A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending February 14, 2013

February 9, 2013 Briefs

  • Two Israelis hurt in a dozen Palestinian petrol bombing, rock attacks
    The two Israelis suffering minor injuries in a spate of petrol bomb attacks on roads across the West Bank Saturday were a child and a police officer. Many vehicles were damaged. The attacks occurred on roads near Kedumim, Borin, Qalqilya, Hermesh, Al Arub, Shiloh and Bethel. Bottle bombs were hurled from the Jerusalem village of Issawiya.
  • Ex-Israeli official: Obama will hold summit with Netanyahu, Jordan’s Abdullah
    US President Barack Obama plans summit with Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah to which Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas may be invited, according to ex-Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon. debkafile reported on Dec. 27, 2012, a US-Israeli-Jordanian plan to bypass the core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute by establishing a self-ruling Palestinian entity within the framework of a confederation with Jordan.

February 10, 2013 Briefs

  • French, Malian forces battle Islamists returned to Gao
    Two weeks after French-led Malian forces drove Islamists out of the main town of northern Mali, the Al Qaeda splinter the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (Mujao) zoomed back on motorbikes Sunday, exchanging heavy fire on the town’s streets, starting at the central police station. They also carried out suicide bombings for the second day running. French helicopter gunships flew overhead as people barricaded themselves in their houses.

Scrapping the US missile shield exposes Israel too

10 Feb. A secret US Pentagon study “casts doubt on whether the multibillion-dollar missile defense system planned for Europe can ever protect the US from Iranian missiles…” Clearly, the missile shield against Iran, which aroused ire in Moscow, is about to fall under the axe of US defense budget cuts. Scrapping it will leave Israel and Turkey undefended against Iranian ballistic missile attack. But if Tehran can put a satellite in orbit of 36,000 kilometers above earth, as Ahmadinejad boasts, America is just as exposed.
In recent weeks, reelected Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has repeatedly stressed he wants a broad government coalition for the critical objective of preventing Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon.
Iran is now estimated to be within four months of a nuclear bomb capacity from the moment a decision is taken to build one.
Those months are critical: On February 25 the five UN Security Council’s permanent members plus Germany sit down with Iran in Kazakhstan for a fresh round of negotiations. On March 20, President Barack Obama arrives in Israel. Facing a 50 percent cutback in US military spending, the Obama administration cannot credibly threaten to go to war against a recalcitrant Iran, but he may still wave the Israeli military option in Tehran’s face.

February 11, 2013 Briefs

  • Netanyahu: Iran is accelerating uranium enrichment
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that Iran is accelerating efforts to enrich uranium and called for tougher international sanctions to prevent it from building a nuclear weapon. Speaking to a visiting delegation of American-Jewish organizational heads in Jerusalem, he said Iran needs to be convinced it faces a credible military threat. “I drew a red line” on the bomb at the UN, Netanyahu said. The Iranians “haven’t crossed that line, but what they are doing is shortening the time it takes to get there.” Netanyahu said he expects to discuss this with US President Obama when he visits Jerusalem on March 20, as well as the civil conflict in Syria and efforts to renew peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Car explosion kills at least 13 on Turkish-Syrian border
    A minivan traveling from Syria to Turkey blew up Monday as it passed through a busy Turkish customs gate near the Turkish town of Reyhani. Dozens were injured.
  • Syrian jihadi rebels claim seizure of important dam
    A Syrian activist spokesman reported Monday that rebel fighters, largely from the Jabhat al-Nusra, are in control of the hydro-electrical Euphrates dam at Tabqa after minimal resistance. The dam, the largest of its kind in Syria, supplies water and energy to much of Syria.

February 12, 2013 Briefs

  • Israeli lawmakers query alleged Australian suicide in Israeli jail
    Arab Knesset member Ahmed Tibi and left-wing Meretz leader Zahava Gal-On put questions to Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman Tuesday about a so-called “Australian” said to have committed suicide in an Israeli jail.
    Tibi: It is reported that prisoner of Australian nationality committed suicide in an Israel jail under an identity that was not his own. Can you confirm this information?
    MK Gal-On: Are secret detentions possible in Israel on security grounds?
    debkafile: The two lawmakers took advantage of their immunity to open the case to the public against a blanket court gag order.
  • North Korea threatens stronger action after nuclear test
    “Second and third measures of greater intensity if Washington maintains its hostility” were threatened by Pyongyang Tuesday after its latest nuclear test, the third in a series. North Korea’s “detonation of a miniature atomic bomb” was universally condemned. US officials said North Korea may now be planning to test a missile.
  • Police in highway chase for Jerusalem terror suspects
    A police chase after a band of Palestinian terrorists is reported to have captured one of them on the Jerusalem-Modiin Route 443 highway. An earlier warning of an imminent terrorist attack placed Jerusalem on the highest alert level. Notices went out to security forces, police, first aid services and the fire brigade to stand ready.
  • Fresh US bid to hold Israel back from Iran strike
    The visit to Jerusalem this week by Rose Gottemoeller, acting US undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, was presented as part of the effort to smooth the way for Barack Obama’s visit on March 20. debkafile reports that her real mission was to convince her Israeli hosts of “the US commitment to preventing a nuclear Iran,” and so hold Israel back from a unilateral strike.

Syrian jets bomb air base fallen to rebels

12 Feb. Tuesday night, Feb. 12, the Syrian Air Force began bombing the large al-Jarra air base which rebels led by Islamist battalions conquered near the northern city of Aleppo. Bashar Assad ordered his air force to destroy dozens of its own fighter-bombers: L-29 trainer planes, Sukhoi Su-22M bombers and Mig-23 interceptors. Their loss deprives the Syrian ruler of the means to wipe out rebel forces from the air. Had they possessed air crews, the rebels could have used their prize to bomb the presidential palace.

North Korea and Iran in nuclear, missile partnership

12 Feb. US and Israel are aware that the North Korean nuclear test carried out Tuesday, Feb. 12, brings Iran that much closer to conducting a test of its own. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s boast this week that Iran will soon place a satellite in orbit at an altitude of 36,000 kilometers – and Tehran’s claim to have sent a monkey into space – outline the division of labor between North Korea and Iran: the former focusing on nuclear armament and the latter on long-range missiles to deliver it.
Since the detonation of the “miniature atomic bomb” reported by Pyongyang Tuesday – which US President Barack Obama called “a threat to US national security”- Iran must be presumed to have acquired the same “miniature atomic bomb” capabilities – or even assisted in the detonation.

February 13, 2013 Briefs

  • Obama will stand by Israeli security and pursuit of lasting peace
    “We will stand steadfast with Israel in pursuit of security and a lasting peace,” said Barack Obama in his State of the Union Speech. In a radio interview Wednesday, US Ambassador Dan Shapiro, asked if the US president would urge Israel not to attack Iran in his coming visit, replied: “Our full coordination on the military, intelligence and government levels will continue as before for the purpose of preventing a nuclear Iran – if possible by diplomacy, if not by any means on the table.”
  • The Australian THEAGE: Ben Alon traveled to Iran, Syria and Lebanon
    This news site adds a third name, Benjamin Burrows, to his aliases and claims that while studying for an MBA at Monash University in Melbourne in 2009 (a year before his death), he was seen often talking to Iranian and Saudi students. Australian intelligence is said to have known that he traveled to Iran, Syria and Lebanon.

Mysterious life and death of Australian Mossad agent

13 Feb. The Australian ABC went to great lengths to uncover the story of the Israeli-Australian double citizen, Ben Zygier aka Ben Alon, who committed suicide on Dec. 15, 2010 at the age of 34 held in solitary confinement in a top-security cell of Ayalon Prison, working against an Israeli blanket gag order.
A senior Israeli intelligence official, who remained anonymous, told Australian TV that if what Ben Zygier did and knew was made public, it would pose an immediate threat to Israeli national security.
Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr has ordered a new investigation into Canberra’s conduct in the affair, after it emerged that Israeli authorities had told a diplomat at the Australian Embassy in Tel Aviv about the arrest of Australian citizen Ben Zygier.

February 14, 2013 Briefs

  • Lebanese sources: Israel responsible for Iranian general’s death
    According to Lebanese sources, the Iranian general Hassan Sattari died in the Israeli air strike of the Syrian Jamraya military complex near Damascus on Jan. 30 – not from a Syrian sniper’s bullet Tuesday as previously reported. He is said to have been in charge of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards building projects in Lebanon and important enough for Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi to attend his funeral in Tehran Thursday.
  • New estimated Syrian death toll rises to 90,000
    US Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday that the death toll in Syria may have reached 90,000, citing figures given to him by his Saudi counterpart Prince Saud al-Faisal.
  • Nuclear inspectors end Tehran visit with no deal
    Senior officials of the UN atomic agency returned to Tehran Thursday 24 hours after they arrived without a deal for their probe of Iran’s nuclear program. Herman Naeckerts, who headed the team, sited "remaining differences" between the two sides.No date was fixed for another visit.
  • Israel confirms man with dual citizenship held under court order
    The statement says a man (unnamed) with dual Israeli-Australian citizenship was imprisoned under a false name and eventually committed suicide. According to the statement, the family (of Ben Zygier alias Ben Alon) was notified of his arrest and he was represented throughout due process by lawyers, his rights as a prisoner upheld in court according to law. When he was found dead in his cell about two years ago, the Rishon Lezion Magistrate ordered an investigation into the cause of death. A month and a half ago (sic), it was pronounced suicide and the file was passed to the State Attorney to probe possible negligence. This statement partially lifted the gag order on the affair, although more aspects remained banned for publication for “national security considerations.” debkafile: The official statement sheds no light on how the prisoner was able to take his own life in a top-security prison cell under constant surveillance or the charges which led to his incarceration.

Ben Zygier and the spymaster’s essential straw company tool

14 Feb. In the murky world of double agents, no one can be sure who serves whom at any given time. Some straw companies also serve many spymasters – whether as their operating method or out of greed.
Take, for example, the Washington Post disclosure of Thursday, February 14, that last year, Iran tried to purchase via Chinese companies 100,000 magnetic rings to be used in the production of 50,000 new, rapid centrifuges. This order started a race among hundreds of agents and straw companies: Some tried chasing down the magnetic rings to meet the Iranian order; others, to block the sale; and a third group tried palming off on the Chinese firm flawed products that would sabotage the Iranian centrifuges.
The mission of Ben Zygier-Alon, the Australian-Israeli who died in an Israeli cell two years ago, has not been revealed, but some leaks suggest he may have been mixed up in this kind of vortex and, instead of jumping out, decided on his own bat to follow through all the way to a certain objective, so sealing his fate.

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