A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending Aug. 30, 2007

Golani troops kill two Palestinian gunmen Friday night near Karni crossing as Palestinian attacks escalate


24 Aug. After coming under fire, the Israeli troops advanced some 100 meters past the border and engaged the two gunmen, killing both after a brief shootout. None were injured. debkafile: Officers on the spot confirm that the rate of Palestinian gunfire, missile and mortar attacks and attempts to infiltrate Israel for terrorist attacks has sharply increased in recent weeks.

In the first half of this week, at least 16 Palestinians were killed by Israel military responses to the waves of Palestinian missile and mortar fire buffeting the population living around Gaza. Hamas, Jihad Islami, Fatah-Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Popular Committees and al Qaeda-linked Salafi groups are all shooting missiles and mortars at Israeli communities around the clock – two dozen in the last 24 hours. The IDF has brought into action new surveillance instruments and short-range high-precision surface rockets.

Israeli farmers have been ordered by the military to work their fields only up to one kilometer short of the border.


Assad is willing to talk to Olmert without involving Washington – but not to abandon absolute commitment to Tehran


25 Aug. This double message was brought to Jerusalem last week by Edward P. Djerejian from unpublicized meetings he held in Damascus. This former US ambassador to Israel and Syria reported Assad is willing to drop his prior conditions for talks with Israel regarding parallel dialogue with Washington and US participation in the peace process. But he is also utterly committed to the diplomatic and military policies of his senior partner, Tehran.

Damping down any optimism in Jerusalem, Djerejian warned Assad will not go back on this commitment, even if a diplomatic breakthrough leads to improved relations with Washington and talks with Jerusalem. .

debkafile‘s sources stress the Olmert government’s peace expectations of Syria must factor in Assad’s staunch dedication to Iran’s lead on Israel, Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq. His call for peace talks with Israel is well attuned to Tehran’s objective of engaging Washington in direct dialogue on its nuclear program and Iraq, provided diplomacy does not shift the fundamental positions of either party.


Olmert Government Indifferent to Palestinian Terrorist Rampage from Gaza


26 Aug. As life in areas abutting the Gaza Strip becomes increasingly hellish and dangerous, their Israeli inhabitants feel as though they live in a forgotten land.

debkafile sources report this sensation was dramatized Saturday, Aug. 25, by the display of astonishing new Palestinian military capabilities and their determination to use them – in the face of a quiescent central government and high command.

Escalating terrorist attacks from the Gaza Strip peaked Saturday with an incident that only by a fluke escaped calamity. Two Palestinian suicide bombers, sponsored by three terrorist groups, scaled the 7-ft high border fence at the northern corner of Gaza facing the Erez crossing and the Israeli Netev Ha’asara village, using a complicated rope ladder.

They tried and failed to storm the Coordination and Liaison Command on the Israeli side of the border after penetrating 1.5 km into Israel and spending more than hour there. They were only spotted when they hurled a grenade at the Coordination Command and were driven off by the fire of a lone guard. The infiltrators were clad in Israeli military uniforms and well armed.

The security situation on the West Bank and Lebanese borders is just as shaky as the Gaza front. Hamas and Jihad Islami have gained control of a swathe enclosed by Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarm and Qalqilya in the north and Ramallah, seat of the Fatah government, in the south. The Fatah-led Presidential Guard and security services are nowhere to be seen. The same paralysis appears to have struck Israel’s prime minister, defense minister Ehud Barak and chief of staff Lt. Gen Gaby Ashkenazi.

On Israel’s third front, the Lebanese border, debkafile‘s military sources reveal that Iran has finished a strategic highway connecting the Hizballah-controlled Beqaa Valley on the Syrian border with the Shiite group’s new fortified bases, complete with missiles pointing at Israel, on the northern bank of the Litani River.

Short of a massive invasion to stamp out the terrorists rampant in Hamas-ruled Gaza, the only effective counteraction would be a 1.5-2km cordon sanitaire inside Gaza’s border. By preventing this, the Olmert government and his military advisers are letting the Palestinians terrorize civilians up to two kilometers inside Israel.


The 200 American AMRAAM air-to-air missiles on sale to Israel designed for F-15 and F-16 warplanes in IAF use


26 Aug. The most advanced medium-range air-to-air weapon of its kind, a single burst from the AMRAAM missiles can be directed at several targets, debkafile‘s military sources report. Their sale was announced by the Pentagon along with 30 Harpoon anti-ship missiles and 500 AIM-9M Sidewinder air-to-air missiles in a transaction worth $334 million. Congress has 30 days to negative the sales. The Pentagon also announced the possible sale to Israel of $308 million worth of JP-8 aviation fuel for its aircraft and diesel fuel for its ground forces.

debkafile‘s sources add: This is the first American sale of fuel for supplementing the strategic reserves of the Israeli air force and armored divisions against a war contingency. Israeli military planners estimate that in the event of hostilities erupting between Israel and Iran and Syria, the IAF and missile and air defense units will bear the brunt of combat.


New Arabian Oil Pipeline Network Will Detour Hormuz


27 Aug. Work on the first section of the Trans-Arabia Oil Pipeline begins November, DEBKA-Net-Weekly 313 revealed on August 10. It will carry 5 million barrels a day, almost one-third of the 17 million barrels, produced in the Gulf. This section, which will take oil from Saudi Arabia’s Ras Tannura terminal, will be part of a vast five-pipeline network crisscrossing the Arabian Peninsula overland and bringing Gulf oil to world markets, without recourse to the Straits of Hormuz and the lurking threat of Iranian closure.

The new 35,000-strong Saudi security force for protecting the kingdom’s oil industry is an integral element of the Arabian pipeline project.


27 Aug. Israel sends 50 professional firefighters to aid the Greek battle against raging fires which have claimed at least 60 dead.


Israel is aiding Iranian opposition groups, says Strategic Threats Minister Lieberman


28 Aug. Avigdor Lieberman said Monday night that Israel is extending aid to those opposition organizations which are proving effective, the first member of the Israeli government to expose the clandestine war gaining ground between Israel and Iran in recent weeks, say debkafile‘s sources.

Ten days ago, Iran alerted Shiite militias under their control in Iraq to a report that the Israeli Mossad intelligence service had delivered long-range shoulder-borne, anti-air and anti-tank missiles to PJAK, the Iranian Kurdistan Free Life Party. The message warned that these missiles may turn up anywhere in Iran or Iraq.

Confirmation of Tehran’s intelligence would mean that Israel has begun retaliating for the hefty Iranian arms consignments to Hamas and Jihad Islami in Gaza and responding in kind to the relentless Palestinian Qassam missile onslaught on Israel by arming Kurdish rebels with weapons for fighting Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

Israel has not yet responded to the massive short- and long-range missile deliveries Iran has been sending Hizballah via Syria’s Latakia seaport. Defense minister Ehud Barak disclosed Monday, Aug. 27 that trucks are bringing the new missiles to south Lebanon for deployment at Hizballah’s new forward lines north of the Litani River. They include the extended-range Zelzal which can reach Tel Aviv.

The minister also disclosed that, although the supplies violate the arms embargo imposed under UN Security Resolution 1701, Lebanese soldiers are helping to unload them. The UN peacekeepers mandated by that resolution to prevent Hizballah’s rearmament are therefore virtually unemployed


Sarkozy is first Western leader to speak out loud about US plan to bomb Iran


28 Aug. Addressing 180 French diplomats Monday, Aug. 27, French president Nicolas Sarkozy said a nuclear-armed Iran would be unacceptable and the world must tighten sanctions while offering Tehran incentives to halt weapons development. “This initiative is the only one that can enable us to escape an alternative that I say is catastrophic: the Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran,” he said.

Sarkozy thus became the first important Western leader to declare with brutal frankness that Iran stands in peril of an attack on its nuclear installations.

His frank language took diplomatic circles aback. Mohammed ElBaradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, is trying to pour oil on troubled waters. He sent inspectors to Tehran to reach understandings and fend off the third round of sanctions promised at the UN Security Council next month.

Washington is not buying any shows of Iranian compliance. The US ambassador to the IAEA in Vienna pointed to “real limitations” in the timeline understanding and accused Tehran of “manipulating the IAEA as a way to avoid harsher sanctions.”


Archeologists make urgent appeal to rescue Biblical relics pulverized by tractors on Temple Mount, Jerusalem


28 Aug. The Waqf, Muslim authority, using heavy tractors, has excavated a trench 120 -meters long, 1.5 meters deep, crushing fragments of monumental construction, pottery and glazed tiles in their path. The trench runs through the northern and eastern parts the 2,000-year old Upper Platform of Temple Mount, where the outer courts of the Jewish Temple were situated, including the Women’s Court. Today, the Muslim Dome of the Rock stands there.

Dr. Gabriel Barkai of Bar Ilan University is leading the protest against the wildcat, unauthorized Waqf project and demanding that the contents of the trench be scientifically excavated and documented before they are lost.

“This issue transcends politics,” he told debkafile. “It is a tragic loss for world culture, as much as or more than the effigies of Buddha destroyed by the Taliban in Afghanistan. It affects the foundations of Judeo-Christian civilization – as well as Muslim history in Jerusalem – by ravaging one of the most important sites for the history of mankind.”


Muqtada Sadr suspends for six months activities of his Iraqi Shiite Mehdi Army militia


29 Aug. His aide said Wednesday, Aug. 29, the militia would no longer attack US or coalition forces during the six-month period of rehabilitation of the force which is reported to have broken up into factions. debkafile‘s Iraq sources report: The radical Shiite cleric acted speedily to distance his militia from the turbulent clashes between some of its elements and police in Karbala, which left 51 dead Tuesday and disrupted an important Shiite festival attended by hundreds of thousands of Shiite pilgrims.


High alert at American Sinai monitors HQ, Egyptian forces and Israel for Hamas mass rally on Sept 1


30 Aug. Hamas plans to use 100,000 protesters against the hardships in Gaza as a battering ram to break through the Rafah crossing Saturday and link up with fellow Palestinians in Egyptian N. Sinai. Hamas will then seize both sides of the border including a part of Sinai. Cairo, which closed the Rafah gateway after the Hamas takeover of Gaza two months ago, has cautioned Gaza’s Hamas rulers that beefed-up Egyptian units are under orders to shoot the first Palestinian trespasser crossing through.

The US National Guard unit manning the Multinational Force Organization’s Al Gorah headquarters in el Arish was warned by Egyptian officials that Hamas’ mass rally would serve as cover for an attack on its base.

Israel has also built up strength at the Kerem Shalom crossing to Gaza and Egypt opposite the Philadelphi border strip. For some weeks, Gaza Palestinian groups have targeted the crossings into Israel with terrorist tactics as well as missile and mortar fire.

Fatah is organizing its own rallies in the Gaza Strip Saturday to try and recover positions lost in the Hamas takeover of Gaza.

debkafile reports: Conditions in Gaza are so desperate that Hamas leaders believe they have nothing to lose by extreme measures to break the siege – even at the risk of heavy casualties from Egyptian fire. To avoid a bloodbath, Cairo would be forced to resume contacts with Hamas leaders. This would create a breach in the international boycott against them.

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