A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending December 6, 2012

November 30, 2012

  • Israel greets Palestinian UN action with 3,000 planned Jerusalem, West Bank homes
    The Netanyahu government has approved 3,000 new apartments for Jerusalem and the West Bank in its first response for the Palestinian application for UN nonmember status which was approved Thursday. Planning will also be expedited for new Israeli housing in the “E1” area linking Jerusalem and Maaleh Adummim, where it will counter the Palestinian construction apace on the northeastern edge of Jerusalem. More projects are in the Israeli pipeline.


December 1, 2012

  • Iran threatens to quit NPT if attacked
    Any attack on Iran's nuclear facilities may prompt its withdrawal from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said.
    Iran may also kick out IAEA inspectors and install its uranium enrichment centrifuges in "more secure" places. Israel's ambassador to the IAEA, Ehud Azoulay: "I believe that they are going to do it anyhow, in the near future…when they make their first nuclear explosion, so I'm not surprised.”
  • Mob assault on Gaza-Israel fence ends in one Palestinian death
    Israeli soldiers facing a Palestinian mob rushing the Gaza border fence Saturday warned them to withdraw. When they kept coming, the soldiers started shooting at their legs. The Palestinians report that a man aged, 21, was killed and six others wounded.
  • US criticizes Israeli plan to build 3,000 homes
    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Israel’s decision to build 3,000 more housing units in Jerusalem and the West Bank “set back the cause of a negotiated peace.” The White House earlier described the plan as "counter-productive." Addressing the Saban Forum in Washington, Clinton rejected Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s pessimism about the Palestinian Authority’s ability to govern and bring about a lasting peace. "Well, I think that should be tested," she said.
  • FM Lieberman: The Palestinians refuse to sign peace
    Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman: "With settlements, we try not to provoke, but we have the right to define our capital, and settlement construction is part of our security. Settlements aren't an obstacle to peace, the opposite is true… We need a comprehensive solution with the Palestinians, but it's up to the Palestinians… I saw Olmert's proposal in Annapolis, and Abbas refused to sign it.”


Bushehr’s near-explosion caused alarm in Tehran and Moscow

1 Dec. Iran’s nuclear reactor at Bushehr was shut down in mid-October for fear of an explosion and 163 fuel rods removed. Saturday Dec. 1, an authoritative Russian nuclear industry source said, “Indicators showed that some small external parts were… in the [Bushehr] reactor vessel….” They were identified as “bolts beneath the fuel cells.” debkafile: Russian experts estimated that a Bushehr explosion had the potential for causing a million Iranian deaths and hundreds of thousands of radiation victims in Iran and across the Persian Gulf emirates. Our sources report that Monday, Nov. 26, Iranian and Russian engineers reloaded the fuel rods and reactivated the reactor.

December 2, 2012

  • Israel holds back cash transfers to Palestinian Authority
    The Netanyahu government has blocked the monthly transfer of collected taxes to the Palestinian Authority as further punishment for Mahmoud Abbas’s application to the UN for nonmember status which was approved last Thursday. The NIS.460 million was earmarked for public sector wages. Finance Minister Yuval Steinetz said this amount would cover PA debts to the Israel Electric Corp.


December 3, 2012

  • Jerusalem: European pressure will not make Israel backtrack
    The Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem released a statement Monday rejecting demands from certain European governments for Israel to reconsider its plans to build 3,000 housing units and develop the E-1 corridor. Israel will continue to stand by its vital interests. “If the Palestinians take more such steps, Israel will react accordingly.”
  • US steps up surveillance on Bushehr safety
    Two days after debkafile disclosed exclusively that Iran’s nuclear reactor at Bushehr was shut down in mid-October for fear of an explosion, the Wall Street Journal Monday quoted US officials as reporting that surveillance had been stepped up in alarm over activities at Bushehr. They were more concerned about safety at the reactor than the prospect of Tehran using the facility to develop atomic weapons.
  • Palestinian killed in axe attack on Israeli Shin Bet officers
    Four Shin Bet officers were injured, one seriously, before one of them shot the Palestinian axe-wielder dead. The incident near Shavei Shomron on the West Bank began when a Palestinian vehicle crashed into an official jeep. As the Israeli officers extricated themselves from their damaged vehicle, the attacker jumped out of his car and set about them with his axe.
  • British UK denies drastic steps for Israel on settlements
    The British, French and Swedish foreign ministries summoned Israeli ambassadors to complain about Israel’s expanded building plans in Jerusalem and West Bank. A spokesman for PM David Cameron denied he was weighing more drastic measures [reported by British Sky TV].
  • Putin due in Ankara. Russia takes over from Iran as Turkey’s main gas supplier
    Russian President Vladimir Putin in Ankara Monday will sign a huge deal for Russia to replace Iran as Turkey’s main supplier of natural gas. This transaction will boost trade between the two countries from $32 billion to $100 billion.


Getting prepared for Assad’s use of chemical weapons

3 Dec. US regional forces, Israel, Turkey and Jordan were braced for action Monday, Dec. 3 in case President Bashar Assad ordered his army’s chemical warfare units into action. The White House spokesman hinted at possible US military reaction, and the three special US command centers in Turkey, Jordan and Israel for coordinating such operations were placed on the ready after a US official told Wired Magazine that “engineers working for the Assad regime in Syria have begun combining the two chemical precursors needed to weaponize sarin gas.”
Anchored opposite the Syrian shore are the USS Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group and the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s naval task force – both with hundreds of marines on their decks.
debkafile’s sources quote high-ranking officers in the Israel Defense Forces’ Northern Command as saying: “The coming hours and days are extremely critical for Syria. The situation on our northern front could blow up any moment.”

Iranian-Pakistani naval meet averted

3 Dec. Iranian and Pakistani warships had planned a joint Red Sea drill to start Friday, Nov. 30 in Port Sudan. It was rumored in Khartoum that the Pakistani Shashmir carrying nuclear arms or nuclear-related equipment had docked Thursday ready to meet two Iranian warships. At that point, Washington warned Tehran that the US-Iranian nuclear talks due to open Saturday, Dec. 1, would be called off, if this first ever joint drill between a Muslim nuclear power and a close nuclear candidate – one moreover taking place close to the shores of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel – went ahead. Tehran climbed down.

December 4, 2012

  • Cairo riot police fire tear gas, injure 10 protesters
    Thousands marched on Mohamed Morsi’s presidential palace Tuesday night as a “final warning” against the draft constitution he approved for referendum on Dec. 15. Riot police fired tear gas when they broke through the cordon around the palace injuring at least ten people, before they evacuated the president from the palace. In Tahrir Square, another 20,000 demonstrators protested against the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated constitution and its limitations on freedoms. Security forces have declared an emergency.
  • Egypt’s top judicial body to oversee referendum
    Egypt's Supreme Judicial Council has agreed to supervise a referendum called by President Mohamed Morsi for Dec. 15 to approve a controversial post-Mubarak constitution opposed by liberal, secular and Christian circles. The council’s decision has split the judiciary after some leading judges called for a boycott on the referendum.
  • Doubt cast on Tehran’s claimed capture of US drone over Gulf
    US Navy’s 5th Fleet spokesman, Cmdr, Jason Salata said all US drones are fully accounted for after Iran claimed its Revolutionary Guards had captured an American ScanEagle drone in Iranian airspace.
  • US State Department criticizes Israel on E-1 area planning
    After White House spokesman called for Israeli to reconsider housing expansion plans for the West Bank in response to the Palestinian upgrade to UN nonmember state as “counterproductive” to peace efforts, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Monday night that planning for the E-1 area near Jerusalem was “especially damaging to peace efforts.” debkafile: The Palestinians say E-1’s location would make it impossible for them to form a state with viable borders and would block Arab access to East Jerusalem which  they want as their capital. Israel says Jewish construction in E-1 would not obstruct an independent Palestinian’s access to Jerusalem through Arab Abu Dis. A corridor at least 15 kilometers wide would connect the northern and southern parts of the West Bank. This is the width of central Israel between its Mediterranean coast and the West Bank border.


Assad’s chemical weapons units head north

4 Dec. As NATO in Brussels gave the go-ahead for the deployment of Patriots in Turkey, debkafile reported Syrian army’s chemical weapons units heading out of Damascus under cover of dark and turning north up the road to Aleppo. They were ferrying self-propelled cannons and shells armed with poisonous sarin gas. Assad took advantage of the heavy winds, cloud and rain as elements liable to obstruct Western attacks on the convoys, while ignoring President Barack Obama’s warning of consequences if he or anyone in Syria resorted to chemical warfare. debkafile’s military sources report that by the time the Patriots arrive in Turkey, the Syrian chemical weapons units will almost certainly be in their pre-planned positions. Furthermore, Patriot air defense systems are not designed to counter artillery and would therefore not be able to stop shells loaded with poison gas.

December 5, 2012

  • Five dead in increasingly violent anti-Morsi riots in Cairo
    Five Egyptians were killed and many more injured in the escalating street clashes in Cairo around the presidential palace Wednesday night between opponents and supporters of President Mohamed Morsi. Gunfire, firebombs, rocks and beatings by sticks figured in the disturbance. Three members of Morsi’s advisory team quit to protest the violence. Opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradai said the protests and their handling by the Muslim Brotherhood ruling Egypt have ended the legitimacy of the incumbent regime.
  • Netanyahu heads for Prague, Berlin
    On his way to Berlin to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel, Binyamin Netanyahu stopped over in Prague to personally thank Petr Necas Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, the only EU nation to vote with Israel and the US against the Palestinian UN move last Thursday.


USS Eisenhower opposite Syria

5 Dec. The USS Eisenhower Strike Group reached the Syrian coast Tuesday, Dec. 4 in a heavy storm after sailing through the Suez Canal from the Persian Gulf. Aboard are 8 fighter bomber squadrons of Air Wing Seven and 8,000 sailors, airmen and Marines. Together with the USS Iwo Jima, the US has now posted opposite Syria 70 fighter-bombers, 17 warships including three amphibious craft, a guided missile cruiser and 10 destroyers and frigates, and 10,000 American fighting men. Four vessels carry Aegis anti-missile weapons.
The US armada indicates that Washington stands ready for direct military intervention in the Syrian conflict. Tuesday night, NATO approved the deployment of Patriot missile batteries in Turkey.

December 6, 2012

  • Merkel says she and Netanyahu agreed to disagree on settlements
    But we agree on other matters of concern to Israel’s security, said German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the end of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s visit to Berlin Thursday. On the expansion of Jerusalem and West Bank construction, Merkel said: Israel is a sovereign state and must determine its own policy. “Our relations are unchanged and are strong enough to survive our differences.”
  • Jordan’s king pays a visit to Ramallah
    King Abdullah II of Jordan arrived in Ramallah Thursday for a visit to the Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas lasting a few hours.
  • German troops and Patriots for Turkey
    The German government Thursday approved the consignment of German troops and Patriot anti-missile missiles to Turkey for its defense against Syrian aggression. debkafile: The German troops are already in place.
  • Labor leader Amir Peretz defects to Livni’s Hatnuah
    Hours before the Thursday 10:00 p.m. deadline for the submission of party lists for the Jan. 22, 2013 Knesset election, veteran Labor leader Amir Peretz, former defense minister and ex-head of the Histadrut Trades Unions Federation, defected. He joined Hatnuah the new movement formed by former Foreign Secretary Tzipi Livni after the Kadima party deposed her as leader. To join Livni’s outfit, Peretz gave up the second spot he won on the Labor slate in the party’s primary.


US: Sarin bombs ready for Assad’s “go” order

6 Dec. American officials said Wednesday, Dec. 4, that they believed bombs had been made ready with sarin gas, but not yet loaded onto fighter planes and Assad had not issued the “go” order.
In answer to US allegations, Syrian spokesmen reiterated that their government will not use chemical weapons against their own people. This statement leaves wide open the possible use of lethal gas against the countries support the Syrian rebels, such as Turkey and Jordan. And indeed, the Assad regime has in the past referred to “external enemies” as possible targets of chemical warfare, a locution that covers Israel.
Prime Minister Netanyahu had nothing to say about this but: “We are watching the Syrian chemical weapons with concern.”

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