Palestinian leader Abu Mazen ceremonially opened the Rafah crossing from Gaza to Egypt with a tribute to “the martyrs who made this achievement possible.”
25 November: He stated the opening was a step on the road to an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. Until then, he stressed, “the martyrs” would not rest.
The Rafah terminal was opened under an agreement US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice brokered between Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and the European Union, which undertook to send 70 inspectors by mid-December. In view of grave security concerns, Israel has been promised an off-site video link to monitor the traffic.
Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah called on his men to kidnap Israeli soldiers
25 November: “This is not a crime,” he said. “It is our right!”
He spoke at the funerals of 3 Hizballah terrorists whose bodies Israeli returned Friday. They were killed in a foiled attempt to kidnap Israelis last Monday.
An Israeli officer said the handover through the Red Cross was intended as a confidence-building gesture to reduce border tensions. The coffins were greeted on the Lebanese side with calls for “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!”
Twelve Israelis were injured in the massive Hizballah bombardment that accepted its cross-border raids
Putin Pulls Assad’s Chestnuts out of the Fire
26 November: debkafile‘s sources close to the Hariri investigation report that Syrian president Bashar Assad has managed to hold back his strongman brother-in-law Gen. Assef Shawqat from the group of five senior Syrian officials to be quizzed at UN headquarters in Vienna as suspects in the Hariri assassination. By Friday night, Nov. 26, the Syrian ruler bowed to the UN investigator Detlev Mehlis ultimatum to let the suspects be quizzed outside Syria. But debkafile discloses that he did so on his own legal terms and after persuading Russian president Valdimir Putin to underwrite those terms.
debkafile reveals a further setback for the Mehlis inquiry: A key witness was found dead Saturday, 26 Nov, in a deep wadi near the village of Batrin on Mt. Lebanon. In the interim report he filed in October, he placed high value on the evidence of the eight cell phone lines, which were used by the assassins and the Syrian intelligence officers directing them at the time of the crime. The phones were purchased at a shop in Beirut port owned by Nawar Dora. It was his body that was discovered.
Friday, Nov. 25, <bDEBKA-Net-Weeklyb> revealed the Syrian president’s terms for allowing his top officials to be questioned outside the country in an exclusive report:
Shimon Peres decides to cross the floor from Labor to Sharon’s Kadima
26 November: debkafile reports Peres will not formally join Kadima, but attach himself to Sharon’s new venture. This will happen in either of two ways:
1. A senior cabinet appointment. If the prime minister wins the March 28 election and forms the next government, he will name Peres as a kind of peace envoy to lead future negotiations with the Palestinians on the future of the West Bank. This fits in with Sharon’s declared intention to continue the pullbacks and evacuations he began in the Gaza Strip.
2. Twenty-eight years ago, the late Menahem Begin pulled Moshe Dayan over from the Labor party as his foreign minister for peace negotiations with Egypt. Sharon and Peres are duplicating that exercise. Sharon is signaling his intention of signing peace and drawing Israel’s final borders. Peres is offering himself up as the only pragmatic statesman capable of bringing this goal to fruition. He lacks electoral support but seeks this missing element from the founder of Kadima.
Sharon is banking on this partnership and plan to leave Peretz’s social-economic-focused campaign in the dust. He and Peres believe Peretz was caught short by his victory and unready both with the machine for a national campaign and a broad platform that covers vital defense and foreign policy issues. They also believe that, by following in Begin’s footsteps, they will rebut Binyamin Netanyahu’s declaration that he represents “the real Likud” while Sharon is a defector.
Iranian military instructors have slipped into Lebanon with new missile
28 November: debkafile reports exclusively the clandestine arrival of scores of Iranian Revolutionary Guards specialist instructors via Damascus is Tehran’s response to the shortcomings displayed by the Hizballah when it bombarded northern Israel on Nov. 21 -.
Our exclusive sources disclose they stole into the Hizballah’s Lebanese Beqaa Valley bases complete with two new weapons systems:
1. One is the new Iranian Motemared (Rebel) anti-tank missile, exposed for the first time in the Middle East. The IDF is not familiar with this weapon, beyond that it is the Iranian version of the Russian K and capable of piercing protective anti-explosive belts 1100-1200 mm thick. It is an all-weather weapon, day-or-night and wire-guided.
2. The Iranians also brought a mockup of an Israel Merkava (Chariot) tank.
The Iranian instructors have set up base at three farms in the Yanta Vadir al Ashair region of the Beqaa valley, where they are instructing Hizballah operatives. They have obviously studied the Hizballah video shots from the bombardment, which depicted an unmanned Israeli tank taking heavy pounding from Sagger missiles without sustaining damage or bursting into flames. The Iranians decided that the Motemared was the answer for destroying an Israeli Chariot. They also seem to have drawn lessons from Iraq where Sunni guerrillas have found ways to disable heavy US M1 Abrams tanks.
The way Iranian RG officers were able to cross into Lebanon from Syria, set up training bases and smuggle in weapons systems shows how little has changed in Lebanon since the Syrian army was ousted.
“The Swords of Truth” Tuesday released a video of four Western hostages kidnapped in Baghdad Saturday, Nov. 26
29 November: Two Canadians, a Briton and a presumed American were presented as “spies of the occupying forces.” The only hostage identified is the Briton Norman Kember.
debkafile adds: The group is a front for Abu Musab al Zarqawi’s network. DEBKA-Net-Weekly earlier reported his relocation to Baghdad in October. Our sources revealed he determined to go back to abducting and killing foreigners as one of his tactics for derailing Iraq’s Dec. 15 general election.
Earlier Tuesday, a videotape showing the abducted German woman archeologist and her driver was handed to the German state TV office in Baghdad.
Abu Mazen cancels Fatah primary elections over widespread fraud and violence
29 November: debkafile: This fiasco jeopardizes the Palestinian general election scheduled for mid-January 2006. It also renders unrealistic a key plank of the platform Ariel Sharon’s new party Kadima unveiled the same day, Nov. 28 – the goal of co-existence with a democratic Palestinian state cleansed of terrorists.
Three hours after polling began for the 48 Fatah parliamentary candidates in the Gaza Strip, the deal crafted by Mahmoud Abbas’ ally Mohammed Dahlan with the local Fatah secretary Abd Hiles blew up. The Fatah-al Aqsa Brigades revolt against the parent party and its leaders on the West Bank spread to the Gaza Strip with a vengeance, closing voting down abruptly before noon.
The failure belongs to the smooth, Armani-suited purported Gaza strongman Dahlan.
He and Abu Mazen convinced US secretary of state Condoleezze Rice and national security adviser Steve Hadley, as well as Sharon and Shaul Mofaz, that the Fatah was capable of holding an orderly primary vote as the prologue to a successful general election in two months.
The winner of this failed experiment is the jailed Palestinian terrorist Marwan Barghouthi, who proved himself a prime vote-getter on the West Bank. He is now seriously wooed by all of Abu Mazen’s men. But above all, the Fatah’s armed faction, al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, created by Yasser Arafat as a pool for suicide bombers, has show the Abbas administration and its foreign backers who is the real boss of the ruling Fatah.
Does the abrupt sacking of Russian nuclear energy minister signal a turnaround in Moscow on Iran’s nuclear program?
30 November: debkafile‘s sources report that Washington and Jerusalem are disturbed by the abrupt firing of Alexander Rumyantsev as head of the Russian Agency for Atomic Energy, Rosatom, a job he held four years. Russian president Vladimir Putin offered no explanation for his replacement by a former Russian prime minister, Sergei Kiriyenko, who has no experience in the nuclear energy field.
debkafile‘s sources in Washington and Moscow report that the sacked minister, was trusted by the US and Israeli governments to stand firm against letting Iran have Russian technological assistance for building a nuclear weapon. Rumyantsev, who is Jewish, was also trusted by Israeli officials concerned with Iran’s nuclear activities, after Iran was obliged on his initiative to return the fuel rods from the Russian-built atomic reactor in Bushehr.
US and Israeli officials fear that Rumyantsev’s dismissal means that Putin is reviewing Moscow’s nuclear relations with Tehran and may be contemplating putting them on a less restrictive basis. So far this is only surmise.
Also Wednesday, November 30, AMAN chief, Aharon Zeevi warned: “If by the end of March 2006, the international community has still not managed to apply the brakes to Iran’s race for a nuclear bomb, it might as well give up on its diplomatic efforts and admit failure.”
debkafile‘s Moscow sources report that Tehran took steps in recent months to damage Rumyantsev’s reputation. Russian auditors discovered that over a long period the Iranians had tendered inflated invoices for Bushehr projects that were never executed. Moscow refunded the sums to avoid a crisis, but found it was incurring losses. Tehran then promised the minister to compensate the Russians for their losses with fresh contracts for building additional reactors in Iran. The Iranians reneged on this promise and instead negotiated the contracts with China.