A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending April 26, 2007

Hamas threatens overseas abductions of Israelis and Jews


21 April: Lacking networks outside the Gaza Strip and West Bank, Hamas is expected to employ the extensive Lebanese Hizballah covert infrastructure which branches out across the Middle East, Africa and Europe, for its threatened kidnap offensive abroad.

The Shin Bet security service has circulated a kidnap alert to Israeli embassies, overseas firms and Jewish institutions. The Hamas escalation is taken very seriously. It is also seen as further confirmation of its close working ties with Hizballah under active orchestration by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.


Al Qaeda-Palestine hits first major American target in Gaza Strip


21 April: A large band of masked men broke into the empty American International School in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya at dawn Saturday, April 21, and detonated three powerful bombs, in al Qaeda’s first major attack on a US target since kidnapping two Fox News journalists last August and forcing them to publicly convert to Islam for their freedom. Earlier this week, al Qaeda-Palestine blew up a Christian Library and two Internet cafes in Gaza. Together with Hamas and the Popular Resistance Committees, al Qaeda-Palestinian holds the BBC correspondent Alan Johnston hostage, along with the Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit.

debkafile‘s intelligence sources add: Washington, London and Israel consistently close their eyes to al Qaeda’s operations in the Gaza Strip – even as it gains ground. They never name Al Qaeda as co-abductors of Johnston; neither do they admit he was seized as a ploy to delay the Israeli soldier’s release and raise the price demanded of Israel. This policy puts their hostages’ lives at risk.

Washington, London, Riyadh and Cairo have joined in talks, partly covert, with prime minister Ismail Haniyeh’s Hamas faction in a bid to foster a moderate element capable of converting the dominant Hamas from a terrorist organization into a political party. Haniyeh cannot deliver the goods. Neither can the moderate Mahmoud Abbas and his “national security adviser” Mohammad Dahlan, both of whom are slipping fast – not only in the Gaza Strip at large, but among their own Fatah following.

At the same time, the radical Palestinians groups are allowed to get stronger. And so is al Qaeda.


Key problem facing US troops in Iraq is inability to electronically detect roadside bombs – US commanders to Gates


22 April: Our military sources report that visiting US defense secretary Robert Gates heard this from the American commanders he met Thursday and Friday, April 18-19 in Baghdad and Falluja, capital of al Qaeda’s hotbed Anbar province.

Lt. Gen Martin Dempsey, in charge of training Iraqi troops, said Sunday, April 22, that American forces had no technology capable of detecting suicide bombers before they strike.

This shortcoming was first revealed by DEBKA-Net-Weekly 293 on March 16, and updated by debkafile on April 10, 2007


Will al Qaeda use violence to derail Sarcozy’s run for French presidency? The Madrid rail bombing worked for Spain


23 April: debkafile‘s counter-terror sources report: The countdown has begun at the contenders’ campaign headquarters, but also at the secret lair of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the vicious re-named Algerian Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat -GSPC. Its heads are plotting to run interference on the poll’s outcome by a major terrorist attack in France. The mass-circulation Spanish El Pais reported Monday, April 23, that al Qaeda is deep in preparations for mega-attacks in Spain and France.

Nicolas Sarcozy told Radio Europe 1 last Thursday, April 19: “The principal menace to France comes from Algeria, from the GSPC network that has transformed into al Qaeda. They have members in several European countries, including France.”

Our counter-terror sources confirm the intelligence that the Algerian GSPC is working hard to repeat the “success” of al Qaeda’s 2004 Madrid rail bombings, which turned Spain’s elections around. The pro-US Popular Party was defeated and the Socialist Workers’ Party, opposite number of Segolene Royal’s Socialists, was elevated to power.

The analogies are an open temptation to al Qaeda.

The al Qaeda jihadists view Sarkozy as a dangerous enemy of radical Islamic organizations in France. Royal by contrast wooed the Muslim vote with promises of advantages. A terrorist attack that brings the Socialist contender to power will give al Qaeda a huge prestige boost with French Muslims.


A large, high-ranking Syrian delegation of 40 generals on secret mission to Tehran


23 April: Led by Maj. Gen. Yahya L. Solayman, War Planning chief at the Syrian armed forces General Staff, the delegation represents all branches of the Syrian armed forces. On their arrival on April 18, the Syrian officers went straight into conference with Iranian defense minister Brig. Gen. Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar, Revolutionary Commanders chief Maj. Gen. Yahya Rahim-Safavi and dep. chief of staff Maj. Gen. Hassani Sa’di, who is Iran’s chief of military war preparations. The Syrian visitors were taken around RG and armed forces training installations and given a display of the latest Iranian weapons systems, including stealth missiles, electronic warfare appliances and undersea missiles and torpedoes. They also visited the big Imam Ali training base in N. Tehran, where hundreds of Lebanese Hizballah and Palestinian Hamas and Jihad Islami terrorists are taking courses.

debkafile reports Israeli military chiefs fear the high-powered visit and consultations are part of a coordinated Iranian-Syrian effort to prepare for war with the Israel and the United States.

Israel sees four causes for concern:

1. The unusually large size of the Syrian delegation.

2. The elevated positions of the Iranian officials hosting the Syrians.

3. The installations and weapons shown the Syrian officers. The intelligence estimate is that they saw the weapons systems soon to be consigned by Iran to the Syrian army and Hizballah, as well as the types of assistance pledged for Syria in the event of a military showdown with the United States or Israel.

4. The unusual length of the visit. Monday, April 23 the Syrian officers were still busy in Tehran after six days and showed no sign of leaving.


No sign of ground action in Hamas’ massive missile-mortar barrage on southern Israel


24 April: debkafile‘s military sources report the only indication that Hamas was ready for a ground incursion was the heavy direct fire directed at the Israeli positions clustered on the Israel-Gaza crossing at Kerem Shalom. Had the Palestinian group achieved direct hits or detected confused activity among the soldiers, it might have followed up its barrage with an incursion – possibly using the tunnels through which Gilead Shalit was abducted 9 months ago. But this did not happen.

Examination of the 60 mm mortar shells fired into Israel and other evidence attested to several weeks of prior planning. The shells were freshly painted with the Hamas green and markings, broadcasting their source, and were standard military industrial products rather than the customary makeshift ordnance. Hymns glorifying the Hamas victory over the Israeli enemy had been composed and videotaped especially for the incident.

The Islamist group decided to carry out the attack symbolically on Israel’s Independence Day after Hamas military wing commanders Ahmed Kabari and Jamil Jarah consulted with Khaled Meshaal in Damascus.

The Israeli inquiry rated Hamas’ operational performance organized and measured, unlike the slapdash firing by Fatah al Aqsa Brigades, Jihad Islami and the Popular Resistance Committees.

Ten mortar shells round struck Sderot’s Hadar district by 8:30 a.m. local time; 6 Qassam missiles exploded in other parts of the W. Negev up to Ashkelon causing damage but no casualties The Hamas military arm, Ezz-e-Din al Qassam announced shortly before 8.00 a.m. that it had shot 80 missiles and mortar rounds at Israeli targets in retaliation for IDF operations. Hamas spokesman Abu Obeida said later: “This is a message to the Zionist enemy that our strikes will continue. We have the means and we hold Gilead Shalit.”

debkafile adds: The Hamas offensive launched April 24 makes a mockery of Israeli, US and European bids to reach out to “unaffiliated ministers” of the new Hamas-led Palestinian government, in the hope of toning down its innate violence. The Europeans, Saudis, Egyptians and PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas, by lifting the international heat from the Palestinians, gave them the chance to top up their arsenal, perfect their skills, and hatch their schemes undisturbed.

Saturday, April 21, Hamas threatened to start abducting Israelis and Jews overseas after Israel rejected terms for releasing the Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit and BBC correspondent Alan Johnston. Lacking networks outside the Gaza Strip and West Bank, Hamas is expected to employ the extensive Lebanese Hizballah covert infrastructure which branches out across the Middle East, Africa and Europe. The Shin Bet security service has advised Israeli embassies, overseas firms and Jewish institutions to be vigilent.


Diplomacy at its most athletic


25 April: America has invited Iranian athletes to train in the United States. The move was made with the blessing of the State Department which is racing to coax the Iranian foreign minister to attend the second Iraq security conference in Sharm el Sheik on May 3-4 and meet Condoleezza Rice. Iranian foreign minister Mounachehr Mottaki has signaled extreme reluctance to attend.


Frontrunner as next Revolutionary Guards chief threatens US world interests and Israel if Iran is attacked


26 Aprll: Mohammad Baqer Solghadr, deputy interior minister, has been tagged for this top post by Iranian leaders engrossed in war preparations, according to debkafile‘s Iranian sources. He told the official Iranian news agency IRNA Thursday: “Nowhere would be safe for America with (Iran’s) long-range missiles… we can fire tens of thousands of missiles every day.” He added: “With long-range missiles Iran can also threaten Israel as America’s ally” and US Middle East bases.

debkafile‘s military sources report that Solghadr was not overstating Iran’s missile capabilities. The Islamic Republic’s expanded war preparations must be taken into account as encompassing Syria, the Lebanese Hizballah and the Gaza Strip, to which the Palestinian Hamas, the Jihad Islami, the Fatah-al Aqsa Brigades and the Popular Resistance Committees. Tehran has armed and harnessed these allies, clients and proxies for a missile response to a US or Israeli attack on Iran.

They have been fed with an assortment of missiles of varying ranges by Iranian air and sea lifts.


PM Olmert may not stand in for finance minister in view of allegations against him – State Attorney


26 April: Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert has been deputizing for Avraham Hirchson who suspended himself for three months to face a police probe into charges of theft and embezzlement as head of a sick fund in the 90s. The state attorney Menahem Mazuz informed the prime minister Thursday that it would be improper for him to stand in as finance minister for the whole three months, since he himself is under several investigations in his former capacity as trade, industry and labor minister in the Sharon government. Olmert was advised to fill the treasury post with a suitable appointee.

Also Wednesday, Maj. Gen Gady Eisenkott, revealed that the Israeli army knew two hours after Hizballah raiders seized Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev on July 12, 2006, that there was no way to rescue them. Eisenkott was chief of operations at the general staff during the Lebanon War which the abductions sparked. This was another blow to Olmert’s credibility, as it contradicts Olmert’s oft-repeated motive for going to war as being to recover the captured men.

The general spoke out five days before the Winograd panel probing the widely-criticized management of the war releases its interim report on the first five days of the conflict.

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