign ministry director general Ali Asghar to Cairo Sunday, Jan. 27, to put its oar in with an offer to airlift tons of foodstuffs and medicines to El Arish airport for Egyptian authorities to distribute to the Palestinians. This step would bring Iranian airplanes into the Egyptian-Israeli border region for the first time.


Palestinians leaders Abbas and Meshaal in Cairo Wednesday for talks with Egyptian officials on Gaza crisis


29 Jan. Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas, who arrived Tuesday, Jan. 29, claims the Rafah crossing from Gaza to Sinai belongs to the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority. He is backed by the US and the European Union, but opposed by Hamas which seven days ago blasted the terminal and border wall to allow three-quarters of a million Palestinians to swarm through to northern Sinai.

debkafile reports the Egyptian effort to broker an arrangement for the orderly activation of the Rafah terminal awaits Khaled Meshaal’s report on his talks in Riyadh with Saudi foreign minister Saud al-Faisal.


Eilat placed on high alert for possible Palestinian terrorist infiltration of Israel’s Red Sea town


30 Jan. The alert covers the hotels, port facilities and IDF bases in and around Israel’s southernmost town. Official claims to the media notwithstanding, Palestinian traffic between Gaza and Sinai continued uncontrolled Wednesday, Jan. 30, for the seventh day.

Israel’s security officials believe armed Palestinian terrorists have crossed the 220-km border from Egyptian Sinai south of Gaza six days after the Gazan-Egyptian Sinai border was blown up by Hamas. debkafile‘s military sources report: Egyptian security authorities have lost control of the stampede. Several hundred armed Palestinians are now at large with access to the unfenced the Egyptian-Israeli border of Sinai, some with bomb vests. Neither Egyptian security nor Israeli intelligence can claim knowledge of their movements or hideouts.


Rev Guards chief threatens retaliation against US Gulf bases if Iran is attacked, missiles for Israel


30 Jan. In a recent interview, Gen. Mohammad Ali Jaafari, commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, said: “Despite the U.S. military’s supremacy in air power and advanced electronic equipment, Iran can counter any attack.”

The IRGC general said should Israel participate in an American attack, it will be exposed to danger from states [a hint at Iran’s ally Syria] and Muslims [i.e. Hizballah and the Palestinians] in the region. Moreover, said Jaafari, our resources and the range of our missiles cover Israel and “all of occupied Palestine [namely, Israel’s West Bank communities and bases] is exposed to danger.

“We believe that Israel will not take such an action because it will receive a blow from Iran that is many times as big as the blow that it received from Hezballah.


Judge Winograd blames Lebanon War’s “great missed opportunity” on Israel’s government and its military command alike


30 Jan. Summing up the report the Lebanon War inquiry commission released Wednesday, Jan 30, chairman ex-justice Eliahu Winograd found grave failings in the management of the 34-day war of 2006 by the Israel’s political and military leadership alike. Although the Israeli army is the most powerful in the Middle East, it failed to achieve a clear military victory or quell Hizballah rocket fire on the civilian population of northern Israel throughout the entire conflict.

The panel raps the government but does not directly censure the prime minister. It found that the government and military command wasted a precious three weeks vacillating while Hizballah shot 3,970 short-range rockets undisturbed.


Israel‘s future defense concepts must apply maximum security to the home front


31 Jan. Amir Peretz, who resigned as defense minister after the Lebanon War, advanced the view that every part of Israel is potentially threatened. Hizballah fired nearly 4,000 rockets at northern Israeli towns and villages in the 33 days of the 2006 war. Peretz, who had been on the job three months when the war was declared, also demanded an inquiry into the six years of neglect that left the army unready for the conflict. He named the previous governments of Ariel Sharon and the current defense minister Ehud Barak. Peretz noted that transport minister Shaul Mofaz, like Olmert himself, had been a senior member of the Sharon administration.


Day after Lebanon War report, 56 pc of Israelis polled still think Olmert should step down as prime minister


The prime minister claimed he had been vindicated by the Winograd panel’s final report released on Jan. 30 and would carry on – although he was awarded a low mark for his management of the 2006 war against Hizballah. Popular opinion and a long line of Israeli figures, political and military, think he should make himself accountable for his mistakes and step down. At the prime minister’s pep talk to his Kadima party Wednesday, Jan. 31, a senior member Avigdor Yitzhaki signified his disapproval by resigning his Knesset seat.

War protesters are turning the heat up on defense minister Ehud Barak to make good on his pledge to take his Labor party out of the government coalition, or force the prime minister to call an early election before the 2010 schedule.


Gaza Strip will never be part of Egypt, says Mubarak in another acrimonious exchange with Israel


31 Jan. debkafile: Cairo and Jerusalem have each said the other is responsible for the chaotic Palestinian influx from Gaza to Egyptian Sinai and the rising terrorist threat to both in consequence.

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