A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending April 11, 2013

April 5, 2013 Briefs

  • Hamas paid by Qatar to train Syrian rebels
    The London Times reports that the military wing of Hamas, Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, are training Free Syrian Army units in the rebel-held neighborhoods of Yalda, Jaramana and Babbila. DEBKAfile: The Palestinian faction ruling the Gaza Strip, having broken with its former patron Bashar Assad, is receiving remuneration from Qatar for training the Syrian rebels. The deal was set up when the Emir of Qatar visited Gaza last October.
  • Jordan’s army on war alert after Damascus warns it is “playing with fire”
    DEBKAfile’s military sources: Jordanian forces have spread out along the 370-km border with Syria on war alert in response to the warning from Damascus that Amman is “playing with fire” by hosting courses for training Syrian rebels.

Iran lines up behind North Korea, cautions the US of great losses

5 April. Tehran’s intercession in the Korean crisis on the side of its ally in Pyongyang was predictable, even while the US preferred to ignore their close relations. And so, on Friday, April 5, Deputy Chief of Iran's Armed Forces Brig. Gen. Masoud Jazayeri stepped forward to point the finger at the US, saying: “The time for Washington’s bullying and extortion is long past.” His words came as Kim Jong-Un moved two missiles to North Korea’s east coast and at the very moment that Iranian intransigence brought the latest six-power meeting on its nuclear program to its usual stalemate with no date set to continue.
debkafile’s Iranian sources: So long as the Obama administration sticks to its current separate policies on Syria and Iran and refuses to discuss a package, Moscow and Beijing won’t lift a finger to apply the brakes to Kim Jong-Un.

April 6, 2012 Briefs

  • Moderate MP Tamam Salam wins overwhelming support as Lebanese Prime Minister
    Backed by the pro-Western March 14 party and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, 67, the Sunni politician won an unprecedented 124 out of 128 parliamentary votes Saturday after Hizballah and its allies jumped aboard.

April 7, 2012 Briefs

  • Three Qassams aimed at Israel from Gaza. West Bank stone-throwing
    Of the three Qassam rockets fired at Israel Sunday night, one exploded on empty ground in the Eshkol region, two inside the Gazan border. On the West Bank, several Palestinians were injured by rubber bullets fired by Israeli troops under hail of rocks. At the Hawara checkpoint east of Nablus, a Palestinian was detained carrying three pipe bombs and a quantity of bottle bombs.
  • China indirectly rebukes North Korea in first response to crisis
    China’s president, Xi Jinping, said Sunday, “No one should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gain,” in his first comment on the Korean crisis. He did not name any country, but separately, China’s Foreign Ministry on Sunday spoke of its “grave concern” over the rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula. The Chinese comments came after Washington said Beijing faces a choice between reining in North Korea and facing a larger American military presence in East Asia.
  • Syrian air force strikes seven southern rebel-held towns
    The Syrian army Sunday targeted seven towns in a 25-km strip of southern Syria facing the Israeli and Jordanian borders, after staying out this area for nearly two weeks. At least 20 people were killed. Most of the rebels under attack were al Qaeda units. Many received text messages saying, “The Syrian army is coming to get you.”
  • Israel marks Holocaust Remembrance Day
    Official memorial ceremonies from Sunday evening through Monday are dedicated this year to the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the other episodes of heroic Jewish resistance to the Nazis in World War II. At the main ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Center in Jerusalem, Holocaust survivors attended by their grandchildren and an Israeli military honor guard lit torches in memory of the six million slain victims. Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, at the head of an IDF delegation to Poland, addressed the memorial ceremony at the site of the Auschwitz death camp. He said: The State of Israel is the guarantee for the non-repetition ever again of this horror and its defense forces guard the Jewish people’s national home and safe refuge.”
  • Kerry urges Turkey to speedily restore full ties with Israel
    After talking to the Turkish foreign minister in Istanbul Sunday, US Secretary of State John Kerry underlined the importance of expeditiously restoring relations with Israeli and of Turkey concluding a compensation agreement and returning ambassadors. But he said it is not for the US to set deadlines.
  • Six Americans killed in Afghanistan day top US soldier visits
    The six killed in the southern Zabul province Saturday included three members of the US military, an Afghan doctor and two US civilians, including a US State Department officer, when a suicide bomber detonated a car full of explosives as their convoy passed. Another American civilian was killed in an insurgent attack in eastern Afghanistan. The state department officer who died was Anne Smedinghoff, 25, who was delivering books to students in Zabul province. She was the first US diplomat killed in service since last year's attacks in Benghazi. On the same day, US top soldier General Martin Dempsey arrived in Afghanistan for a visit.

April 8, 2012 Briefs

  • Iron Dome posted to Ashkelon
    The missile interceptor deployed at the port town of Ashkelon Monday is the second Iron Dome to be posted for emergency duty in less than a week, debkafile reports. The first was deployed north of Eilat on April 4 after intelligence was received that Al-Qaeda-linked Salafist cells in Sinai were plotting a large-scale terrorist attack on southern Israel with missiles.
  • Israeli leaders condolences on Margaret Thatcher’s death
    Britain’s first female prime minister (from 1979 to 1990), the former Conservative leader Baroness Margaret Thatcher died of a strike aged 87 Monday. In their messages of condolence Israel’s President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu hailed her as a great and inspirational leader and also a staunch friend of Israel and the Jewish people. She was the first British prime minister to visit Israel and admired the country’s “guts and grit.”
  • Kerry says his meeting with Abbas was “constructive”
    US Secretary of State John Kerry headed straight to the West Bank town of Ramallah for 90 minutes of talks with Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas after touching down in Israel Sunday. Monday, he attended a Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony in Jerusalem and is to meet Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as President Barack Obama’s pointman for bringing Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.
  • Latest Iran nuclear talks exposed deeper rifts than ever
    Officials on both sides reported that the latest round of nuclear talks between Iran and the six powers last week in Kazakhstan exposed deeper and broader rifts than ever. The powers were disappointed in their expectation that Iran would agree to suspend 20-percent uranium enrichment and disable Fordo in return for the partial easing of sanctions. Instead, a senior US official reported that the Iranian delegation led by Saeed Jalili responded with “very, very tiny steps, but wanted a lot of return.”
  • Putin: Chernobyl would be child’s play if “something happened” in Korea
    Russian President Vladimir Putin said: “I would make no secret about it, we are worried about the escalation on the Korean peninsula, because we are neighbors." At a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany, he added: "And if, God forbid, something happens, Chernobyl which we all know a lot about, may seem like a child's fairy tale. Is there such a threat or not? I think there is… “

April 9, 2012 Briefs

  • The US can and will protect itself and allies from NKorean missiles
    Adm. Samuel Locklear, commander of US Pacific Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday: “We’ve got the capability in place to be able to monitor and protect the homeland … as well as our allies.” He added that the US would not automatically intercept any missile launched by North Korea, but would intercept missiles aimed at or expected to land in the US or its allies.
  • Powerful earthquake kills 37 near Iran’s Bushehr reactor
    Iranian officials report 37 killed, 800 injured by a powerful 6.3 magnitude earthquake that struck a sparsely populated area in South Iran. Tehran informed the UN nuclear watchdog that the Bushehr reactor close by was not damaged.
  • Al Qaeda in Iraq confirms Syrian Nusra as members
    The Al-Nusra Front battling the Assad regime within the Syrian rebel movement is part of our network and fighting for an Islamic state in Syria, said Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Al Qaeda group in Iraq, in a dramatic statement Tuesday. This confirms past DEBKAfile and DEBKA Weekly disclosures.

As North Korea prepares ballistic launch, Iran unveils 2 new uranium-processing facilities

9 April. Korean tensions again shot up Tuesday, April 9, with Pyongyang’s warning of a ballistic missile launch Wednesday at the Pacific and advice to foreigners to leave South in case of war. In Tehran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad unveiled two additional uranium-processing facilities at the central town of Ardakan, 120 km from large uranium mines in Saghand which has an estimated output of 60 tons of yellowcake. Iran now threatens to quit the Non-Proliferation Treaty unless its right to enrich uranium is acknowledged and so, debkafile reports, carry on developing nuclear weapons away from international oversight like its North Korean partner.

April 10, 2012 Briefs

  • Disastrous Haifa road accident leaves 6 dead, 24 injured
    Six people were killed, 24 injured, three seriously when a heavy truck on the Bar Yehuda Road struck several cars, a bus and a group of pedestrians Wednesday afternoon at the Check Post intersection. Some of the cars went up in flames. The truck overturned. Initial suspicion of a possible terrorist attack was ruled out after the Arab driver was questioned by police. He is detained on suspicion of driving too fast and overloading his truck.

April 11, 2012 Briefs

  • Budget cuts ground US Air Force front line combat units
    Seventeen squadrons belonging to the various U.S. Air Force commands are affected by the stand down order to save 44,000 flying hours – one third of the total (worth $591 m). Some squadrons will remain combat ready or keep a reduced readiness level called “basic mission capable” until the end of the Fiscal Year 2013. Some will be immediately grounded, others forced down as soon as they come back from overseas deployment. debkafile: The reduction in US Air Force activity also cuts downits combat readiness for rapid deployment in emergency situations.
  • Five women rights protesters arrested at West Wall
    The Women of the Wall protest group say their central mission is to be able to "wear prayer shawls, pray, and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall." Five were arrested Thursday – a routine the police justify by a past court ruling – for worshiping at the Wall wearing prayer shawls on the first day of the Hebrew month of Iyar. The dozens of women attending the prayer demonstration included a number of women lawmakers. Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency, has submitted a proposal to the prime minister setting up a new area for mixed-gender and women-led prayer area at a side section of the Western Wall, a site revered by Jews as the last relic of the biblical Temple.

US, S. Korea go on top alert for North missile launch

11 April. US and South Korean armed forces went on the highest level of alert – Watchcon 2 – Thursday, April 11 ready for multiple launches after at least one North Korean ballistic Musudan missile was sighted fueled and ready to launch at any moment. South Korean officials, commenting on the apparent movement of several ballistic missiles on North Korea’s east coast, report that this is an apparent attempt to confuse intelligence monitoring by the US, Japan and South Korea.
Some Western intelligence sources attribute Pyongyang’s saber-rattling to a power struggle ongoing between Kim Jong-Un’s military backers and the generals who judge him unfit for the top command. He may order a missile launch to assert his authority against his detractors.

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