A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending April 2, 2015

March 27, 2015 Briefs

  • US welcomes Israel’s release of funds to Palestinian Authority
    State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke commented Friday after Israel announced the release of frozen tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority: “We think it’s an important step.”
  • Netanyahu renews tax revenue transfers to Palestinian Authority
    Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Friday ordered the release of frozen tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority. The funds were suspended three months ago, after the PA threatened to file war crimes charges against Israel at the International Court in The Hague. Netanyahu accounted for his decision to resume the transfer of some NIS 500 million (app. $125 million) in accrued in tax revenue – parts of which will cover PA indebtedness to Israel for electricity, water and medical costs – by humanitarian distress in Palestinian areas and Israel’s wider interests. “In the deteriorating situation in the Middle East, it behooves us to act responsibly and prudently, while taking a strong stand against extremists,” he said.

March 28, 2015 Briefs

  • Putin phones Netanyahu with congratulations
    Russian President Vladimir Putin called Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Saturday to congratulate him for winning his re-election bid and wished him luck on forming a coalition, according to an official statement from the Kremlin. The two expressed concern about the escalation in Yemen.
  • At least 17 dead before Somali troops end Al-Shabaab hotel seizure
    Somali elite troops Saturday took control of the Maka Al-Makarramah hotel in Mogadish 12 hours after Al-Shabaab terrorists carried out a suicide car bombing and occupied two floors. Among the 17 people killed were the Somali ambassador to Switzerland and an unknown number of terrorists. Four of the 28 wounded victims died in hospital. The hotel was a favorite haunt of Somali government officials.

Iranian general in Sanaa to organize Yemeni rebel counter-offensive against Saudis

28 Mar. Iran’s top war commander, Al Qods Brigades chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani, landed in Sanaa Friday, March 27, debkafile reports, to organize a counter-offensive for the Saudi-Gulf-Egyptian operations against Tehran-backed Houthi rebel advances. By opening its third direct Middle East warfront after Syria and Iraq, Tehran is holding the Obama administration to its promise of support for its role as the leading Middle East power, in return for signing a nuclear framework deal by March 31. Solemeini’s must urgently restore Iran’s sea and air supply lines to Yemen, cut off by Saudi-led air strikes, and determine whether or not to co-opt Iranian air and sea forces to the Yemeni front for head-to-head battles against Saudi Arabia and its ten Sunni allies.

March 29, 2015 Briefs

  • Former US Intel chief: Stop talks with Iran and take hard look at Mid East
    Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, former head of the US Defense Intelligence Agency, described President Obama’s Middle East policy as one of “willful ignorance.” Recent developments in the region “are moving in a bad direction” for America, with Iran “clearly on the march in a regional sectarian war.” The US appears to be siding with Iranian-backed rebels against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, but opposing such fighters in Yemen, while at the same time negotiating a nuclear deal with Tehran, a sponsor of terrorism. This is “’incredible policy confusion,” said Gen. Flynn. Nuclear diplomacy with Iran should be halted and everything else stopped while “we take a hard look at everything going on the Middle East.”
  • Arab League summit agrees to set up joint military force
    Heads of the 22-nation Arab League meeting at Sharm el-Sheikh agreed Sunday to the principle of creating a joint Arab military force to counter threats to the security of any member. Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said a high-level panel will, under the supervision of Arab chiefs of staff, work out within four months, the structure and mechanism of the force of around 40,000 elite troops, backed by jets, warships and light armor. The summit agreed that Saudi-led air strikes in Yemen, further south on the Red Sea would continue until “Shiite rebels withdraw and surrender their weapons.”
  • Saudi air strikes break up Yemeni Houthi advance on Aden
    debkafile’s military sources report that Saudi-led air strikes broke up the advance on Aden of Yemeni forces allied with the Houthi rebels. But the Iran-backed Houthis continued to push along the country’s Red Sea coast and down to the east on the Indian Ocean coast.

US surrender on breakout time to a bomb in hope of negotiating breakthrough

29 Mar. US leaders assured the world that the nuclear deal to be signed with Iran in Switzerland this week would give the powers a year’s warning from the Islamic Republic break-out to an operational weapon. debkafile: To clinch the framework deal in Lausanne, even this concession, which imperils Israel, the Gulf and the Middle East at large, was not enough. The president authorized the US delegation to fall back again and cut this year down to six or seven months.

March 30, 2015 Briefs

  • Two US Congressmen table bill to counter BDS
    Two Republican Congressmen, Doug Lamborn and Ron DeSantis, have introduced a bill designed to counter the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) campaign promoted on American academic campuses. The “Boycott our Enemies, not Israel” act is designed to require companies to certify that they do not boycott Israel in order to earn government contracts. False certifications would also incur stiff penalties.
  • Olmert found guilty. District Court reverses Talansky bribes acquittal
    In the case of the fraudulent misuse of donated funds against former PM Ehud Olmert, the retrial by a panel of three Jerusalem District Court judges Monday reversed his acquittal by a former panel in 2012. They overruled his defense arguments and judged that he knowingly used $150,000 in the envelopes received from US businessman Morris Talansky for personal purposes and was therefore guilty of misusing funds, breach of trust, grave fraud and perjury The court dismissed the reasonable doubt argument accepted by the former bench to acquit him, after hearing the new evidence presented by the prosecution of tapes and diaries secretly kept by his former secretary Shula Zaken while in his employ. She illegally received $30,000 of the moneys. The crimes were committed during Ehud Olmert’s term as Minister of Commerce and Industry. The court headed by Judge Rivka Friedman-Feldman will hand sentence down – up to five years jail – on May 5.

Pakistan minister due in Riyadh with troop airlift for Saudi coalition in Yemen

30 Mar. The US-led world powers and Iran Monday, March 30, entered the last tense hours for a nuclear deal as though Lausanne was on a different planet from the Middle East, where the Yemen war, in which Iran is deeply involved, abruptly scooped up a power outside the region, Pakistan, whose defense minister is due in Riyadh following a government pledge to support its Saudi ally. debkafile: Several Pakistan brigades are being airlifted to relieve Saudi forces of border and oil security tasks for ground operations in Yemen. Egyptian air and warships forces blast Aden.

March 31, 2015 Briefs

  • The 20th Knesset holds first session with 39 new members
    Israel’s newly-elected Knesset held its first session in Jerusalem Tuesday with President Reuven Rivlin taking the chair for the ceremony. Of the 120 members sworn in, 39 were elected for the first time last month and 29 were women. When the house stood for the national anthem – Hatikva – members of the Arab Joint List left the chamber. The outgoing Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein of Likud was to be re-elected in the first vote held by the new House. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said his door was open to all the elected parties without exception. He also warned again that the nuclear accord in Lausanne paves the way to a nuclear-armed Iran.
  • Canadian parliament extends military mission against ISIS
    Canada’s parliament approved Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision to extend its military mission against the Islamic group for another year, to include air strikes over Syria as well as Iraq. Canada will be the first NATO country other than the US to conduct air strikes in Syria.

Khamenei sends naval forces to Bab el-Mandeb. Iran arms store bombed in Libya

31 Mar. Control of the strategic Red Sea Bab el-Mandeb Straits passed Tuesday, March 31 to pro-Iranian Yemeni forces when the Yemeni Army’s 117th Brigade handed positions guarding the waterway to two Houthi commando battalions, debkafile reveals. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered two task forces to sail to the region to reinforce Houthi control of the strategic straits. Iran was involved in another regional development Tuesday, when unidentified aircraft bombed a base in Burak, southwestern Libya, used by Iran to store arms purchased in Sudan for transfer to Hamas in the Gaza Strip by smuggling routes through Egypt a d Sinai. The weapons were destroyed.

April 1, 2015 Briefs

  • David’s Sling defense system ready for Hizballah’s missiles
    The David’s Sling defense system, designed to intercept medium-range rockets and missiles, has passed advanced tests, and is on course for deployment against the Hizballah rocket threat in a few months time. The system’s range ensures intercepts of hostile missiles before they come over Israel.. “Two David’s Sling batteries will cover the whole of Israel.
  • Netanyahu in last call for a better deal in Lausanne
    Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu issued a call from Jerusalem Wednesday to the diplomats engaged in winding up a round of nuclear talks in Lausanne. “Now is the time” he said, “for the international community to insist on a better nuclear deal, stop Iran’s aggression in the region and its terrorist activities around the world, and relinquish its threat to annihilate Israel.”
    Tuesday, Gen. Mohammad Raza Nakdi, commander of the Iranian Basijj popular militia declared in Tehran that the aspiration to wipe Israel off the map had never been negotiable.
  • Nuclear talks miss dealine in confusion
    Wednesday morning, as the nuclear talks between the six powers and Iran overran their March 31 deadline into April, there was no consensus on how to ring the curtain down. The French foreign minister Lauren Fabius threw up his hands and left, followed by his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeyer.
    In Jerusalem, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu again blasted the proposed deal, saying that whatever came out of the Lausanne talks, Iran would be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon quickly. "In our estimate, it will be reduced to perhaps a year, most likely much less than that."
  • US releases suspended military aid to Egypt
    President Barack Obama notified Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh el-Sissi in a phone call Tuesday that the US would be releasing some of the military aid he had suspended after the 2013 overthrow of the Morsi government. Egypt would soon receive 12 F-16 fighter jets, 20 Harpoon missiles and up to 125 tank kits, in an effort to boost Cairo’s ability to combat extremists in the region. Another $1.3 billion is still withheld.
  • US House Leader Boehner calls on PM Netanyahu in Jerusalem
    A delegation of congressional Republicans arrived in Jerusalem Wednesday headed by House Speaker John Boehner, weeks after the furor over his invitation to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to address the US Congress on the dangers of a US-Iranian nuclear accord. Boehner said in an interview Sunday that the House would act quickly to tighten sanctions on Iran should the nuclear talks fail.
    The House delegation came from visits to Jordan and Iraq.
    The group also included Reps. John Kline of Minnesota, Devin Nunes of California, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Tom Cole of Oklahoma. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell visited the country over the weekend and also met with Netanyahu.

April 2, 2015 Briefs

  • First Saudi marines land in Aden
    After Houthi rebel forces backed by rogue Yemeni army units broke through to the center of Aden, the first Saudi marines began landing on the town’s coast Thursday. Some sources report they were joined by “foreign marines” – possibly Egyptian.
  • Would-be Palestinian infiltrators stab an Israeli soldier
    An Israeli soldier suffered a knife wound Thursday when a group of Palestinians trying to infiltrate Israel attacked the soldiers manning the Oranim check post on the Trans-Samaria highway.
  • Gunman kills 17 Egyptian soldiers in Sinai
    A man armed with a shoulder-borne missile opened fire Thursday on a line of Egyptian army positions in Sinai. He killed at least 17 soldiers and injured another nineteen. No organization has claimed responsibility.
  • Assad’s army and Iranian, Hizballah allies suffer defeats
    The Syrian army and its Hizballah and Iranian backers suffered a row of serious defeats this week on three Syrian warfronts. After the fall of Idlib in the north Saturday to an Islamist alliance led by the Nusra Front – the largest piece of territory lost to Assad’s forces since the fall of Raqqa to the Islamic State – ISIS went on Wednesday to seize the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp, which lies a few kilometers from the presidential palace and central Damascus. Wednesday too, Syrian rebels won the battle for the Nasib crossing to Jordan, which commands the main highway link between Damascus and Amman. They are now able to cut off this main land route from Syria to Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries and make free use of access to Jordan.
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