A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending Dec. 12, 2013
December 6, 2013 Briefs
- Palestinian rioters injured rioting at Rachel’s Tomb
Israeli border forces used crowd control means to disperse hundreds of Palestinian rioters who were throwing stones and Molotov Cocktails at the Rachel Tomb shrine in Bethlehem Friday. Several Palestinians were injured.
December 7, 2013 Briefs
- Roadside bomb was Syrian-Hizballah hands-off signal to Israel
The first roadside bomb encountered in three years by an Israeli patrol at the northern edge of the Golan on the slopes of Mt. Hermon Friday was detonated remotely from the Syrian side of the border, debkafile reports. No one was hurt. It was activated by Ahmed Jibril’s Palestine Front-General Command, as a warning to Israel from Bashar Assad and Hassan Nasrallah to Israel to stay away from southern Syria. Three days earlier, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon disclosed that Israel was providing Syrian villages on the Golan with humanitarian aid, food and essentials for withstanding the winter.
- Israel orders two German destroyers to defend gas fields
Germany and Israel last week signed a deal for the sale of two guided missile destroyers to Israel at a cost of 2 bn euros, Der Spiegel reports. National Security Adviser Yosef Cohen signed for Israel. The vessels will be part of the air-naval force guarding Israel’s Mediterranean offshore gas fields. debkafile: This is will be the first time the Israel Navy has shopped abroad for missile destroyers. Until now it consisted of a fleet of missile boats of home manufacture.
- Three Senate committee heads demand Iran nuclear deal updates
The Democratic heads of three powerful Senate committees have asked National Intelligence Director James Clapper for public disclosure by Dec. 12 of assessments of the effects of a new round of sanctions on Secretary of State John Kerry’s current nuclear negotiations with Iran. They also demanded briefing on Iran’s compliance with the six-month agreement it reached with the P5+1 in Geneva to temporarily scale back its nuclear ambitions in return for a brief lifting of sanctions. The request was posted jointly by Senate Banking Chairman Tim Johnson, Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein and Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin.
Obama demands Iranian nuclear restraints. Palestinians must accept partial deal and transition
7 Dec. President Barack Obama addressed the Iranian nuclear and Palestinian issues in terms sympathetic to the Israeli case at the Saban annual forum in Washington Saturday, Dec. 7. On the final accord with Iran, he spoke of constraints to ensure Iran was prevented from attaining a nuclear weapon.
He then called on the Palestinians to accept that the current talks with Israel would produce, at best, a framework accord without full details of their dispute. It would also omit the Gaza Strip and provide for a transition period before a final settlement.
December 8, 2013 Briefs
- Netanyahu: Iran’s acquisition of nuclear arms would change history
In a video broadcast speech to the Saban Forum in Washington Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu replied to US President Barack Obama’s comments Saturday. Iran's acquisition of nuclear arms would "literally change the course of history," he said, because of its insane ideology and appetite for power. Israel must be assured that Iran will never be a “threshold nuclear weapons state.” The negotiators of a final accord with Tehran must also “demand that Iran change its genocidal policy toward Israel, he stressed.
- A British helicopter makes forced landing on West Bank
The British report an RAF Chinook helicopter flying from Amman in Jordan to Cyprus has made a forced landing in the Jordan Valley near the West Bank town of Jericho due to engine failure. debkafile’s Israeli sources: Israeli Air Force fighters forced the British helicopter to land in the Jordan Valley near the Israeli settlement of Naama to investigate its intrusion of Israeli air space.
Al Qaeda in Syria acquires sarin: Russia concerned for Sochi Olympics
8 Dec. Chechen ruler Ramzan Kadyrov announced Monday, Dec. 4, the formation of a special unit to deal with “Syrian radicals”- both within the North Caucasus republic and abroad. “Members…will be ready to interfere in the Syrian conflict if authorized by the Russian president.”
Russian and Syrian intelligence fear al Qaeda in Syria is plotting a spectacular attack on the Sochi Winter Olympics in February, possibly using sarin.This was one of the main topics of discussion between Binyamin Netanyahu and Vladimir Putin in Moscow Nov. 20.
According to a report by investigative journalist Seymor Hersh, in an article published in London on Dec. 8, Al Qaeda in Syria has got hold of sarin nerve gas and is ready to use it.
He quoted “a large number of American intelligence officials” who said that “the chemical attack on the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta on Aug. 21, in which more than 150 people died, may not have been carried out by Bashar Assad’s army but by Jabhat al Nusra [Al Qaeda’s Syrian branch].”
The sources quoted by Hersh charged that President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry knew this and deliberately “manipulated the intelligence.”
December 9, 2013 Briefs
- Most Americans don’t buy interim nuclear deal with Iran
A USA Today/Pew Poll found that 32 percent of Americans approve of the agreement and 43 percent disapprove. A majority of 62 percent said Iranian leaders aren’t seriously addressing international concerns about their nuclear program versus 29 percent who say they are.
- Hagel on fence-mending visit to Islamabad
Chuck Hagel, the first US defense secretary to visit Pakistan in four years met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and visited the newly appointed Pakistan chief of staff, Gen. Raheel Sharif, at Army headquarters in Rawalpindi.
US in quiet talks with Hizballah as Syrian rebels lose Qalamoun
9 Dec. Bashar Assad’s army achieved a signal strategic breakthrough Sunday, Dec. 8, with its conquest of Nabuk in the Qalamoun Mountains, throwing rebel forces in disarray, except for Jabhat al Nusra and the Iraqi branch of Al Qaeda. Washington is turning a cold shoulder to secular rebels and developing indirect contacts with pro-Assad army elements and, through British diplomats, Hizballah. On the Syrian uprising’s 1,000th day, the same US-Russian-Iranian coalition which fixed the Geneva nuclear accord is moving into position for a Syrian solution.
December 10, 2013 Briefs
- Israel’s Speaker, five MKs at Mandela memorial
The Knesset Speaker (who is also acting President) Yuli Ederlstein and MKs Penina Tamnu Shatta, Nitzan Horowitz, Hilik Bar, Dov Lipkin and Gila Gamliel represented Israel at the memorial service Tuesday for Nelson Mandela in Soweto.
- Four Israeli soldiers injured in Golan training accident
Two of the four soldiers were seriously injured and two suffered moderate wounds when an explosion ripped through their tank during a training exercise on the Golan Tuesday. It was caused by gunpowder igniting a dummy shell. The injured men were flown to hospital by helicopter.
- Two Israeli-American professors collect Nobel prize for chemistry
American-Israeli professors Arieh Rarshel and Michael Levitt and their American colleague Prof. Martin Karplus were awarded the Nobel Prize for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems at a ceremony Tuesday in Stockholm, Sweden. Each of the three receives a cash prize of just over $1 million.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) received the Nobel Peace Prize.
Iran pushes for Saudi isolation in the Gulf amid military buildup in Hormuz
10 Dec. Tehran is winning two key Gulf emirates away from their close alignment with Saudi Arabia by two steps: Its bid to finally discuss the future of three islands in the Strait of Hormuz claimed by the UAE and held by Iran for 40 years; and the conspicuous absence of Oman’s Sultan Qaboos from the GCC summit in Kuwait this week. The Saudis tried to gain acceptance for anti-Iranian measures but found themselves isolated. Tehran offers to share control of the three islands with the UAE, but not to withdraw Revolutionary Guards bases, missiles and warplanes from one of them, Abu Mussa. To drive the point home, Iran shipped 10 SU-25 Frogfoot assault planes capable of ground and sea attack to this island.
The Obama administration’s silence – even when Iran posted assault aircraft on a Hormuz island – resounded across the region.
December 11, 2013 Briefs
- Saudi military delegation in Israel this week – reports
According to news sources in London and Iran, a high-ranking Saudi military delegation visited Jerusalem in the last few days and met IDF and intelligence chiefs. Deputy Defense Minister Prince Salman bin Sultan, brother of intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan, reportedly headed the delegation and was taken on a tour of Israeli military bases. No confirmation of these reports has come from any official source.
- Rev Guards rebuke Iranian FM Zarif
Foreign Minister Zavad Zarif said last week at Tehran university that a US military attack could paralyze Iran’s defensive system. Revolutionary Guards commander Gen. Mohammed Ali Jafari countered that the foreign minister “has no expertise in the field of defense” and his comment was incorrect.
- US Congress may hold off on new Iran sanctions for holiday
After Iran threatened to break the Geneva first-step nuclear accord if new sanctions were imposed, Secretary of State John Kerry appealed to the House Foreign Affairs Committee Tuesday to hold back on a bipartisan legislation. Prominent Democrats, including Senator Charles Schumer of New York, support new sanctions with deferred imposition.
- Lavrov in Tehran for talks on Geneva accord, Syria
The Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov arrived in Tehran Tuesday for talks with Iranian leaders beginning Thursday on the nuclear freeze Iran undertook to implement over a six-month period of negotiations for a comprehensive accord. Syria will also be discussed.
- US bipartisan defense budget deal includes Israeli missile funding
Democrat and Republican lawmakers Tuesday night agreed to a defense bill for the coming fiscal year that would boost US missile defense spending by $358 million to $9.5 billion. Approved in the package is $173 for joint missile defense projects underway with Israel on the Arrow 3 high-altitude interceptor, David’s Sling for countering medium-range threats, and more Iron Dome batteries.
US switches military aid for Syrian opposition to new southern security zone
11 Dec. The suspension of US-UK non-lethal military aid to the Syrian opposition in north – ostensibly to keep it out of Islamist hands – is only part of the story. It will be put in the hands of the pro-American rebel forces to man a new security zone the two powers are carving out in the south, as a barrier against al Qaeda’s encroachments on the Jordanian, Israeli, and Lebanese borders as well as Damascus. Two war rooms in Irbid, Jordan will run the operation under a US general.
December 12, 2013 Briefs
- Turkey closes the Bab al-Hawa border crossing from Syria
The US and UK suspended non-lethal aid to Syrian rebels in the north after a new Islamic front captured the Bab al-Hawa border crossing last week. Ankara responded by shutting this gateway from Syria. debkafile: The US and Turkish steps leave the Syrian-Turkish border region under the control of a powerful Islamic front set up in the area by six radical rebel organizations.
- A hand grenade thrown at a British tour bus in Nairobi
The grenade did not explode. In New York, NYPD commander Raymond Kelly warned against attacks like the Westgate mall siege taking place on a “soft target” in his and other American cities.
- Gunfire from Lebanon on Israeli border patrol
A Israeli paratroop patrol came under gunfire from Lebanon near Metullah Thursday. No one was hurt. The patrol returned the fire.