A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending April 18, 2013

April 12, 2013 Briefs

  • Kerry: US will not accept a nuclear-armed North Korea
    The US Secretary of State John Kerry made this statement on arrival in Seoul Friday as intelligence from Japan, US and South Korea indicated Friday that a North Korean missile test may be imminent. debkafile reported earlier that the US had raised its nuclear alert status to DEFCON 3, Condition Yellow (out of 5 levels) and China had mobilized its army and was massing troops along its border with North Korea.

Tokyo said warned as first NKorean nuclear target

12 April. North Korea has reportedly warned Japan that Tokyo would be the first target of a nuclear attack, in response to Japan’s orders to its armed forces to shoot down any North Korean missile that heads toward its territory. Japanese defense officials did not confirm their naval alert so as not to “show their cards” to North Korea. In Seoul Friday, April 12, US Secretary of State John Kerry said: “We will stand with South Korea and Japan against these threats. And we will defend ourselves," he said.

US raises nuclear alert. China mobilizes army

12 April.US nuclear alert status was raised Friday, April 12, to DEFCON 3, stating “There are currently no imminent nuclear threats against the United States. However the situation is fluid and can change rapidly.”
Late Thursday, Representative Doug Lamborn made a disquieting disclosure. He quoted an excerpt from a Defense Intelligence Agency report expressing “moderate confidence” in the finding that North Korea has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles whose “reliability will be low.”
The White House refuted this claim. However, contradicting the White House, the Pentagon reported: “North Korea probably has nuclear weapons that can be mounted on ballistic missiles.”

April 13, 2013 Briefs


  • Germany in talks to buy Israeli weaponized drones
    The German weekly Der Spiegel reported Sunday that the German defense ministry had held two meetings with Israeli military officials on purchasing of Heron TP drones which are considered highly technologically advanced.
  • Syrian artillery fire kills two people in NE Lebanon
    The Lebanese border town of Qasr in the Hermel border region came under artillery shell fire from Syrian territory Sunday. One person was killed, at least four others injured.
  • Two suicide attacks kill 34 people in Somalia
    Terrorists of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al Shabaab carried out two attacks in Somalia Sunday. In one, nine gunmen disguised in Somali police uniforms and suicide vests stormed the main court house in Mogadishu, triggering deadly gun battles with security forces. A suicide car bomber later detonated a blast near Somali intelligence HQ as an African Union convoy drove by to the city’s airport.
  • Kerry in Beijing links Korean, Iran, Syrian crises
    US Secretary of State John Kerry met Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday in a bid to persuade him to exert pressure on North Korea to return to nuclear talks. "Mr. President, this is obviously a critical time with some very challenging issues – issues on the Korean peninsula, the challenge of Iran and nuclear weapons, Syria and the Middle East…” It was the first time a high US official had linked the Korean crisis with the two Mid East issues.
  • The Hosni Mubarak retrial adjourned after judge withdraws
    The deposed Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was returned by helicopter to the military hospital where he was confined after Justice Musfata Abdullah withdrew.

Israel passes antidote to Syrian rebels as chemical war looms

13 April. The Syrian army has distributed protective suits to units in southern Syria and the Golan, amid evidence that chemical weapons have already been used in the Damascus region. As signs abound of both sides’ readiness for chemical warfare, Israeli troops have started handing out atropine antidotes against sarin and VX nerve agents to Syrian rebels on the Golan and along the Israel-Syrian border, Israel’s first intervention in the Syrian conflict to date.
This may account for Syrian shell fire for the first time in 34 years at an IDF Golani patrol on duty Friday night, April 12, in the northern Golani area of Kibbutz El-Rom.
No one was hurt. But Israeli artillery and a Tamuz rocket returned the fire, achieving a direct hit on the Syrian outpost.

April 14, 2013 Briefs

  • Torch lit at Western Wall to commemorate Israeli fallen
    Israel inaugurates is 65th anniversary events with a day of mourning and remembrance for the 23,085 men and women fallen in enemy action from the year 1860 up until the present. Monday night at 8 pm, a torch was lit at the Western Wall at a military ceremony attended by the president, prime minister and chief of staff. A siren marked a minute’s silence in all parts of the country. Tuesday, more than a million and a half mourners attended ceremonies at military cemeteries up and down the country.

Israel’s Defense Minister plans the IDF’s overhaul

14 April. The two top ministers in the new Netanyahu government both have big plans. While overlapping at some points, the two will certainly butt heads on others. Finance Minister Yair Lapid in particular has his eye deep cuts in defense spending to reduce the budget deficit. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon plans to do away with such ambitious military programs as the Chariot Tank Mark 4 and the “Tiger” APC. But his blueprint for restructuring the Israeli Defense Forces will definitely cost big shekels.
T is influenced by a pervasive new concept that the big Arab armies which attacked Israel in the past have been relegated to obsolescence by the Arab Revolt, especially the decline of the Egyptian and Syrian armies – the first crippled by economic calamity and the second, debilitated by more than two years of fighting a civil war. Ergo, according to this concept, Israel is now for the first time in its 65 years no longer menaced by a large professional army capable of waging a full-blown war.
This concept is criticized by debkafile’s military sources.
In the current incendiary climate, full-scale combat could erupt on three of Israel’s borders, Egyptian Sinai, southern Syria and Lebanon.

April 15, 2013 Briefs

  • Washington raps Abbas, forces him to reinstate PM Salam Fayyad
    debkafile: Obama administration is furious with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas for sacking prime minister Salam Fayad, a key figure in the ambitious US-Israeli project for hauling the Palestinian economy out of its deep hole. The project was drawn up and approved last week by visiting US Secretary of State John Kerry, Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas thenrestore Fayyad to the job Sunday, but only as “provisional prime minister.”
  • Gains for Assad’s army in N., S., and E. Syria and Damascus
    debkafile: Assad’s army continued its victorious progress Monday in the North, for the first time breaking the rebel siege on the strategic town of Maarat al-Nuaman and pushing toward the key Aleppo-Damascus highway. Sunday, the Syrian army managed to push the rebels out of the eastern Damascus district of Barza, a stronghold they held for almost two years and, at the same time, launch a major offensive on the rebels holding ground near the international airport.

April 16, 2013 Briefs

  • Gantz on Iran: We’ll know what to do when the time comes
    Asked in Independence Day interviews Tuesday, whether the IDF is capable of a lone offensive against Iran, the Israeli chief of staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz replied: “Definitely yes, adding we’ll know what to do when the time comes.”
  • Major earthquake strikes southeast Iran near Pakistan border
    The epicenter of the 7.8 magnitude quake Tuesday was near the cities of Khash and Sarafan in the southeastern province of Baluchistan. Iran state TV reported 40 dead, but hundreds are feared to have lost their lives. Tremors were felt across Pakistan, India and the Gulf.
  • A US military helicopter crashes near North Korean border. Crew safe
    The UH-60 Black Hawk came down Tuesday in South Korea's Cheolwon county, which touches on the border with North Korea, a defense ministry spokesman in Seoul told AFP. Emergency rescue workers reported the 12 personnel on the helicopter survived.

Saudi cell suspected in Boston bombings

16 April. FBI Special Agent Richard Deslauriers told reporters Tuesday, April 16, that the probe had no leads 18 hours after two explosions blew up at the annual Boston Marathon’s finishing line, killing three people and injuring 176 – 17 critically. debkafile discloses suspicion has fallen on a terror cell of three Saudi nationals, very possibly tied to Al Qaeda in Arabia, who shared an apartment in Revere outside Boston. Two are in police hands – one of them in hospital with badly burned hands – a third is on the run. Police stepped up surveillance at Logan international airport in case he tried to fly out.
President Barack Obama said in his second statement in 24 hours: “…we don’t know if who was behind the bombings were foreign, domestic or individual.” The President was forced to admit for the first time that the FBI was investigating “an act of terror.”
debkafile earlier Tuesday was alone in reporting that the FBI Boston Marathon probe points to Mid-East terrorists with domestic support.

The Boston bombing probe points to Mid East terrorists with domestic support

16 April. Our counterterrorism experts point to hallmarks of Middle East terrorism in the initial investigation of the twin bombings that struck the Boston Marathon Monday, April 15, killing three people, including an 8-year old boy and injuring 176 – seventeen critically. The ball-bearings, nails and shrapnel planted in the bombs for maximizing casualties are a familiar “professional” feature of Middle East terrorism. The Boston event would have required a team of 4-5 bombers on the ground backed by at least 10 accomplices and spotters. The FBI is seeking two men. One was described as swarthy, speaking with a foreign accent, his face partially hidden by a hood, who was carrying a large backpack near the finishing line.
Another man was photographed walking on a rooftop overlooking the second bomb explosion..
Tuesday, the FBI admitted “a potential terrorist inquiry” was underway, although President Barack Obama, when he pledged justice for “the perpetrators,” carefully skirted the term “terror.”
Suspicion of a foreign hand was strengthened when the US media reported that a Saudi national suffering from severe burns was being questioned in hospital. The Boston Police Department denied the report.
Heightened terrorism alert remains in Boston, Washington and New York. The first response to the explosions in Boston from Middle East itself came from Mohammad al-Chalabi the head of an extremist Jordanian Muslim Salafi group, who said he's "happy to see the horror in America…”

April 17, 2013 Briefs

  • Saudi King Abdullah and Egypt’s Morsi condemn Boston bombings
    Two Muslim rulers condemned the terrorist blasts which left three dead and injured 176 at the Boston Marathon Monday and sent messages of condolence to the American people. Abdullah said no religion or morals can condone such attacks on civilians and the perpetrators “represented no one but themselves.”

Al Qaeda-linked Salafist group claims Eilat rocket attack

17 April. In case of a follow-up attack, the Eilat authorities ordered bomb shelters opened after five long-range Grad missiles were aimed from Sinai at the city Wednesday, April 17. An al Qaeda-linked Salafist group operating in Sinai and the Gaza Strip – the Shura Council of Jihad fighters of Jerusalem – later claimed the attack. One of the three that exploded in Eilat landed in a built-up residential area causing slight damage. There were no casualties. Two more landed in the neighboring Jordanian town of Aqaba, which Amman denied. Although southern Israeli was on alert from April 3 on intelligence of a multiple al Qaeda terror offensive from Sinai and Gaza, the five-rocket salvo took the IDF by surprise. The Iron Dome missile interceptor deployed outside the town did not function and the warning sirens sounded after the missiles exploded.

April 18, 2013 Briefs

  • Palestinian plot foiled for attacking Western Wall worshippers
    Five East Jerusalem Palestinians were indicted Thursday on charges of setting up a terrorist cell and plotting a shooting attack against Jewish worshippers and police guards in the Temple Mount and Western Wall area. The cell commanded by Nour Hamdan of E. Jerusalem contacted the Hamas’s military arm Ezza e-din al-Qassam and the Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs wing on the West Bank for training and weapons.
  • Netanyahu on Israeli role in Syrian conflict: No comment
    In a BBC interview, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Israel has the right to prevent weapons falling into the wrong hands in Syria. If terrorists seized anti-aircraft and chemical weapons, they could be game changers in the region. Asked if Israel was involved in any action in the Syrian conflict, Netanyahu said he would not confirm or deny this. The prime minister was in London to attend the Thatcher funeral. He held talks with the British prime minister David Cameron and the Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper.
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