A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending April 4, 2013
March 29, 2013 Briefs
Al Qaeda strengthens grip on Jordanian-Israeli border
Further advances were made toward the Syrian al Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra’s control of the Syrian-Israeli-Jordanian border junction by its capture Friday of the small town of Dael southeast of Deraa.
March 30, 2013 Briefs
Israel’s energy revolution begins with first gas on stream
The first gas from Israel’s offshore Tamar gas field was piped 90 km to the Ashdod power station Saturday, enabling its conversion to the use of domestically produced energy. More of the country’s largest electricity and industrial plants will be connected in the course of the year. debkafile: The impending exploitation of big Israel offshore gas and oil fields, including the giant Leviathan well, takes the Israeli economy into a new era and transforms its strategic situation. The United States and Russia are taking Israel into consideration as a major energy power since geological surveys identified vast reserves of gas and oil yet to be tapped.
Pro-Assad flag at Arab Israeli “Land Day” Event
Israeli Arabs rallied Saturday for the annual anti-Israel protest “Land Day” event at Sakhnin northeast of Tel Aviv, many waving PLO and pro-Assad Syrian flags. On the West Bank, in solidarity, Palestinians lobbed rocks and bottle bombs at Israeli security forces near Qalqilya, at the Kalandia checkpoint and from the Gaza town of Rafah, where a number were injured by Israeli fire as they came too close to the border fence.
Western arms to Syrian rebels embargoed over resale to al Qaeda
30 March. The West has initiated an arms embargo against the Syrian rebels fighting Bashar Assad since discovering that some of the weapons are being resold to al Qaeda for its conquest of southern Syrian and takeover of positions on the Jordanian and Israel borders and Yarmuk River. This policy reversal was disclosed by French President Francois Hollande Friday, March 29 when also Turkish authorities impounded 5,000 shotguns, rifles, starting pistols, gunstocks and 10,000 cartridges in the village of Akcakale before they were sent across into Syria.
debkafile’s military sources: These steps are effectively putting in place a Western embargo on arms supplies to the Syrian rebels and not only the Assad regime. Saudi Arabia and Qatar remain their only sources of weapons. debkafile: Alarm over the Nusra Front’s territorial gains now tops concerns over chemical warfare in the deliberations of the joint US-Israeli, US-Jordanian and US-Turkish command centers.
March 31, 2013 Briefs
First commercial flight from Egypt to Iran
A flight by Air Memphis took off from Cairo to Tehran Saturday carrying eight Iranian passengers including diplomats. Since Muslim Brotherhood took power in Cairo, relations cut after the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, have improved.
Sunday Times: Israel planted spy equipment to monitor Russian Navy
The British Sunday Times reports that earlier this month, Israeli spy equipment planted by the Israeli Navy’s Shayetet 13 was uncovered on an uninhabited Mediterranean island opposite the Russian naval base at the Syrian port of Tartus. Syria’s sate TV showed a camera, six large batteries, cables and transmitters, along with fake rocks for camouflaging the equipment planted for tracking Russian warship movements.
Palestinians open Jerusalem bidding by ceding Holy Sites Custodianship to Jordan’s king
1 April. An historic agreement signed in Amman Sunday, March 31, between Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah II takes a new stand on Jerusalem by accepting the king as Custodian of the Holy Sites, with authority over the Palestinan Waqf (religious foundation). He will also represent the interests of the Holy Sites “in relevant international forums…” By laying the foundation for internationalizing the oversight of Jerusalem’s holy sites, the document faces trouble in Israel and also among Palestinians.
The two parties’ communiqués differ in defining “Palestinian sovereignty.” According to the Palestinian version,“The agreement confirmed Jordan’s historic role in caring for the religious sanctuaries. It also confirmed Palestinian sovereignty over all of Palestine, including East Jerusalem as its capital.”
However, Article 3:3.1 of the agreement published in full by Jordan puts it this way: “The Government of the State of Palestine, as the expression of the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people, shall have the right to exercise sovereignty over all parts of its territory, including Jerusalem.
April 2, 2013 Briefs
Israel Golan tank returns fire from Syrian position
Direct hit Tuesday night by Israeli tank on Syrian position which fired a shell at the Tel Fares IDF position shortly after a visit to the Golan by Israeli defense minister and chief of staff to inspect IDF positions’ readiness for dealing with a chemical threat from Syria. Israel last month put up a large field hospital on the Golan border with Syria.
Syrian ultimatum to Lebanese kidnappers to release Allawite hostages or else…
Damascus has given the kidnappers of eight Syrian Alawite workers until midnight Tuesday to hand the hostages over or else their mostly Sunni Wadi Khaled region in north Lebanon will be destroyed.
DEBKAfile: No sign of Iranian nuclear slowdown
There is no sign of any slowdown in Iran’s national program or that Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has given any such order, as the Wall Street Journal reported. Any such order would have been seized upon by the rivals of the Khamenei candidate to damage his campaign for election as president in June.
Ancient Jewish synagogue in Damascus looted, burned
Like much of Syria’s rich cultural heritage, the ancient Jobar Synagogue of Damascus fell prey to looting and burning in the two-year conflict. Traditionally built by the biblical prophet Elishah, many great rabbinical scholars held court there over the centuries. A bullet-marked plaque near the door reads: “Shrine and Synagogue of Prophet Eliahou Hanabi, Since 720 B.C.”
April 3, 2013 Briefs
At least 48 killed in 7-hour battle with Taliban in W. Afghanistan
Nine heavily armed Taliban insurgents stormed a government courthouse in the town of Farah near the Iranian border Wednesday to rescue insurgents facing trial. They were all dead at the end of a seven-hour battle with Afghan security forces.
Israel-Palestinian talks planned for May 11 in Turkey
Kol Israel national radio reports that US Secretary of State John Kerry returns to the region next Sunday and Monday to confirm with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas the resumption of the long-stalled talks between Israel and the Palestinians, planned for May 11 in Turkey. Kerry will also make a trip to Ankara to set up a visit by PM Tayyip Erdogan to the White House, Washington in mid-May. Israel observers see the current wave of violent unrest on the West Bank as useful for the Palestinian case in the forthcoming negotiations, while the Gaza violations appear to be Hamas’s assertion of its stake in the process.
Palestinian in Israeli prisons on hunger strike over inmate’s death of cancer
After day of riots, jailed Palestinians started a three-day hunger strike Wednesday to protest the death of 64-year old Maysara Abu Hamdieh of cancer in the Beersheba hospital. He was serving a life sentence for a bombing attempt on a Jerusalem café. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas held Israel responsible for his death.
Damascus: Further rebel push on capital means “certain death”
A Syrian military commander (unnamed) told the pro-government Watan newspaper Wednesday than any further advance by the rebels on Damascus means “certain death for them and their leaders.” debkafile: “Certain death” is taken as a threat by the Assad regime to use chemical weapons to save Damascus if its defenses collapse.
Yaalon: Israel will not tolerate routine rocket trickle
The Israeli military will destroy the sources of fire on civilians and soldiers as soon as they are identified, said Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon early Wednesday. No steady trickle of rockets will be tolerated. He spoke after the first Israeli air strikes against the Gaza Strip in five months –targeting “two extensive terror sites” responded Wednesday night to Palestinian mortar fire from the Gaza Strip, and Israel tank fire demolished a Syrian position from which Israeli Golan was shelled the day before.
Israel’s defense minister inspects Golan position as Al Qaeda nears two Syrian chemical depots
3 April. In fierce battles with Syrian troops, Al Qaeda’s al-Nusra front is spearheading the rebels’ advance on two Syrian army chemical weapons depots – at the Al-Safira base in the north and the Dumeir facility 40 km northeast of Damascus. Tuesday, April 2, Israel’s top security officials were on the Golan to inspect the IDF Golan border units’ state of readiness. On his first visit to the territory as defense minister, Moshe Yaalon said Israel would prevent the proliferation of weapons that “could threaten us.”
He was the first leading Israeli figure to state clearly that Israel would act to prevent the proliferation of Syria’s chemical weapons – whether to the al Qaeda or Hizballah terrorist organizations.
As Syrian defenses weakened, the troops fighting at Al Safira and in the Damascus region were issued with anti-contamination suits and gas masks.
April 4, 2013 Briefs
Mortar fire on Eshkol from Gaza
Two mortar shells were aimed at the Eshkol region from the Gaza Strip early Thursday, the third day of these attacks from the Palestinian enclave. The Qassam and mortar attacks Wednesday were claimed by Al Qaeda-affiliated Salafist “Jihad Brigades in Jerusalem.”
IDF position repels first organized armed Palestinian raid. Two attackers killed
After midnight Wednesday, a group of Palestinians attacked an Israeli military position at Einav, just inside the southern edge of the West Bank 20 east of Netanya with gunfire and fire bombs. Two Palestinian raiders were killed in the ensuring firefight in the first organized armed attack the Palestinians have staged on an Israeli military post inside the green line in eight years. Mahmud Abbas held Israel “criminally responsible” for the two deaths.
S. Israel on alert for multiple al Qaeda strike. Iron Dome posted
4 March. Intelligence on al Qaeda preparations for a multiple attack on an Israeli location, such as Eilat, and a US military target in the Negev, has put southern Israel and US forces posted there on high terror alert. The IDF is treating the five rockets fired from Gaza Wednesday as the opening salvo for the coordinated attack. An Iron Dome battery has been posted on the Egyptian border north of Eilat and army reinforcements pumped into the South. The word received is that al Qaeda may be planning to strike from two places – Sinai and Gaza. Sandstorms are reducing the troops’ visibility and offer infiltrators good cover.