A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending April 10, 2014

April 4, 2014 Briefs

  • White House sources tell Kerry to wrap up Mid East peace bid
    Some circles around US Secretary of State, including inside the White House, are quoted by Washington Post as believing the time is near for him to say “Enough!” of Mid East peace effort. They say Kerry risks being seen as trying too hard at the expense of other pressing international issues, even perhaps his reputation. “A time will come where he has to go out and own failure.” For now, they say, Kerry needs to “lower the volume and see how things unfold.”

April 5, 2014 Briefs

  • Missile fired from Gaza at Hof Ashkelon
    Palestinians in the Gaza Strip fired another missile at the Hof Ashkelon area Saturday night. There were no casualties.
  • Majority of Afghan voters brave Taliban threats to vote for next president
    More than half of Afghanistan’s 13.5 million eligible voters cast their ballots with only isolated incidents Saturday to choose Hamid Karzai’s successor as president. The most prominent contenders are former foreign ministers Zalmai Rassoul and Abdullah Abdullah and former finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai. The victor must lead Afghanistan through the critical final phase of the US military presence in the country.
  • Kerry warns US is evaluating role in Mid East peace talks
    US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday Washington was evaluating whether to continue its role in Middle East peace talks. "It is reality check time, and we intend to evaluate precisely what the next steps will be," Kerry said

Options for Mid East talks: Carrying on, interim deal, or a turn to the Saudi-UAE-Egyptian bloc

5 April. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has proved time and again that he will never sign an accord for ending the dispute with Israel. US Secretary of State John Kerry has finally accepted this. An interim deal, which he refused to consider, might buy a few years’ grace in the dispute before breaking up, because it is conflict – not peace – that keeps Abbas in power, unelected and without a legal mandate over the six West Bank towns under Palestinian Authority control. debkafile: Some Palestinian eyes in Ramallah are looking at the war the Saudi-UAE-Egyptian bloc is waging against the Muslim Brotherhood i.e. Hamas, which the US opposes. Israel too is seriously interested.

April 6, 2014 Briefs

  • Lieberman: Better elections than handing over terrorists
    Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in New York Sunday that it is better to have elections than to go back to the package deal for the release of Palestinian terrorists. A new government is not an option, he said. But we are ready for new elections rather than the package. The case of Jonathan Pollard is an internal American matter.
  • Netanyahu: Unilateral Palestinian steps will be answered in kind
    Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said at the last moment, the Palestinians derailed negotiations by their refusal to recognize Israel as the Jewish national state – even after this was endorsed by the US – and unilateral applications to the United Nations. Speaking at the weekly cabinet session for the first time on the breakdown of US-sponsored talks with the Palestinians, Netanyahu said that Israel would counter any unilateral steps taken by the Palestinians. Their only hope of a state is through negotiations, he warned.
  • Israeli air force struck five terrorist facilities in Gaza
    The five air strikes against Palestinian terrorist facilities overnight Saturday were in reprisal for five Palestinian rockets fired from the Gaza Strip in the last 48 hours, the last one against Hof Ashkelon Saturday. None caused casualties. Four firebombs hit a club in Jerusalem’s French Hill starting a fire. No one was hurt. In Maaleh Adummim, a Palestinian from Abu Dis was apprehended with a butcher’s knife. He admitted he was on his way to use it against an Israeli victim.

April 7, 2014 Briefs

  • Pro-Russian separatists proclaim “people’s republic” in E. Ukraine
    In the eastern city of Donetsk pro-Russian separatists seized the main government building, raised the Russian flag and declared the creation of an independent “people’s republic. In Luhansk, one of several cities holding protests, pro-Russian demonstrators stormed the administration building. Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk accused Moscow of orchestrating the unrest as a pretext for invasion.
  • Kerry warns Lavrov of further costs for Russia
    US Secretary of State John Kerry told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday that any further moves by Moscow – direct or covert – to destabilize Ukraine would "incur further costs for Russia."
  • Iran claims to have thwarted a foreign terrorist plot
    The Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) claimed Monday it had disbanded a terrorist cell, affiliated to foreign spy agencies, planning sabotage missions in various parts of Iran. Arrests took place in the southern province of Khuzestan.
  • Chemical weapon used lethally by Assad’s forces – Israeli sources
    Forces loyal to Bashar Assad struck rebels with chemical weapons on March 27, causing scores of casualties, Israeli military sources report. They used a substance that causes temporary paralysis which was not included in the list of chemical weapons covered by the US-Russian agreement for Syria’s chemical disarmament.
  • India holds a national election staggered over five weeks
    Just bringing 815 m eligible voters to polling booths across vast India is a vast logistical enterprise which necessitates spreading the vote from April 7 to May 12 and employs 11 million polling and security personnel.
  • The Burgas suicide bomber trained in Lebanon
    The Bulgarian investigation into the two-year old terrorist attack which killed five Israelis and the local driver of their tourist bus have identified the suicide killer as an Algerian who lived in Morocco and underwent training “at terrorist camps” in South Lebanon. As a student at Beirut University he met two young Lebanese members of Hizballah, who were his accomplices in the Burgas attack.
  • Hagel is first foreign dignitary to go aboard only Chinese carrier
    Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel toured China’s only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, when he arrived in Beijing Monday from a visit to Japan.
  • The “most promising lead yet” for MH370
    The Australian navy's Ocean Shield, which is carrying high-tech sound detectors from the US Navy, picked up two separate signals inside a patch of the Indian Ocean that search crews have been crisscrossing for weeks. These signals were picked up west of the area from which the Chinese Haixun 01 detected shorter pulses Saturday.
  • Hizballah claims attack on Israel patrol last month
    Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah claimed that his forces carried out a roadside bomb ambush on an Israeli military patrol on Mt. Dov last month in retaliation for an Israeli air bombardment in February on arms convoys on the Syrian-Lebanese borders. Nasrallah added mockingly: Israel “got the message … It's all about deterrence.” The Israel patrol survived the attack without injuries and went on to pound Hizballah positions across the border.

US arms Syrian rebels with first heavy weapons, anti-tank BGM-71 TOW missiles – so raising stakes in the conflict

7 April. Two Syrian rebel militias judged moderate in Washington have in the last few days taken delivery and begun using – mostly in the Idlib region – the first advanced US weapon to be deployed in more than three years of civil war, debkafile reveals. It is the heavy anti-tank, optically-tracked, wire-guided BGM-71 TOW, capable of piercing a 500mm thickness of Syrian tank armor at a range of 4 kilometers – delivered to the new FSA chief Brig-Gen. Abdul-Hila al Bashir in Quneitra, and Syrian Revolutionary Front’s Jamal Maarouf in the north. They are being airlifted in through the southeastern Turkish town of Diyarbakir and the giant northern Saudi King Faisal Air Base at Tabuk near the Jordanian border.

April 8, 2014 Briefs

  • Moscow claims Chechen terrorist Doku Umarov “neutralized”
    Head of Federal Security Service of Russia (FSB) Aleksandr Bortnikov said that Doku Umarov, the Chechen leader of the Caucasian Emirate terrorist organization was killed in a "combat operation” this year.
  • Ya’alon: Palestinians are partners for taking not giving
    Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said that the Palestinians torpedoed the US-brokered negotiations because they want to take, not give. During a tour of a Golani Brigade exercise in the north, he said: “The time has come to break free of our slavish addiction to preconceptions, and accept that when the moment comes for decisions, the Palestinians are going to bolt and blame us.”
  • Six policemen injured demolishing illegal Jewish settlement structures
    Young settlers of the West Bank community of Yitzhar lobbed rocks at Israeli border police who came to evacuate and demolish three illegal structures and a container early Tuesday. The youths then damaged a nearby IDF post.
  • Senate votes to bar Iran’s UN envoy from entering US
    The Senate approved a bill to bar entry to the US of a man with ties to the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis who's been tapped to be Iran's ambassador to the United Nations.”

US races headlong for final nuclear deal with Iran – irrespective of program’s military dimension

8 April. Iran and the six world powers Tuesday, April 8, kicked off negotiations in Vienna for a final and comprehensive nuclear accord. debkafile reports that in its haste to start drafting the document by mid-May, the Obama administration is ignoring the military aspects of Iran’s nuclear program. A senior Israeli security official remarked: “The Americans are ready to take Tehran’s assurance that its program is purely peaceful at face value.” The initial US-Iranian argument over the quantity of low-grade enriched uranium permissible is irrelevant, given the amount of fissile material concealed in Tehran’s weapons program.

April 9, 2014 Briefs

  • The Israel Air Force’s new Super-Hercules can reach any point in Iran
    A ceremony inaugurating the entry into service of the Israel Air Force’s new “Samson” air transport plane, Lockheed-Martin’s new generation of giant C-130J Super Hercules, was attended Wednesday by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel and US Ambassador Dan Shapiro. Five more Super Hercules are due for delivery by the end of next year. With a range of 4,000 km, the Samson can reach any point in Iranian air space.
  • Israel’s PM Office voices extreme disappointment in Kerry
    A high-ranking member of Binyamin Netanyahu’s bureau issued a statement Wednesday expressing “extreme disappointment with US Secretary John Kerry for putting on Israel the blame” for the breakdown of Middle East peace talks. “Kerry knows perfectly well that the Palestinians repeatedly interrupted the talks with refusals to carry on, said ‘no’ to dialogue with Israel and rejected his own framework proposal for the extension of talks. By letting the Palestinians off the hook, Kerry encourages them to harden their rejectionist attitude and so undermines the chances of the talks getting anywhere.

Assad musters large Syrian-Hizballah-Iraqi force to recover forward Golan position opposite Israel

9 Aug. The Syrian army’s 90th Brigade’s loss of the forward Tel Al-Ahmar Golan position to rebel forces including al Qaeda’s Nusra Front was Bashar Assad’s most humiliating military setback in the past year. Situated on the Israeli border, that position commands the Golan town of Quneitra opposite the Israeli army. Determined to recover Tel Al-Ahmar, Assad has mustered a Syrian-Hizballah-Iraqi Shiite expeditionary force. Israel will have to decide how to deal with violations of the Golan demilitarized zone if the Syrian army uses heavy armor and mounts air strikes against the rebels.
debkafile: This was the first rebel operation to be professionally planned, organized and executed and in which US-trained fighters also took part.

April 10, 2014 Briefs

  • Sinai Islamist group vows revenge on US for terrorist listing
    The Ansar Bayt al-Maqdas has vowed revenge on the US for its decision to designate the group a foreign terrorist organization. Created in 2011 and operating mainly in Sinai, the jihadist group allied with al Qaeda is responsible for rocket attacks on Eilat and multiple-casualty terrorism against Egyptian security forces in Sinai and targets in Cairo.
  • Israel launches Ofek-10 into orbit
    The Israel spy satellite Ofek-10 launched from the Palmachim air base Wednesday night will orbit the earth every 90 minutes from an altitude of 600 kms. It has improved surveillance capabilities compared with several other Israeli satellites previously placed in orbit. Its cameras can distinguish between objects of half a meter and operate in varying lighting and weather conditions.
  • DEBKfile Exclusive: Israeli-Palestinian talks about to resume
    Washington and Jerusalem sources reported exclusively to debkafile Thursday that the stalled Israel-Palestinian negotiations are on the point of being hauled out of crisis and resuming within days barring unexpected obstacles. This breakthrough followed a meeting in Washington between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman

Israeli launches spy satellite after US refusal to push for Iran’s weapons program’s dismantlement

10 April. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided not to delay the launch of Israel’s improved Ofek 10 spy satellite Wednesday night April 9, hours after the six powers and Iran wound up another round of talks in Vienna on a comprehensive nuclear accord. debkafile: Israel decided to show some muscle after the Obama administration agreed to raise Iran’s weapons program in future talks, but refused to take tough measures if Tehran continued to pretend that its weapons program is non-existent.
The top level of the US administrationappears to have fallen into two factions pulling in opposite directions: President Barack Obama and National Security Advisor Susan Rice want Israel to carry the can for progress or obstacles in negotiations with the Palestinians, while letting Iran off the hook on its weapons program. Secretary of State John Kerry is more flexible.

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