A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending Dec. 20, 2007

Hamas parades its first female commando and suicide units at huge 20th anniversary Gaza assembly


15 Dec. Our military sources report that Hamas has formed hundreds of suicide killers into a large unit for obstructing a major Israeli offensive against its missile-mortar offensive from Gaza.

The hundreds of thousands of participants at the Hamas celebration in Gaza City Saturday, Dec. 15, were a demonstration of strength, which belied claims of its waning powers. The jihadist group’s leaders in Gaza, Syria and Lebanon are certain that a major Israel offensive is on the way and believe they know the IDF war plan. They anticipate:

1. Tactics quite different from those employed in the 2006 Lebanon war;

2. While most Israeli and Western military pundits expect the IDF to cut through to northern Gaza, Hamas estimates Israeli armored columns will race from the north and the east to wipe out their command centers in Gaza City.

3. The IDF will lay down a ferocious blanket of fire from land, sea and air. The suicide unit will be sent into action against the sources of fire and the tank columns.

4. Failing to stop Israel tank columns, Hamas terrorist chiefs will go to ground and wage guerrilla warfare against Israeli troops like Iraqi insurgents.

5. All the terrorist groups operating in the Gaza Strip have been merged into a single 9,000-10,000 strong army. This is one-third larger than the Hizballah militia which fought Israel in 2006.


An Israeli Arrow can intercept a nuclear-armed missile before it leaves Iranian skies, according to Israeli lawmaker


15 Dec. Member of the ruling Kadima party, MK Maj. Gen. (Res) Yizhak Ben-Israel, said Saturday, Dec. 15, that the Arrow anti-missile missile is capable of intercepting a nuclear missile fired from Iran before it leaves Iranian air space. Ben Israel said Israel would have 12 minutes to hit the attacking missile. This threat, he said, presented less of a problem than a nuclear weapon sent from Iran to Hizballah to blow up in Haifa port from the sea.


Israeli minister warns “flawed” US intelligence on Iran nuke will lead to “Yom Kippur”


15 Dec. Internal security minister and former Shin Bet head Avi Dichter was the first government member to publicly and harshly question the US National Intelligence Estimate which says Tehran no longer develops nuclear weapons. He warned that it could spark a “regional Yom Kippur” – a reference to the 1973 Middle East War. The minister said Saturday, Dec. 15: “We know the threat to be ongoing and palpable” for Israel and a whole region within the range of Iran’s ballistic missiles, i.e. Europe and North Africa. debkafile reports: Dichter voiced concerns which other Israeli ministers have so far expressed only in private because they conflict with the views of prime minister Ehud Olmert. The NIE report is interpreted as meaning that the Bush administration has reconciled itself to a nuclear-armed Iran as part of a strategic reassessment in Washington.

Jerusalem sources reveal that Olmert intends to use the White House’s about-face in the Middle East to advance on simultaneous peace tracks with the Palestinians and Syria. He will thus make Bush a gift of broad concessions on the West Bank and Golan to aid and abet the president’s pursuit of his budding partnership with Riyadh and Tehran.


Washington loosens restrictions on hi-tech electronic equipment for Syria despite its military applications


15 Dec. In line with the thaw in Washington-Damascus relations, the state department has permitted Cisco Systems to ship routers, switches and hi-tech equipment to Syria. Israeli military officials told debkafile‘s sources that the shipment of items with military uses was approved, although the Bashar regime is far from mending its ways and continues to meddle in Lebanon.

Syrian fingerprints were all over the car bomb on Dec. 11, which murdered the Lebanese army’s operations chief Gen. Francois El-Hajj and four others. Eight hours later, Syrian vice president Farouk a-Shara said unrepentantly: Syrian connections to Lebanon “are as strong as ever” and warned off “anyone in and outside Lebanon who threatens those ties.”

The Cisco items are usable for missile radar and other weaponry as well as for early warning stations and intelligence surveillance.


President Bush supports Russia sending enriched uranium to Iran


17 Dec. The US president said that after receiving uranium for “civilian use” in Bushehr, Tehran did not need to pursue its own enrichment capabilities.

debkafile adds Iran does not see it that way. After taking delivery of the fuel rods for the Russian-built reactor at Bushehr, a high Iranian official emphasized Tehran would not give up independent enrichment under any circumstances.

Israeli intelligence sources criticize the Bush statement as being unrealistic in the same way as the US intelligence claim that Iran had given up its nuclear armament program in 2003. In the first place, even though Tehran is required to return the used uranium rods from Bushehr, it will not be made to give up uranium enrichment at Natanz or any clandestine military programs when the Russian-built Bushehr reactor becomes operational. In the second, this reactor offers Iranian nuclear scientists and technicians extra practice and expertise for completing the fuel cycle. Once acquired, they can apply these capabilities to their bomb program. The Russian fuel for the civilian reactor at Bushehr has therefore given Iran a short cut to nuclear arms production.


Ahmadinejad departs Tehran Monday for pilgrimage in Mecca, at invitation of Saudi King Abdullah


17 Dec. The Islamic Republic’s first president to take part in the annual hajj, he announced he would be meeting officials as well as “the Great Muslim community.”

debkafile and DEBKA-Net-Weekly have closely tracked the unfolding of the Saudi-brokered Washington-Tehran dialogue, moving on now to the evolution of Riyadh’s own epic rapprochement with Tehran with the Bush administration’s blessing.

This development signals Saudi recognition of Iran and its president as regional powers and King Abdullah’s willingness to share his Middle East leadership role with an Iranian partner. The rug is implicitly pulled from under the international campaign to punish Iran severely for its nuclear activities, while Tehran’s ally Syria and surrogates, Hizballah, Hamas and Jihad Islami, gain new standing.


Turkish army chief: US opened air space, provided intelligence for Sunday’s air strike in N. Iraq


17 Dec. For three hours, 50 Turkish aircraft bombed Kurdish PKK rebel bases in northern Iraq’s regions of Zap, Hakurk, Avasin and the Qandil mountains. Dec. 16. Turkish army chief Gen. Yasar Buyukanit told a TV interviewer: “The US gave intelligence… But what is more important the US opened northern Iraqi airspace to us. By doing that the US approved the operation.”

debkafile adds: Washington for the first time opened the door to action by an external power in defiance of the authority of its two allies in Iraq: the Shiite-ruled Baghdad government and the autonomous Kurdish administration in Irbil. The beneficiaries were Turkey and Iran, both of which are fighting Kurdish rebel groups carrying out cross-border strikes from bases and havens in Iraqi Kurdistan.


First Knock out Terror Machine – Then Talk to Hamas


18 Dec. After the Hamas-Jihad Islami terror machine was allowed to build up to formidable proportions, even a large-scale Israel military operation in the Gaza Strip will not easily stifle the missile and mortar campaign grinding down the Israeli population. However, the longer it is delayed, the harder it will be.

The IDF would be tasked with liquidating the Hamas terrorist war infrastructure, clobbering the 12,000-strong armed Palestinians, demolishing their command centers, missile foundries and arms arsenals, and severing their smuggling routes from Egyptian Sinai to Gaza. This campaign would not be short or painless.

Israel’s chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi asked what happens the day after the war.

Ashkenazi knows there is no point in handing Gaza back to Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority, which lost the territory to a Hamas coup in June. Abbas and his associates are good at begging aid, but hopeless at securing or otherwise governing territory.

NATO is strapped for fighting manpower and the UN peacekeeping force has proved incompetent in South Lebanon.

The siege-cum-sanctions strategy imposed by Israel and other nations has not achieved its effect any more than sanctions cowed Iran. Returning to the Gaza Strip is a non-option for Israel. On the premise that, after conquering the enclave, Israel will have no one to pass it to, the only course remaining is to engage the defeated Hamas stripped of its military might in talks on stiff terms for handing it back and a long-term ceasefire.

On the West Bank, conditions on the ground are shaping up into the Gaza model but are still containable as long as it is left to the Israeli military – not the Palestinian Authority.


Israeli air offensive eliminates top Jihad Islami command in Gaza


18 Dec. The Palestinian Jihad Islami in Gaza threatened suicide attacks against Israeli border communities after losing 11 of its chiefs overnight. Medical services were placed on high alert in the southwestern Negev.

Military sources report Israeli defense chiefs acting on precise intelligence targeted three Jihad leadership levels: top command, missile squads and weapons fabrication. A total of 2,350 missiles and mortars were fired from Gaza in 2007, double the 2006 figure.


Two years after forcible Jewish eviction from Gaza, 85 percent in temporary homes, majority jobless


18 Dec. Two economists in a report submitted to the Knesset awarded a failed mark to the government resettlement project for the 8,500 Israelis evacuated from Gaza in 2005 as part of the Sharon government’s unilateral withdrawal. From being successfully employed, business owners and farmers in Gaza, the evacuees today move around between temporary lodgings, two-thirds are jobless, farmers have not been awarded the substitute land promised them, and thousands subsist on social security payments. Their uncertain conditions deprive many children regular schooling.


Assad claims he spurned nuclear arms in 2001, bids for share in US nuclear amnesty granted Iran


19 Dec. In an interview with the Austrian daily Die Presse on Dec. 19, the Syrian ruler claimed that in 2001 he turned down a sales pitch from A.Q. Khan, the Pakistani nuclear black marketeer who supplied Iran, Libya and North Korea with nuclear elements and technology. debkafile‘s military and intelligence sources assess this claim as a transparent attempt to jump aboard the US intelligence estimate clearing Iran of nuclear arms activity from 2003.

This ploy also seeks to nullify the evidence of Syria’s nuclear facilities gathered in the US-sanctioned Israeli raid on Sept. 6. The Syrian president believes his statement that he rejected a nuclear arms option as far back as 2001 will erase the pictorial and other evidence published in the world media of the Syrian plutonium plant or some other banned nuclear facility targeted in the Israeli raid.


Palestinian Hamas leaders from Gaza meet Iranian bosses on escalating anti-Israel war at the hajj in Mecca


20 Dec. As Palestinian missiles and mortar bombs continued to fly against Israeli border communities, debkafile reports that Wednesday, Dec. 19, under cover of the annual Muslim pilgrimage, Hamas leaders got together in Mecca with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the al Qods Brigades officers in his retinue to discuss the next escalation of warfare against Israel.

While Israel let several hundred Gazan pilgrims leave for the pilgrimage, Egypt did not bother to consult Jerusalem before allowing top Hamas leaders to leave Gaza for Mecca.

Among them was to Hamas war tactician Khalil al Haya. The conference was joined by Hamas’ Musa Abu Marzuk from Damascus, once arrested at Kennedy Airport for murder.

The pilgrims Israel let through included a large Hamas group which headed to Iran for special 6-week missile and sabotage courses

The Hamas delegation also met Sheikh Abdulmajeed Zindani, wanted by the FBI as al Qaeda’s commander in Yemen.


Damascus returns Sarkozy’s fire by attacking US and France for causing Lebanese presidential crisis


20 Dec. After French president Nicolas Sarkozy charged Damascus with obstructing the vote for a Lebanese president, Syrian foreign minister Walid Moualem Thursday accused the US of blocking a purported “Syrian-French attempt” to settle the crisis in Lebanon and France of failing to distance itself from the “American role.” US official David Welch was informed in Beirut that his mission to round up Lebanese factions to elect the president at a parliamentary session Saturday, Dec. 22, had failed.

debkafile: The Lebanese opposition led by Hizballah and backed by Syria and Tehran is holding out for a new government packed with their stooges in place of the administration headed by the pro-Western Fouad Siniora which is backed by the Lebanese parliamentary majority.


Seven armed Palestinians killed, 5 Israeli soldiers wounded battling Hamas in Gaza Thursday


20 Dec. A powerful explosion in Sderot Gil School yard sent 18 people into shock, 10 of them children.

debkafile‘s military sources: The force of the missile blast which damaged buildings indicates the Palestinians have developed an extra-powerful charge. During the day, an Israeli Golani force Israeli force operated in the Marazi camp in central Gaza demolishing terrorist facilities. Five Palestinian gunmen were killed in a firefight there.

Another two armed Palestinians were intercepted and shot creeping up to the border fence. In the southern sector of the Israel-Gaza front, the Palestinians pounded Israel border positions south of Kissufim. The first three missiles fired from northern Gaza Thursday landed outside Sderot and south of Ashkelon, the latter another Palestinian attempt to hit a major urban center.

Monday and Tuesday, Israeli air force strikes in Gaza left 11 Jihad Islami command and missile chiefs dead as well as two Hamas operatives.

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