A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Two Weeks Ending January 5, 2012
Turkish warships fire shells around Israel, Cypriot gas fields
24 Dec. Cypriot President Demetris Christofias has warned Turkey to stop its warships shelling the strip of water dividing the Cypriot and Israel gas exploration zones in the eastern Mediterranean.
debkafile's military forces report that Wednesday, Dec. 21, Turkish warships began turning their guns on the narrow strip dividing Israel's Leviathan gas field from Block 12 of Cyprus's Exclusive Economic Zone-EEZ. Estimates of sizes of the two fields have been substantially upped of late. Both see prospects of becoming major gas suppliers to Europe.
December 25, 2011 Briefs
• Iran begins 10-day drill in and around the Strait of Hormuz in show of muscle over the strategic waterway.
• Sudan reports death of Darfur rebel faction leader Khalil Ibrahim in fighting Sunday.
• At least 19 killed in explosion during Christmas prayers at church outside Abuja, Nigeria. Second bomb blast near another church in central Nigerian town of Jos.
December 26, 2011 Briefs
• Nazarath court indicted Israeli Arab lawmaker Said Nafa on security charges including travelling to Syria for meetings with Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist leaders.
• Israel's Knesset panel discusses proposal to recognize Ottoman Turkey's World War One Armenian genocide.
• Arab League tells Assad to withdraw troops forthwith from Homs where tanks conducting massacre.
December 27, 2011 Briefs
• Two Israeli air attacks targeted Palestinian terrorists in Gaza Tuesday night. At least one member of a Jihad Islami team killed near Jebalya camp in Gaza heading for a strike against Israel from the Egyptian border of Sinai. A jeep carrying terrorists was hit later injuring five.
• If sanctions adopted against Iranian oil, not a drop of oil will pass through Strait of Hormuz – Iran's Vice Pres. Mohammad Reza Rahimi.
• Syrian activists report 20,000 protesters gathered in Homs as 50 Arab League monitors reach city after five days of shelling.
• Damascus reports several "armed terrorists" killed trying to cross Turkish border into Syria. They were carrying weapons, ammo, army uniforms, communications gear and fake identity cards.
• Al Qaeda's Islamic State of Iraq claims responsibility for 72 deaths in Thursday's 15 bomb attacks in Baghdad.
• Israel's unemployment figure dips to record low of 5% but forecast for 2012 is a rise to 6%+ as Eurozone economic decline takes hold.
Qatar builds Sunni intervention force to fight Assad
27 Dec. The Qatar oil emirate, encouraged by its successful participation in the campaign to overthrow Libya's Muammar Qaddafi, has established a Sunni Arab intervention force to expedite the drive for Syrian President Bashar Assad's ouster, debkafile's military sources report. The new, highly mobile force has boosted the anti-Assad Free Syrian Army with 2,500 ex-Libyan and active Iraqi terrorists and is commanded by the Libyan militia commander Abdel Hakim Belhaj. Israel ought to be concerned that Qatar might one day try and send the new force to Gaza.
December 28, 2011 Briefs
• Saudis ready to offset oil losses from threatened Iran Hormuz blockade.
• IDF commander warns that if current relative calm in Gaza sector cracks, the next Israeli offensive will be more painful than its 2009 Operation Cast Lead. Gaza sector commander Col. Tal Hermoni said it was up to the "other side" to desist from missile fire and attacks from Egyptian territory.
• US Navy rejects as unacceptable Iran's threat to block the Strait of Hormuz. Any disruption of freedom of navigation will not be tolerated said US Navy 5th Fleet spokeswoman Wednesday.
• Iran's navy chief warns it is very easy for Iranian naval forces to close Strait of Hormuz. "Iran has comprehensive control over the strategic waterway".
• Three Qassam missiles fired from Gaza early Wednesday.
• In Syria, 42 people were killed Tuesday killed mostly in Homs as first 50 Arab League monitors reached battered city.
• More than 100 Orthodox and Armenian clerics beat each other with brooms over boundaries in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity. They were separated by Palestinian police.
Abbas primes West Bank for Third Intifada
28 Dec. Without informing US or Israeli security coordinators, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas Tuesday, Dec. 27suddenly fired the West Bank's top security officer Maj. Gen. Diab el-Ali and replaced him with military intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Nidal Dokhan. debkafile reveals this followed a deal with Khaled Meshaal to restore Hamas to the West Bank, retool the PNSF and mount a new anti-Israel "resistance" campaign: mass demonstrations are to smash through West Bank barriers, storm into Israel and break into Jewish settlements.
To make sure the Palestinian "uprising" does not turn into an Arab Spring against the Palestinian Authority and himself, Abbas will place his US-trained and armed military battalions at the forefront of the mass demonstrations. Security sources predict that the demonstrations will quickly veer out of hand.
December 29, 2011 Briefs
• Israeli air force hit a missile team in Gaza early Friday in time to prevent a new round of fire. One killed, several injured of self-styled "Salafi" cell.
• Israeli chief of staff Gen. Gantz warns of growing peril of multi-arena war. We face both terrorists and Iran building up to a nuclear weapon. Self-defense is not enough. We must develop offensive resources. He spoke at graduation of five new women Air Force pilots.
• Labor and trade strikes take hold in Syria with spreading civil disobedience.
• NYT: Egypt's military to lend $1 bn to central bank to prop up country's sinking currency.
Iran raises anti-US threat level. Israel's C-of-S warns of potential for regional war
29 Dec. Dep. Chief of the Iran's Revolutionary Guards Gen. Hossein Salami Thursday, Dec. 29, warned: "The United States is in no position to tell Tehran what to do in the Strait of Hormuz. Any threat will be responded [to] by threat." Earlier, a US air carrier entered the Sea of Oman where Iran is conducting a big naval drill. In Israel, chief of staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz spoke of the mounting potential of a regional conflict, adding Israel could not afford to stay on the defensive and must come up with offensive resources.
Iranian plan to mine Hormuz puts US, NATO on Persian Gulf alert
29 Dec. US and NATO task forces in the Persian Gulf are on alert since US intelligence warned that Iranian marine commandos are preparing to sow mines in the strategic Strait of Hormuz. DEBKA: Tehran's threats to close Hormuz and its big Velayati 90 sea exercise indicate the form of its reprisals for the harsh sanctions scheduled next month for approval in Washington and Brussels for shearing 80 percent of Iranian revenue. However, the US using mine countermeasures can reopen Hormuz within 24-48 hours.
December 30, 2011 Briefs
• At least 50 killed in Syrian forces' clash with thousands of protesters in Damascus suburb of Douma and another massacre in Deraa.
• Israel's Lt. Gen. Gantz: Israel alone faces [a party] determined on – and developing the means for – its destruction. Iran also menaces the region and world, said the C-of-S. But it can be beaten with appropriate international and Israeli means – which I will not detail.
• First of 84 upgraded F-15 fighters US is selling Saudi Arabia will be delivered around 2015. The $30bn deal covers upgrading of another 70 Saudi AF fighter jets. US officials stress it will not undercut Israel's regional military edge. The White House said it would support more than 50,000 American jobs.
Toughest US sanctions yet target Iran's central bank
31 Dec. On the last day of 2011, US President Barack Obama Saturday signed into law measures penalizing foreign financial institutions doing business with Iran's central bank, Bank Markazi – the toughest sanctions yet for Iran's program for developing a nuclear weapon. In recent weeks, Tehran has repeatedly warned that the signing of this measure would be deemed an act of war and elicit drastic steps including the closure of the Strait of Hormuz. debkafile: Tehran appears to be heading for a showdown.
Iranian missile spin closes Hormuz for five hours
31 Dec. By a media trick, Tehran proved its claim that closing the Strait of Hormuz is as "easy as drinking water," debkafile reports. First thing Saturday morning, Saturday, Dec. 31, Iran's state agencies "reported" long-range and other missiles had been test-fired as part of its ongoing naval drill around the Strait of Hormuz. At 0900, Tehran announced the test was delayed. But meanwhile, for five hours Saturday, not a single warship, merchant vessel or oil tanker ventured into the strategic strait.
January 1, 2012 Briefs
• Israeli-Palestinian talks in Amman Tuesday – first in more than a year. Netanyahu's aide Molcho and PA's Erekat meet under Jordanian auspices within Mid East Quartet framework.
• Iran says it has produced first its nuclear fuel rod for nuclear power plants. debkafile: By complicated technology nuclear rods usable for plutonium bombs.
• Iran also reported test of new medium-range surface-to-air missile Saturday during Strait of Hormuz Navy drill.
• Nigeria on state of emergency over violent Islamist insurgency, shuts borders with Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
• Libyan Revolutionist Council militia chief says 9 Qaddafi supporters held over plot to blow up Tripoli power grid on New Year's Eve.
January 2, 2012 Briefs
• Hackers belonging to group called Anonymous including Saudi "Wahhabists" hacked into Israeli websites. They published what was claimed to be personal information including credit card numbers and addresses of 400,000 Israelis. Israeli credit card companies replied: The list consists of only a few Israelis. Illegal transactions will not be honored and new cards issued immediately.
• Iran says it successfully test-fired two long-range missiles, Qader and Nour, Monday, last day of naval drill at Strait of Hormuz.
• Israeli Def. Min. Barak: We are watching the Syrian upheaval closely in case of violent spillover into Golan. Barak adds: Assad regime is in dire straits, his end draws closer with every passing day.
• Iran is moving forward on nuclear weapon regardless of difficulties, i.e. sanctions.
• US and Israeli intelligence see eye to eye on appreciation of Iran's internal situation.
• Gaza's Hamas PM Haniya warmly welcomed by Turkey's Erdogan.
• Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood will never recognize Israel, may put peace treaty to referendum.
• PA chairman Abbas appoints released terrorist senior adviser. Mahmoud Demara was Force 17 commander under Yasser Arafat. He won is freedom in first stage of prisoner swap for Gilead Shalit.
January 3, 2012 Briefs
• debkafile: Iranian currency plunges for second week, 27% in last two days alone. Tuesday night, Tehran stopped nationwide raid on US dollars by banning sales.
• White House: Syria has failed to comply with commitments to Arab League.
• Israeli credit card cos. reported limited damage from hackers who posted details of thousands of Israeli card owners Monday night. New cards are on the way to victims. The group of hackers consisted on a Saudi, a Kuwait and a Croatian.
Iran warns US not to send aircraft carrier back into Persian Gulf
3 Jan. In another heated escalation over the strategic Strait of Hormuz, Iran Tuesday, Dec. 3, threatened to take action if the US aircraft carrier USS Stennis, which "moved to the Sea of Oman because of our drill returns to the Persian Gulf." Army chief Lt. Gen. Ataolla Salehi said:" Iran will not repeat this warning."
It is hard to see Washington caving in to Tehran's ultimate challenge to the freedom of this vital international waterway and accepting Iran's assumed right to control passage.
First Al Qaeda operational cell in Jerusalem area
3 Jan. Monday night, Jan. 2, Al Qaeda claimed to have established its first Jerusalem operational cell calling it the "Sunni Youth Movement Cell in Greater Jerusalem." Bulletin No. 1 with details of the organization and its targets was promised in the next few days. debkafile's counter-terror sources report Israeli security services are taking the development very seriously. They tie it in with Palestinian plans for a West Bank uprising and the jihadist trend spreading through Palestinian centers in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.
Israeli drones over Turkish-Syrian border
4 Jan. Military tensions in Syria have spread to its borders. Wednesday, Jan. 4, Turkish military sources reported an Israeli Eitan drone hovering for four hours over the Turkish Hawk Brigade 14 stationed on the Syrian border at Kirikhan in the Hatay district – the expected jumping-off point for any foreign military intervention in Syria. Two Turkish F-16 fighter jets were scrambled from the Diyarbakir 2nd Air Force Command Strike Center and stayed overhead as long as the Israeli drone was present. But no order came from Ankara to shoot the Israeli interloper down.
In the south, fierce battles raged Tuesday, Jan. 3 between Syrian troops and the mutinous 38th Mechanized Brigade in the Syrian-Jordanian-Israeli border triangle. Sounds of gunfire were heard in Israel.
January 5, 2012 Briefs
• A fresh wave of terror kills more than 50 Shiites in Iraq – at least 27 in Baghdad, 25 pilgrims near the southern town of Nasiriya.
• Indictments filed in Jerusalem court against former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert and others on bribery charges related to the Holyland building project.
• Twelve West Bank settlers receive expulsion orders from their homes on suspicion of harassing Palestinians.
Saudis, Gulf states on war alert for early US-Iran clash
5 Jan. The armies of Saudi Arabia and fellow Gulf Cooperation Council states stood ready Thursday Jan. 5, for Washington to stand up to Iranian threats and send an aircraft carrier or several warships through the Strait of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf. Notwithstanding their military inferiority, the Iranians believe they can snatch a measure of success from a military confrontation now, which they expect to be limited – at least at first – and are therefore are ratcheting up their belligerence day after day.
British military experts wondered who would blink first – the US or Iran?