Iran-backed Jihad Islami claims new homemade warhead and engine extends Qassam missile range to 18 km
15 April: The Palestinian Jihad Islami boasted Sunday, April 15, to have already tested a two-stage missile Al Quds-3 (Qassam) with new engine and warhead and attained a range of 18 km. The extremist group claimed to have amassed sufficient stocks in the Gaza Strip to fire dozens of missiles a day for a whole year against neighboring Israeli locations.
Israeli military forces confirm the Jihad Islami has been testing a new type of rocket in the last two weeks from an apparently large stock.
A range of 18 km would bring the new weapon well beyond Sderot and right into the southern outskirts of the big Israeli port town of Ashdod, the town of Kiryat Gat and points north of Ofakim and Netivot.
The group congratulated itself for achieving “technological autonomy” from Hamas in missile development and assembly.
According to debkafile‘s sources, the group has begun taking delivery of a steady supply of missile components from Iran through the smuggling ports the Revolutionary Guards have established along the Gulf of Suez. debkafile adds: In the light of these facts, Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ promises Sunday to Israeli prime minister Ehdu Olmert are totally unrealistic. He promised to halt the missile fire emanating from the Gaza Strip and deploy Palestinian security units to seal the Gaza-Sinai border against arms smuggling.
Israeli government splits on talks with Arab League members. Both sides agree Olmert-Abbas dialogue has nowhere to go
15 April: In the face of negative Arab responses, prime minister Ehud Olmert again proposed at the weekly cabinet session in Jerusalem Sunday, April 15, that Israel enter into talks with any available combination of Arab governments. Dep. PM Shimon Peres said he objects to contacts with any of the Arab League members before they recognize Israel. Olmert then joined Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas for one of the regular meetings ordered by US secretary Condoleezza Rice for her “new political horizon.”
Under the Palestinian power-sharing deal with Hamas, Abbas is precluded from making major decisions without his coalition partner’s concurrence. In Damascus, senior Hamas spokesman Mussa Abu Marzuk said quite frankly that the Palestinians have nothing to gain from the Abbas-Olmert talks.
Last week, the Saudi and Egyptian foreign ministers, Prince Saudi al Faisal and Ahmed Aboul Gheit, ruled Israel ineligible as a negotiating partner until it produced prior proof of a changed policy, which was spelt out: Israel must “cease its persecutions of the Palestinian people” (shorthand for counter-terror operations), remove its presence from the West Bank and accept the pre-war 1967 boundaries as the sine qua non for talks with Arab states.
debkafile: Olmert and Tzipi Livni are blowing hard to keep the wheels of peace rhetoric revolving, although there is nowhere for them to go.
Tehran arms Lebanese Hizballah militia with air defense missile wing as part of war build-up
16 April: April 15, on the eve of Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, Hizballah and Iranian Revolutionary Guards commanders celebrated the launch of Hizballah’s anti-air missile wing at a ceremony in Imam Ali base in northern Tehran. They cheered the 500 Lebanese graduates of a course in the use of three anti-air missiles supplied by Iran:
The Sayyad 1 (Hunter), the Misagh 1 (Convention [with Allah]) and the Shahab Sagheb (Meteor), which is based on the Chinese Feimeng-80 system.
debkafile‘s military sources report that these new weapons will seriously restrict the Israeli Air Force’s tactical freedom over Lebanon. In the event of hostilities, Israeli warplanes will have to evade a dense array of Hizballah-operated anti-air missiles which will also defend the terrorist group’s surface rocket batteries.
The Iranian-Chinese missile is said to have already been smuggled into Lebanon to Hizballah’s hands. It is designed to shoot down planes and helicopters flying at ultra-low altitudes under radar screens for surprise assaults on ground targets such as military bases, missile positions and artillery. Ordinary radar and air defense missiles are mostly ineffective against these low-flying tactics. The new missile makes up for this shortcoming.
On March 7, the 500 Hizballah trainees flew out of Damascus airport for Tehran aboard two civilian airliners; on April 16, they returned home – again through the Syrian airport.
Next day, on April 17, an Internet publication called Lebanese Lobby picked up this debkafile Exclusive and added a photo of its launch ceremony at Tehran’s Imam Ali base. Iranian RGs and Hizballah commanders can be seen alongside the Shahab Sagheb anti-air missile based on the Chinese FM-80.
British journalists vote to boycott Israeli goods in protest against the Lebanon war
16 April: Friday, April 13, the British National Union of Journalists voted to boycott Israeli goods as part of a protest against last year’s war in Lebanon. The vote, carried 66 to 54, read: “This ADM calls for a boycott of Israeli goods similar to those boycotts in the struggles against apartheid in South Africa. It also called for sanctions to be imposed on Israel by the British government and the United Nations.
The motion also called for the end of “Israeli aggression in Gaza and other occupied territories.”
debkafile notes that no sanctions were proposed against the Palestinian kidnappers of the British journalists’ BBC colleague Alan Johnston. On the contrary; the NUJ’s national executive committee was instructed to support pro-Palestinian organizations.
Espionage Galore under a Middle East Nuclear Cloud
17 April: It sounded like a contest.
On Tuesday, April 17, the Shin Bet intelligence service reported Iranian intelligence had intensified its efforts to recruit Israelis as spies, targeting former Iranians applying for visas to visit their families. One young man had been snared and paid “expenses” for enlisting a friend in security and collecting information. Two hours later, in Cairo, a nuclear engineer Mohammed Gaber, was accused by Prosecutor-General Abdul-Maquid Mahmoud of spying on Egypt’s nuclear program on behalf of the Mossad. Israel dismissed the charge as another of Cairo’s unfounded spy myths.
Add on the US defense secretary Robert Gates’ visits to Jordan, Israel and Egypt this week reportedly to coordinate and oversee preparations connected to a potential military operation against Iran and, in the view of debkafile‘s intelligence sources, these espionage rumbles denote a far greater intelligence upheaval below ground.
The Shin Bet’s sudden outburst of transparency confirms the scene is being set for a major diplomatic, military or intelligence step in the summer, in advance of which it is vital to deter Israeli nationals from visiting Iran.
Furthermore, it is no secret that at last month’s Arab summit in Riyadh, the Saudi ruler strongly urged his fellows to unite their national nuclear programs under a single roof. Every aspect of this program is extraordinarily sensitive. Hence the song and dance the Egyptian prosecutor general made Tuesday of an alleged Israeli spy network said to operate out of Hong Kong, with an Irish and a Japanese agent charged with planting Israeli espionage software in Egyptian nuclear program’s computers, together with an Egyptian engineer. Egyptian intelligence was making sure to warn off any Egyptian tempted to work for Israeli intelligence, just as the Shin Bet was cautioning Israelis to beware of falling into Iranian intelligence traps.
The events of a single day brought Iran and its nuclear threat into sharp relief as the most pressing issues for Israel.
Palestinian security forces break up a demo to protest kidnapping of BBC reporter Alan Johnston in Gaza
17 April: The protest by Palestinian journalists took place outside the Palestinian parliament in Gaza Tuesday, April 17. The BBC reporter has been missing for five weeks since Palestinian gunmen seized him. There has been no word on his fate except for an unverified claim by an al Qaeda-linked Palestinian group that he had been killed.
Al Qaeda in Iraq claims self-production of rockets
17 April: A voice said to be that of Abu Omar al Baghdadi, leader of al Qaeda’s “Islamic State of Iraq,” claimed in an audiotape released Tuesday, April 17, to have begun manufacturing homemade Al Quds-1 (Jerusalem-1) rockets. He said they had an “advanced degree of range and accuracy.”
President Bush and Virginia Tech heads honor Prof. Liviu Librescu, one of the 32 victims of the college massacre, for his bravery
Prof. Librescu and his wife were Holocaust survivors. The professor was shot dead after he held the door shut against the gunman and allowed his students to escape. A leading aeronautics expert in Romania, the communist regime refused his application to migrate to Israel until 1978, after late prime minister Menahem Begin’s intercession on his behalf with President Ceaucescu.
After spending some years in Israel, professor Librescu took a sabbatical in the United States and stayed on to teach at Virginia Tech for twenty years as a senior staff member. He is a former adviser to NASA. One of Prof. Librescu’s sons lives in Raanana north of Tel Aviv and a second in California. He will be buried in Israel.
Thirteen Arab League foreign ministers t line up with radical bloc on talks with Israel
18 April: Saudi foreign minister Saud al Faisal announced at the end of their Cairo meeting on April 18 that four teams had been set up to explain to world governments the plan’s importance and lobby for its implementation. One team will hold talks with Israel. debkafile adds: This is no breakthrough. The team charged with discussing the Saudi plan with Israel is restricted to Egypt and Jordan, which are in any case is in regular official contact with the Israeli government.This restriction bows to the Palestinian unity government’s demand to keep Arab governments which bar recognition from Israel out of contact with the Jewish state, lest this be interpreted as recognition. It also enabled Syria at the head of the radical bloc make the meeting’s decisions unanimous.
The Saudi plan stipulates Israel’s withdrawal to the pre-1967 boundaries, acceptance of Jerusalem as capital of the future Palestinian state and acceptance of the Palestinian refugees’ “right of return.”
Gates’ demand for faster progress toward political reconciliation falls on deaf ears in Baghdad
19 April: The US defenses secretary Robert Gates flew to Baghdad for an unannounced visit from talks with prime minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem. He said as he embarked he wants to see faster progress towards political reconciliation in Iraq. Its leadership must understand, he said, that the US commitment to the country was not “open-ended.”
debkafile‘s Iraqi sources say that in all the country, there is no political or military entity capable of accomplishing more than the Americans with all their might have achieved toward bringing stability to Iraq and curbing the horrendous scale of violence.
Most Iraqi figures working with the Americans maintain that the sentiments voiced by the US defense secretary, such as “The US commitment to the country is not open-ended” are counter-productive. They encourage the Sunni insurgents and al Qaeda to redouble their large-scale terrorist attacks in the belief that the higher the death toll, the sooner the last push will come that forces the exit of US forces.
Islamist and Sunni pronouncements are increasingly referring to the uprising against the US as close to its close, with an insurgent victory over the Americans. Their attention is turning more and more to the internal contest developing among the various groups over which of them will win control over Iraq and its oil riches.
Gates arrived after almost 200 people, mostly Shiite and all civilians, died in suicide bombings in the Iraqi capital, the most violent day since the US-Iraqi security crackdown began last month.