A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending Feb. 6, 2014

February 7, 2014 Briefs

  • A man subdued trying to hijack a plane to Sochi
    A passenger on an Istanbul flight from the Ukraine was detained Saturday after claiming there was a bomb on board before trying to hijack the plane to Sochi where the Winter Olympics had just opened.
  • More than 80 civilians leave Homs
    The UN coordinator in Syria, Yaacub El Hillo, confirmed Friday that more than 80 women, children and elderly men had been allowed to leave the Old City of Homs after surviving more than 600 days under army siege. This was the first stage of an evacuation of civilians expected to number several hundred. Large areas of the city, dubbed “the capital of the revolution” have been reduced to rubble.
  • US diplomats walk out of Tunis ceremony over Iranian insults
    US diplomats on Friday walked out of the ceremony to celebrate Tunisia's new constitution after Iran's representative, Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani, accused the United States and Israel of "trying to render the (Arab) revolutions sterile so that Israel can benefit."
  • New terrorist group in Gaza
    The Yahya Ayyash Brigades came out in the open Friday claiming the rocket attack on the Sycamore Ranch shortly after the late Ariel Sharon’s funeral there last month and the Grad missiles fired last week at Netivot and Ashkelon. debkafile: The Yahya Ayyash Brigades quit the Hamas military arm recently to embrace Salafist terrorist practices.

Obama may be in two minds over Kerry’s Israeli-Palestinian peace mission

7 Feb. The give-and-take over an Israeli-Palestinian accord, doggedly kept afloat by US Secretary of State John Kerry, is resolving itself into a complex personal dynamic: Israel’s A-team – Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon – are not of one mind on the issues; Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’s popular base is infamously narrow and flimsy. And John Kerry, too, needs to overcome reservations in President Obama’s White House team to obtain his blessing for an accord. He is not entirely sure he will get it. Ya’alon is the holdout.
However, Lieberman's defense of the Secretary of State's views was welcomed by the State Department as “very important to the peace process, given his background on these issues and where his view was,”
Friday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s said:
“Kerry is a true friend of Israel. I don’t see the point of turning friends into foes.
"Kerry is leading the process correctly,” Lieberman added.
Lieberman’s change of heart may be attributed to his political ambition and desire to attract and lead a strong centrist camp.

February 8, 2014 Briefs

  • Egyptian air strikes kill 16 Sinai terrorists
    Egypt’s military spokesman Col. Ahmed Mohammed Ali said on Saturday that the air strikes had targeted hideouts of "terrorist, extremely dangerous" armed groups with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood in the northern Sinai, killing 16 terrorists,.
  • First Iranian warships head for US Atlantic borders
    The commander of Iran's Northern Navy Fleet, Admiral Afshin Rezayee Haddad, said Saturday that several warships – the destroyer Sabalan and logistic helicopter carrier Khark – have begun their journey to the Atlantic Ocean near US maritime waters for the first time. They carry a message, he said: Tehran is responding to US naval deployments near its own coastlines.
  • Grenade thrown at Israeli patrol on 443 Rte to Jerusalem
    An improvised grenade was thrown Saturday night at an Israeli military patrol on Rte 443 to Jerusalem near Maccabim. There were no casualties. The soldiers fired in the air. debkafile: A high alert has been in force on Rte 443 since mid-week following intelligence of Palestinian terrorist gangs preparing to hit the passing traffic.
  • Khamenei reverts to anti-American abuse
    Iran’s Supreme Leader said Saturday: "American officials tell our authorities at talks that they are not after regime change in Iran. They are lying because they won't hesitate a moment if they had the ability to do so," he said.
  • US concerned by Americans fighters returning home from Syria
    The civil war in Syria has become a matter of US homeland security over concerns that “a small number of Americans” have gone to fight with Syrian rebels and returned home,” the new US Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Friday. The estimated 7,000 foreigners from 50 countries fighting in the bloody war include those from the United States, Canada and Europe, he said.

February 9, 2014 Briefs

  • Israeli man stabbed in Jerusalem Old City
    The Orthodox Israeli man, 24, was stabbed in the back at the Damascus Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City. He suffered a moderate injury. His assailant got away.
  • Israel air strike injures wanted Al Qaeda-linked terrorist
    The IDF spokesman reported that Abdullah Harouti, 29, a high-profile operative of the al Qaeda-linked Sinai-Gaza-based Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, was gravely injured riding a motorcycle in the Gaza Strip. Harouti was wanted for the attack eighteen months ago from Egyptian Sinai on an Israeli bus carrying soldiers and other vehicles on Rte 12 to Eilat. Six Israelis were killed in that attack and 40 injured. He is also connected to recent Absar Bayt al-Maqdis missile fire from Sinai against Israeli targets, including the resort town of Eilat.

Russian anti-terror drive leaves 10 dead around Sochi

9 Feb. Russian special forces are engaged in a relentless offensive to pin down would be Islamist terrorists on their home ground or hideouts in Dagestan, Chechnya, Kirgizstan and Kabardino Balkaria, casting a wide safety fence around the Winter Olympic Games which opened in Sochi Friday, Feb. 7. Seven terrorists were killed in Russian operations. debkafile: This safety net has been spread across the Caucasius and France, Austria and Germany, with special focus on suspected female suicide terrorists. This preventive offensive must be sustained at top pitch until the Feb. 23 closing ceremony, which is believed to be a special target for suicide bombers.
French police last week detained an unknown number of Chechen women at La Roche-sur-Yon and Strasbourg. In Austria and Germany, our sources report at least 10 terror suspects taken into custody, most of them females. The authorities there are keeping this affair closely secret.

February 10, 2014 Briefs

  • Rouhani: Iran test-launches two long-range missiles
    The day after being taken to task for cancelling an missile exercise, President Hassan Rouhani disclosed successful launches of two long-range ballistic missiles. One was said to have radar-evading capabilities; the second laser-guided and could be fired from the ground or from aircraft.
    Iran’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi also revealed a new generation of extra-powerful centrifuges that are 15 to 16 times more powerful than the older types. Iran will therefore lose noting by diplomacy with the six powers.
  • Rocket from Gaza explodes near Ashkelon
    Another rocket was fired from Gaza Monday and exploded outside Ashkelon.

Iran spreads its war wings: Hizballah deepens role in Syria. Israel, Syria, Lebanon declared “regions of conflict”

10 Feb. In a policy makeover, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has decided to seal off in a separate policy compartment Iran’s nuclear diplomatic tactics for obtaining sanctions relief – and for dominating the Syrian war negotiations resuming in Geneva, Monday, Feb. 10, and Iran’s pursuit of its regional goals, in another box. Alongside diplomacy, Al Qods Brigades chief Qassem Soleimani will execute Iran’s drive to expand its regional interventions, Hizballah is already deepening its role in the Syrian civil war, while Lebanon, Syria and Israel are targeted by Tehran as “areas of conflict.”

February 11, 2014 Briefs

  • Cameron cancels trip to Israel, Palestinian Authority over flood crisis
    To take charge of the flood crisis inundating large parts of southern Britain since December, Prime Minister David Cameron announced Tuesday he was cancelling his Mid East trip next week with apologies to Binyamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas. “Money is no object for dealing with the crisis,” he pledged.
  • Iran’s Rev Guards chief calls US military option ”ludicrous”
    Revolutionary Guards chief Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari dismissed the viability of a US military option against Iran as ludicrous. Addressing the “Death to USA Grand Prize” ceremony in Tehran, he added that Iranian military and security commanders are not bluffing about the country’s military capability, concluding that“Americans really cannot do a damn thing.”
  • Abe Foxman to step down as ADL director
    After almost half a century of service as national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, 73, the scourge of anti-Semites and other racists, announces he is retiring in July 2015. He was born in the Soviet Union, survived the Holocaust as a hidden child and moved to the United States with his parents. The ADL has 30 regional offices in the United States and one in Israel.
  • Israel displays new Super Heron drone at Singapore
    The Israeli Aerospace Industry unveiled its new Super Heron UAV at the Singapore Airshow Tuesday. The drone is powered by a 200 hp heavy-fuel for maximum sped of 150 knots and is fitted with aerodynamic enhancements such as winglets.
  • Obama-Hollande talks to cover Iran, Syria, Lebanon, al Qaeda in Africa
    Visiting French President Francois Hollande was accorded exceptional honors by his host Barack Obama on arrival for his two-day state visit to Washington. Their talks cover areas where the two leaders are in accord: efforts to resolve nuclear concerns in Iran, ending the civil war in Syria, and fighting al Qaeda incursions in Africa.
  • Israeli air strikes target two terrorist targets after Gaza rockets
    Israeli air strikes hit a buried rocket launch pad and a Hamas training facility in the Gaza Strip early Tuesday in reprisal for Palestinian rocket fire in recent days. debkafile: Reports in local media that Israel had shifted its reprisal policy away from air strikes to targeted assassinations of high-profile terrorists were unfounded. Both remain in force.

Washington asks Netanyahu to hold back from answering Iranian threats

11 Feb. Iran’s leaders celebrated the 35th anniversary of their Islamic revolution Tuesday, Feb.11, with a torrent of hate rhetoric and threats surpassing even the crudely belligerent language used by former President Mahmoud Ahamedinejad. As his audience burned US and Israeli flags and stamped on placards depicting President Obama, President Hassan Rouhani mocked America’s military option, while Khamenei called for Israel’s extermination as a “cancerous growth” in the Middle East. Yet Barack Obama opted not to react and persuaded Prime Minister Netanyahu follow his lead.

Netanyahu accepts Kerry’s “framework” in principle

11 Feb. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has informed Washington of his acceptance in principle of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s framework document – subject to reservations raised with US Special Envoy Martin Indyk. A high-ranking US official told debkafile: “We all know the die is cast in Jerusalem and Netanyahu has accepted Kerry’s guidelines. They are now working on the reservations he needs to submit for his government coalition to survive the expected storm of protest and resistance and for the talks with the Palestinians to carry on.”

February 12, 2014 Briefs

  • March 3 set for Netanyahu White House visit
    The White House announced that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will meet President Barack Obama on March 3. They will discuss progress in negotiations with the Palestinians, the Iranian nuclear question and other regional issues. . debkafile: That meeting signifies that the prime minister has decided to accept the US Secretary of State John Kerry’s line on the peace talks ongoing with the Palestinians
  • Iran’s top soldier joins chorus of war threats
    Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces General Hassan Firouzabadi said Wednesday that Iran is ready for the “decisive battle” against the US and the Zionist regime. "We warn them that if an attack is launched on our troops from any territory, we will invade all the enemy’s possessions,” he reiterated.
  • Egypt’s Gen. El-Sisi in Moscow to sign $2 bn arms deal
    Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi arrived in Moscow Wednesday for a two-day visit during which he will sign a large arms transaction worth $2 bn, financed by Saudi Arabia – confirming debkafile reporting in recent weeks. The package will include new Russian warplanes and missiles.

February 13, 2014 Briefs

  • Israeli patrol shoots Palestinian dead at Gaza fence
    The IDF patrol opened fire on three Palestinians trying to sabotage the Gaza border fence, when they ignored two warnings to back off and shots fired in the air. One of the three Palestinians was killed.
  • Putin backs El-Sisi’s bid for Egyptian presidency
    Although the Egyptian strongman Gen. Abdul-Fattah El-Sisi has not officially announced his run for the presidency, Russian President Vladimir greeted him warmly in Moscow Wednesday, saying: "I know that you, mister defense minister, have decided to run for president of Egypt. I wish you luck.”
  • Seven explosive packages sent to UK army offices
    A suspicious vehicle detained outside an RAF base was found to contain an explosive package after seven packages, at least two containing “small but viable explosive devices,” were delivered to UK army offices in southern England Thursday. They arrived as British authorities including the army were struggling with a major flood disaster.
  • Found and Lost in Gaza: Unique bronze statue of Apollo
    A complete bronze statue of Apollo, at least 2,000 years old and weighing half a ton, was caught by a Gaza fisherman last August and taken home on a donkey cart – only to be seized by Hamas police and to disappear again. The statue has not been seen since – only intriguingly a photo of the nude god with all his limbs intact, laid out on what looks like the kitchen table at the fisherman’s home.

Syrian-Hizballah forces storm Yabroud

13 Feb. Syrian and Hizballah troops launched a major assault Wednesday, Feb. 12, on Yabroud, the Christian-Sunni Muslim town, 80 km north of Damascus, which is the last stronghold in the strategic Qalalmoun mountains held by Syrian rebel and Islamist forces. debkafile: Its fall would open the highway from Damascus to Homs and the Allawite regions, secure Hizballah’s supply routes from Lebanon and potentially revive flagging Syrian army morale. Iranian Al Qods Brigades spies report Yabroud is also the source of the bombing attacks targeting Hizballah in Beirut, Baalbek and the Beqaa Valley.

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