A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending August 24, 2006

Lt. Col. Emmanuel Moreno, 35, from Tlalim, one of Sayeret Matkal’s most outstanding commanders, was killed in Saturday pre-dawn commando raid at Bodai, 30km NW of Baalbek


19 August: Two more Israeli soldiers were injured – one seriously. Three Hizballah were killed. The IDF reports the commando unit’s mission was accomplished.

A high-ranking officer commented on the report that the unit returned with two Hizballah prisoners: “Undercover wars cannot be fought through the media”

debkafile‘s military sources add that the Bodai covert mission was one of a series the IDF has been carrying out against Hizballah’s clandestine units since the Lebanon war began. These units are made up of Hizballah’s top specialists in terrorism and undercover combat and are more dangerous than the men in the field.

One of the objectives of the Israeli commando raid was to disable one of these units and bring members back for interrogation. The helicopters with warplane cover tried to prevent Hizballah forces from severing the Israeli force’s line of retreat. An exchange of fire ensued in which Lt. Col. Moreno lost his life.

That same night Israel carried out a large-scale air raid to disrupt arms supplies for Hizballah from crossing the borders from Syria and Iran.


Hamas is liquidating Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah activists in the Gaza Strip one by one, says Israel’s Shin Bet Director


20 August: The Fatah presence in the Gaza Strip will be gone in three months, Yuval Diskin warned Sunday, Aug. 20, in his briefing to the weekly cabinet session in Jerusalem. In three or four years, Gaza Strip will be just like South Lebanon. Hamas holds Hassan Nasrallah up as a national Arab hero and is eagerly aping his methods of combat. The anti-tank rockets which were so effective against Israeli tanks are the big hit for the Palestinians. Diskin also reported that money and weapons continue to reach Hizballah from Iran and Syria.


Turkey forces one Syrian, 5 Iranian arms planes to land at Diyarbakir military base


20 August: Six Iranian ILDT type 4-cargo planes and a Syrian aircraft were forced to land at the southeast Turkish military airport last Thursday after US spy satellites spotted they were loaded with missiles, missile launchers and eight boxes of Chinese made C-802 missiles, dubbed by Iran “Nur.”

debkafile‘s military sources disclose: The flights were bound for Damascus and Syrian military air bases just across the Turkish border. The C-802 is the advanced ground-ship missile which crippled the Israeli Navy’s gunship off Beirut, and killed three of its crew on July 14. Searches by the Turkish authorities disclosed that one of the planes was carrying crates of Fajer rockets which Hizballah fired at Israeli towns.

debkafile adds: This is the first time American military satellites have been openly revealed to have aided in the UN embargo against arms transfers from Syria and Iran to the Hizballah.


Hizballah is smuggling hundreds of rockets and dozens of launchers into S. Lebanon without interference


21 August: Our military sources report that Hizballah is also working on the rehabilitation of its short-range rocket “Nasser” Brigade. Weapons deliveries from Syria to Lebanon are arriving at an accelerated pace. Israel is no longer impeding the traffic although it has been given an all-clear from Washington.

debkafile discloses that, on the quiet, Fouad Siniora has instructed his troops to avoid friction with Hizballah and on no account impound its weapons or obstruct its efforts to regroup.

Hassan Nasrallah has reciprocated with orders to his men not to resist if Lebanese soldiers confiscate their weapons because they will be restored through the secret back-door channel conducted by the Lebanese PM.

The situation on the Syrian-Lebanese border is beginning to replicate the open house for arms smuggling that reigned on the Egyptian-Gaza after Israel’s pull-back from Gaza in October 2005. Then too, Israel made no effort to hinder the massive influx of terrorist weapons.

The Lebanese army’s deployment and patrols are described by Israeli military sources in Lebanon as futile; Hizballah tells them which roads and villages they may enter, and which they may not. UNIFIL’s patrols are likewise a charade. The international force has confined itself to clearing mines; it is not spending any time on enforcing Security Council resolution 1701.


Mounting protest among Israeli army reservists who served in Lebanon against military and national leadership


21 August: A group of hundreds of officers and men of the crack Alexandroni Brigade hurled charges against the Chief of Staff, Lt. Dan Halutz at a meeting in Hadera. One carried a banner with the motto: You prevented us from winning.

Halutz received them after signs of mutiny appeared among the brigade’s reservists – the first ever staged by a complete Israeli combat unit against the high command.

Brigade officers signed a letter in which they warned that if their willingness to fight for their country continues to be trampled on, there will be no one left to fight the next war. They spoke of a deep crisis of confidence and alienation between the officers and soldiers of the brigade and its commanders, the northern command and the general staff. The reservists repeated the grievances of other units that they were sent into battle without appropriate equipment, food or water. Tactical intelligence data was missing throughout the campaign, forcing them to fight blind.

When the chief of staff promised that every complaint would be thoroughly investigated, one of the participants at the showdown burst out: “Who needs an inquiry? We all know where responsibility lies – in the military and national leadership. They should all resign else the crisis of confidence in the army will deepen.”


Some Lebanon War Riddles Solved and Their Relevance to Moves on Syria in Jerusalem


22 August: Apparently out of the blue, a clutch of Israeli ministers – Amir Peretz, defense, Tzipi Livni, foreign affairs and Avi Ditcher, internal security – have evinced a burning desire to talk peace with Syrian president Bashar Assad and even a willingness to discuss handing over the Golan captured in the 1967 war.

Monday, Aug. 21, prime minister Ehud Olmert had to remind them that Syria had directed thousands of missiles at Israelis through Hizballah. debkafile‘s political, military and Washington sources account for the ministers’ odd behavior by the quest for a quick fix for cutting Syria out of the hostile Iran-Syria-Hizballah-Hamas equation before Bashar Asad makes good on his threat to go to war on the Golan.

The open letter of grievances signed by officers and men of the Israeli army’s crack Alexandroni Brigade shocked and still puzzles the entire nation. The lack of clear decisions was manifested, they said, in the failure to act, the non-implementation of operational plans and the cancellation amid combat of missions assigned the unit. In every stage of the war, cold feet were evident in decision-making.

The writers of the letter sensed the cold feet at the top but lacked the information to explain its cause or account for the cancellation and shifting about of mission directives in mid-battle.

That was one of the riddles of the Lebanon War.

A debkafile investigation has uncovered the sequence of events that produced the mishaps.

Washington was eager for the Lebanon war which caught Israeli unprepared, but advised Israel to accompany its air assault with a ground offensive. Olmert and chief of staff Dan Halutz insisted the air force could defeat Hizballah and produce a fast and cheap victory.

Olmert talked Rice into asking President George W. Bush to back the air offensive. But Bush demanded that before embarking on a ground offensive, Israel refer back for a further American go-ahead. He also stipulated that Lebanon’s civilian infrastructure be spared.

One condition explains why Israel’s ground forces were held ready in bases for three long weeks rather than being sent into battle. The second accounts for Israeli forces not being allowed to destroy buildings known to be occupied by Hizballah teams firing anti-tank rockets and the need to repeat cleansing operations at a high cost in casualties.

The welter of conflicting, incomprehensible orders stirred up the entire chain of command – from the heads of the IDF’s Northern command down to the officers in the field.

Olmert’s absolute compliance with Rice’s directives without fully comprehending their military import threw Israel’s war campaign into disorder.


“Holy Jihad Brigades” claims kidnap of two Fox staffers in Gaza, gives US 72 hours to release Muslim prisoners, releases video


23 August: This is the first word on the two journalists, Steve Centanni, a 60-year old American, and New Zealander Olaf Wiig, 36, since they were seized in Gaza nine days ago near Palestinian security services headquarters. On a videotape aired by al Jazeera, Centanni says they are treated well and in good condition. He asked friends to “do what you can to get us out of here” and call for the release of Muslim prisoners.


American electronic warfare experts in Israel to find out how Hizballah’s Iranian systems disabled Israeli EW


23 August: DEBKA-Net-Weekly 266 first drew attention to Iran’s heavy EW investment and its successful functioning in the Lebanon War on Aug. 11.

debkafile Aug. 23 adds: The American EW experts are interested in four areas. 1. The Israeli EW systems’ failure to block Hizballah’s command and communications and the links between the Lebanese command and the Syria-based Iranian headquarters. 2. How Iranian technicians helped Hizballah eavesdrop on Israel’s communications networks and mobile telephones, including Israeli soldiers’ conversations from inside Lebanon. 3. How Iranian EW installed in Lebanese army coastal radar stations blocked the Barak anti-missile missiles aboard Israeli warships, allowing Hizballah to hit the Israeli corvette Hanith. 4. Why Israeli EW was unable to jam the military systems at the Iranian embassy in Beirut, which hosted the underground war room out of which Hassan Nasrallah and his top commanders, including Imad Mughniyeh, functioned.


Tehran and Syria jointly fan war tensions in and around Lebanon


24 August: debkafile‘s Washington and Jerusalem sources report intelligence predictions of an impending revival of the Lebanon war and its spread to the Golan. Tehran and Syria are turning up the heat to obstruct Western moves to curb Iran’s advance on a nuclear weapon and nullify the embargo on arms for Hizballah.

A senior Iranian spokesman announced Wednesday night, Aug. 23 that his government was on the brink of a “dramatic” nuclear development.

Damascus, for its part, threatens to close the Syrian-Lebanese border if a multinational force is posted there.

debkafile‘s military sources expect Syria to make good on its threat by staging violent incidents against peacekeepers, matching them with skirmishes on the Syrian-Israeli border dividing the Golan. Hizballah will chime in with attacks on the Israeli troops deployed in South Lebanon and the UN-brokered ceasefire in Lebanon will come crashing down.

Amid deep pessimism in the White House, the UN secretary Kofi Annan is being sent post haste to Israel, Lebanon and possibly Syria and Iran. Part of his mission will be to seek guarantees that Hizballah will refrain from shooting at multinational troops deployed in the south. To hold water, those guarantees must emanate from Syria and Iran.

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