A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending Dec. 21, 2006

Hamas escalates its internecine feud with Fatah to jihad


15 December: Hamas leaders said Friday: “Abu Mazen and Fatah have declared war on Allah. Whoever joins them is a shahid.”

The fratricidal warfare swept from Gaza to the Palestinian Authority West Bank center in Ramallah Friday wounding dozens.

The murder Sunday, Dec. 10, of the three young sons of a senior Fatah intelligence colonel, was another landmark in the Palestinian Authority’s descent into chaos.

The Hamas prime minister returned home from a two-week absence carrying $31 million of the quarter of a billion dollars Iran donated to bankroll Hamas’ buildup for jihadist war. After Israel ordered the Rafah crossing from Egypt to Gaza closed, hundreds of Hamas militiamen seized control of the terminal directing heavy gunfire at the European monitors and Abu Mazen’s Force 17 presidential guard. Both fled. Thursday night, Haniya was finally allowed to enter Gaza after leaving the suitcases packed with cash behind in Sinai. It was then that Force 17 shot up the convoy.

In the Palestinian prime minister’s party was a senior Hamas military delegation led by Abu Obeida al Jerat, who signed military pacts with the heads of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards providing advanced combat training for Hamas terrorists.


Mahmoud Abbas declares new polls for Palestinian presidency and parliament – without setting a date


16 December: Mahmoud Abbas began his tensely-awaited speech in Ramallah by charging that the kidnap of the Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit (by a Hamas-led assault team in June) was the cause of 500 Palestinian deaths, left 4,000 injured and thousands of homes wrecked. Palestinians continue to die as long as the soldier is held captive in the Gaza Strip.

Abbas denied an alleged Fatah plot to assassinate Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh (as he entered the Gaza Strip Thursday, Dec. 14). A returning leader should be welcomed with flowers, said the speaker, not by men armed with RPGs who went on a rampage of destruction and looting at the Rafah border checkpoint.

debkafile‘s military sources revealed earlier that Thursday night, ahead of Haniya’s arrival, armed Hamas militiamen fired a large number of anti-tank rockets as well as heavy machine gun fire to drive off the Force 17 Abbas loyalists and European monitors on duty at the Rafah crossing,.

In their internal communications, Hamas leaders refer to their war with Fatah as a “struggle between the “Movement of God and the Party of Satan.”

Palestinian factional warfare in Gaza and the West Bank and its radical religious overtones are being watched with increasing anxiety in neighboring Egypt, Jordan and other Arab nations in the region.


debkafile‘s military sources reveal that last week, US and Israel transferred a quantity of automatic rifles to Abu Mazen’s Fatah forces


17 December: The guns reached Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan who handed them over to the faction’s suicide wing, al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, Abbas’ only reliable strike force. Dahlan is now in command of the armed campaign against Hamas from presidential headquarters in Ramallah. Israeli officials are turning a blind eye to transfer of the arms into the hands of the most badly-wanted masterminds of Fatah suicide killings, such as Jemal Tirawi from Nablus.


Ahmadinejad’s Followers Ordered to Falsify Election Defeats


18 December: The results of Iran’s elections for local councils and the powerful Assembly of Experts have been tensely awaited as the first test of the president’s popularity since he took office last year.

debkafile‘s Tehran sources report that his followers, seeing the wind was blowing against their leader, took matters in their own hands. Backed by armed Revolutionary Guards, they stormed the counting sessions Monday, Dec. 18, using threats and physical harassment to force the counters to falsify the results and reverse the gains.

Sixty hours after balloting ended, when only 10 percent of the returns to the key Tehran city election had been counted, the publication of further results was suspended.

Four prominent Iranians, including ex-presidents Hashem Rafsanani and Mohammed Khatami, protested that vote-rigging was taking place.

But Ahmadinejad’s prestige received a painful blow in both elections. His perennial rival Hashem Rafsanjani won a seat on the Assembly of Experts which chooses the supreme ruler.


Mossad director Meir Dagan: Syria speeds up arms deliveries to Hizballah while extending fake peace overtures to Israel


18 December: In a briefing to the Knesset foreign affairs and security committee, Dagan said Monday, Syria had accelerated its arms deliveries to the Lebanese Hizballah and is in the throes of a strong bid to overthrow the Siniora government. Furthermore, Syria’s Bashar Asad is bent on exacerbating the dangers facing US troops in Iraq. The Mossad chief said Asad is actuated by three motives:

Consolidating his influence in Lebanon, recovering the Golan from Israel and ridding himself of international pressure. The Syrian ruler is maneuvering to show Israel up as an opponent of peace compared with his own momentum. A positive response by Israel would be a stab in the back to moderate Arab rulers.

debkafile‘s political sources reported Sunday Israeli ministers were divided over the issue at their cabinet session Sunday, Dec. 17. Wary of playing into Syrian hands, prime minister Ehud Olmert said Israel must not start negotiations with Damascus at a time when US president George W. Bush is insisting that Bashar Asad first stop instigating war. Defense minister, Labor leader Amir Peretz said the price tag is clear – the Golan – but cited the high importance of breaking Syrian ties with the extremist axis.


Giora Eiland: The 15-year old concept of an Israel-Palestinian peace based on a two-state settlement along pre-1967 lines is an outdated illusion


18 December: The two sides have never been able to come to an agreement on the interpretation of this formula and, even if by some remote chance they could, the former Israeli national security advisers says there is no way to implement it after all this time.

Eiland addressed the Israeli politicians who argue that Israel has nothing to lose by responding to the latest Syrian calls for peace talks with this warning: Every Israeli prime minister from the late Menahem Begin to Yitzhak Rabin entered into peace talks with the Palestinians certain they could control the process at every stage. They discovered, especially when outside powers were involved, that the negotiations had run out of their hands and they were forced to make concessions harmful to Israel’s vital interests.


Key Fatah intelligence officers killed after truce announcement


18 December: Hamas gunmen snatched and shot dead key Fatah intelligence officer Col. Adnan Rahmani. debkafile reports Col. Rahmani was a member of the Palestinian preventive security agency commanded by Rashid Abu Shbak and Samir Mashrawi, two of Mahmoud Abbas’ and Mohammed Dahlan’s Fatah mainstays in Gaza.

debkafile reports: The murder of the intelligence colonel Sunday occurred after members of his service swept through six Palestinian ministerial offices smashing computers, furniture, telephones and archives to prepare the way for Abbas to dissolve the Hamas government ahead of an early election.


Bashar Asad propositions Israel in hope of getting his family off the hook of the Hariri trial


19 December: debkafile Middle East sources disclose that a non-official group is working with all its might to push Syria and Israel into talks in order to bypass President George W. Bush. The logic behind this initiative is that while such talks are going on, it will be hard for the international community including the UN to say: Stop: the Asads must stand trial for assassination and terrorism. And if the talks are successful, they might confer enough respectability on the Syrian ruler to make the Bush administration overcome its opposition to engaging Damascus.

Syria’s first lady Asmah Asad is also very active in these exchanges.

debkafile‘s sources stress reports that the Syrian ruler has no preconditions for talks are inaccurate. This concession would apply only to any informal contacts prior to formal negotiations, a stage known in diplomatic parlance as Track 2, which has now brought together non-official persons from different countries, veterans of the government or military, and academics. debkafile‘s sources name the live wires as pro-Arab figures the ex-British MI6 agent Alastair Crook, Asma Asad’s British family connections, Mark Perry an American former adviser to Yasser Arafat, Spanish foreign minister Miguel Moratinos and a group of German businessmen and former intelligence officials with strong connections in Damascus.


Assad in Moscow, Has Half-Billion Iranian Dollars to Upgrade His Army


18 December: Syrian president Bashar Asad arrived in Moscow with a shopping list for President Vladimir Putin and half a billion dollars put up by Iran – in cash if needed – for Russian arms.

The transaction will include sophisticated Tor-M1 systems, supplies of which began reaching Iran last month, together with thousands of AT-14 anti-tank and SA 5 Gammon anti-air missiles. Damascus also wants to commission Russian military industry to upgrade all 4,500 of its outdated Soviet-era T-62, T-72 and T-80 tanks.

Israel’s head of research in AMAN-military intelligence, Brig-Gen Yossi Baidetz was referring to this huge Russian-Syrian arms deal bankrolled by Iran when he warned ministers Sunday Dec. 10, that Asad was preparing his army for a summer war against Israel.

According to debkafile‘s military experts, Asad’s generals have drawn fully on the lessons of Hizballah’s war against Israel in July and August, outfitting the Syrian army with Kornet AT-14 anti-tank rockets, especially the five Syrian divisions stationed on the Golan frontier. Hizballah deployed the Kornets delivered by the Syrian army with great effectiveness against the Israeli Chariot tanks, inflicting a high level of casualties. In the face of the evidence, Moscow denies letting the Kornet missiles sold to Syria reach Hizballah’s hands.


Al Qaeda was in a big hurry to criticize Palestinian elections – only five days after the Abbas declaration of a new poll


20 December: Normally, Qaeda takes its time before reacting to current events. But now a videotape of Al Qaeda’s No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahri calling Mahmoud Abbas “America’s man” was rushed into broadcast over al Jazeera TV, Wednesday night, Dec. 18. This sign that the Palestine is a burning issue for the Islamist movement confirms Mossad director Meir Dagan’s assessment to the Knesset foreign affairs and security committee Monday, Dec. 18, that the jihadist organization’s sights are now set on Israel.

debkafile‘s counter-terror sources reveal that al Qaeda is in the throes of a wide-reaching clandestine campaign to sink deep roots into Palestinian armed ranks. The Islamist organization has secretly transferred hundreds of armed Palestinians from Syria to Lebanon and is building mixed units of Palestinians and Arab fighters from Iraq for planting on two Israeli borders – South Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. Last week, Syrian military intelligence detained in Damascus one of the ringleaders of the operation, “Abu Khaled” (real name Mussa al Alma), of the Fatah-Intifada movement.

In his broadcast, Al-Zawahri delivered a warning that applied equally to Abbas’ Fatah and Hamas, clearly aimed at whipping both sides of the movement in line with radical tenets. He said Those who try to liberate the Islamic territories through elections based on secular constitutions… will not liberate one grain of sand of Palestine.


US Middle East Commander puts in request for another carrier in Gulf region as warning to Syria and Iran


21 December: debkafile‘s military sources report that this request, revealed by a senior Pentagon official, is the first time in four years that an American general has asked for a special force as a deterrent for Syria and Iran.

Our Washington sources interpret the publication of the request during the visit to Iraq of the new defense secretary Robert Gates’ and head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace as indicating that the Bush administration is heading for a major operation against the two key threats to Iraq’s stability: the Sunni insurgents supported by Syria and the Shiite militias, which receive arms, intelligence and funding from Tehran.

In its latest quarterly report, the defense department accused Iran and Syria of undermining the Iraqi government by providing both active and passive support to anti-government and anti-coalition forces.

The application to deploy a third carrier in the Gulf in late March 2007 is a pointer to the projected timeline of this operation.

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