A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending February 22, 2006

Israel‘s defense chiefs unhappy with the watered down anti-Hamas sanctions


19 February: Addressing the cabinet, chief of staff Lt. Gen Dan Halutz warned against letting moderate-sounding words from Hamas spokesmen erode Israel’s capabilities for combating terror. A Hamas government will take five weeks to install, but Israel must act today on the assumption that the terrorist organization is not about to change its stripes as a threat to Israel.

National security adviser Giora Eiland’s recommendations were mostly rejected by the ministers. He advised canceling joint Israeli-Palestinian projects and expelling the Gaza Strip from the customs accords with Israel as compared with the West Bank.


Seven of the 23 convicted 23 al Qaeda terrorists who escaped Yemen prison have been captured


19 February: They include Jamal Badawi, mastermind of the Oct. 12 2000 bombing attack on the USS Cole in which 17 US sailors perished. When a Yemeni force picked them up in desolate Hadhramauth, ancestral homeland of their master, Osama bin Laden, it came upon a new 14-man al Qaeda network, geared ready in bomb vests for attacks on Western targets in Yemen.


The Bush Plan Vs the Algerian Formula to Contest Hamas


19 February: Israel’s caretaker prime minister Ehud Olmert greeted all the stages of Hamas’ rise to power with inertia.

Finally, Sunday, Feb. 19, he put a package of steps for action before the Israeli cabinet. Those steps were not choreographed in Jerusalem but in Washington.

1. To starve the Hamas-ruled Palestinian Authority of funding.

2. Channel foreign aid directly to the Palestinian population through international organizations.

3. Sever the Gaza Strip from the West Bank.

4. Orchestrate Abu Mazen’s actions as chairman of the Palestinian Authority to ascertain that he uses the next four to six months to restore and consolidate his own defeated Fatah.

5. He will then trump up a constitutional crisis, sack the Hamas government, dissolve the 132-member legislative council and call a snap general election.

6. This time, unlike in January, the United States will apply all its intelligence and financial might to make sure Hamas does not win again.

7. The Olmert government will act in conjunction with the steps laid out in the Bush administration’s plan of action.

debkafile‘s Palestinian experts see little chance of this blueprint actually succeeding for three main reasons:

A. Reliance on Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party for practical steps has never worked – witness the mayhem in the Gaza Strip, the arms smuggling, the failure to rein in terrorists.

B. Hamas leaders have gained a head start on the Bush plan with moves supported by their Arab and Muslim allies.

C. Hamas can easily circumvent the plan to starve its administration of finances.

This situation cries out for bold, independent enterprise to bring the menace to heel before it is too late. Israel cannot afford to stand by for another American fiasco like the Palestinian election, which opened the door wide to Hamas.

debkafile‘s political sources see the advantage of a course modeled on the Algerian formula.

In the early 1990s, the Algerian army stepped in to prevent violent Muslim exufear the ped up terror attacks;mi and Popular Front terrorists; Two mob, outh Gazan border fence.after series of terrorist incitremists from assuming power after their election win. Applied to the Palestinian arena, Israel, preferably in conjunction with the Americans, would instigate and orchestrate a Palestinian military coup d’etat in the West Bank, which would leave Hamas government isolated and hanging out to dry in the Gaza Strip.

On the West Bank, Israel has the means and connections to ensure the success of a coup and prevent the West Bank from deteriorating into a second Gaza Strip.


Iran extends its sponsorship of terrorists with a promise of training facilities for Hamas


21 February: This week’s Tehran visit by a Hamas delegation led by politburo chief Khaled Meshaal ushered in an era of close military collaboration between the Islamic republic and the Palestinian terrorists, according to debkafile‘s military sources.

Earlier this year DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s counter-terror sources uncovered Iran’s support in military training, logistical support, weapons and money for the terrorists fighting US forces in Iraq under Abu Musab al Zarqawi.

According to debkafile‘s Iranian sources, Hamas leaders in Tehran played hard to get; they balked at putting themselves entirely in Iran’s power or letting the Palestinian Authority become an Iranian dependency or outpost for the sake of a financial handout. However, Meshaal and party welcomed any assistance on offer for building a Hamas-controlled military force, available also to support any Tehran action against Israel, whether direct attacks or terrorism modeled on the Iraqi guerrilla-terrorist insurgency.

The Hamas delegation and Iranian leaders came to an agreement for Hamas military missions to be invited to Tehran and given all the formal honors of official Palestinian Authority delegations. The Islamic republic will also make training camps available for Hamas terrorists as well as weapons and military aid.


The Gold Dome of Samarra is shattered by a terrorist bomb, outraging Iraq’s Shiites


22 February: The bloodless attack on one of the four holiest Shiite shrines brings Iraq to the brink of civil war.

debkafile‘s sources: The bombing was carried out by a small squad trained by Abu Musab al Zarqawi especially for the operation. Four-to-six men entered the Askariya mosque Tuesday night and placed explosive charges around the interior of the gold dome so as to bring it crashing down on the sacred tombs below.

Samarra police have made 10 arrests, among them foreigners, as would be typical of al Qaeda.


Olmert apologizes to King Abdullah for a senior Israeli commander’s comments on Jordan


22 February: He said the comment by OC Central Command Maj.-General Yair Naveh in no way represented government policty.

The general was quoted as saying in relation to the strengthening of the Hamas-Iran axis: “Jordan has its issues also.” Given that Jordan is 80 percent Palestinian and in the light of regional threats, “King Abdullah might be the last Hashemite monarch to rule the kingdom.”

Foreign minister Tzipi Livni called her Jordanian counterpart Abdullah al-Khatib to stress relations with Jordan are seen by Israel as a strategic asset.

debkafile adds: Naveh, however undiplomatically, is the last of several Israeli military and security experts to point up the acute danger threatening the Jewish state and region at large from Hamas’ rise to power. He was preceded by Shin Beit director Yuval Diskin and ex-chief of staff Moshe Yaalon.

Acting prime minister Ehud Olmert takes the opposite view. He told the Knesset foreign and security committee Wednesday, Feb. 22, that, unlike Diskin, he does not regard Hamas as a strategic threat to Israel on the scale of a nuclear-armed Iran. His critics accuse him of playing down the Hamas threat in order to whitewash the past errors to which he was party and which made it possible for the Islamist terrorists to take over Palestinian government.


Russian missile cruiser Moskva – on a NATO exercise – docked at Syrian Latakia


February 21: A task force led by the Moskva and the Azov landing ship became the first Russian naval force to pay a call at a Syrian port in decade on Feb. 21.

debkafile‘s military sources report: The force sailed out of its home port of Sevastopol on the Black Sea, on Feb. 5, to join a NATO-led anti-terrorist operation in the Mediterranean for a combined three-month drill focusing on combating the smuggling of weapons of mass destruction, illegal weapons trade and migration.

NATO leaders had no idea that the Russian naval force intended to break away from the exercise long enough to put in at a Syrian port – a call which Syrian president Bashar Assad took as a gesture of support from Moscow. The visit underlined the Kremlin’s plan to play a larger part in the military affairs of the Middle East, largely by making friendly overtures to America’s adversaries. President Vladimir Putin’s invitation to discuss arms sales in Moscow with an invited Hamas delegation was part of this picture.


Israel secretly permits Hamas-Fatah coalition talks in Gaza. Negotiations are progressing


22 February: According to debkafile‘s Exclusive sources, while preventing the Fatah party from reaching Gaza Feb. 20, the Olmert government changed its mind the next day. The Fatah delegation is led by its parliamentary faction leader Azzam al Ahmad, Mohammed Dahlan and Ahmad Hilas “Abu Maher”, secretary general of the Fatah’s Gaza branch and Dahlan’s sworn enemy.

debkafile‘s sources note that Israeli policymakers’ decision to allow a coalition that offers a Hamas-led government stability and opens the way for its international recognition poses a number of questions:

1. What is the point of the Israeli PM’s tough-sounding refusal to recognize the new “terrorist authority,” on the one hand, when on the quiet he plays ball with that same authority?

2. This tactic is no secret in Washington and European capitals. In what light does it place foreign minister Tzipi Livni’s campaign for the international boycott of a Hamas government? Will not foreign governments help themselves to a page from Israel’s two-handed book?

debkafile‘s Palestinian sources report perfect coordination between supposed political rivals, Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas and the designated Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniye. Even their communiques are synchronized: Abu Mazen seems to argue the US-Israeli case and urges Hamas to accept terms for buying recognition, while Haniye consistently turns them down and refuses any truck with Israel. This act invariably ends with Abbas brushing aside Israel’s demands as irrelevant because its government rejects any Palestinian negotiating partner whoever heads their government. Israel is thus put in the wrong by a falsehood because, in point of fact, the lines have always been open between Abu Mazen’s and the Israeli prime minister’s offices, over and above the frequent exchanges via Washington.

But the Olmert government has so far not been able to develop a consistent, practicable policy on the Hamas question and is therefore stumbling from one contradiction to another.


Rice fails to persuade Saudi King Abdullah and Mubarak to stop funding Hamas


23 February: This was the main object of the US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice’s Middle East trip. With financial support from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf states and private Muslim donors, the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority government of Ismail Haniyeh is guaranteed at least half a billion dollars a year, or $40 million a month.

debkafile‘s Middle East sources: Saudi Arabian King Abdullah decided to pledge the financial support needed to prop up the Hamas-led PA government and maintain its ability to function. (During the first week of February, immediately after Hamas’s victory in the Palestinian elections, DEBKA-Net-Weekly 241, February 10, reported the failure of US attempts to dry up Hamas’s financial sources, as had Israel’s diplomatic efforts led by Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni). The king also decided that the Hamas should not be forced to recognize Israel, only to be more flexible in maintaining regular contacts with the Jewish states and honoring the agreements signed by the PA. The Hamas assented.


French President and Prime Minister Pay Tribute to Ilan Halimi at Paris Synagogue Memorial


23 February: For a crime that has shocked all of France, the head of the anti-Semitic gang which is suspected of kidnapping, torturing and murdering 23-year old Halimi has been arrested in Ivory Coast. Youssouf Fofana, 26, is in the custody of French police who went to Ivory Coast to question him after issuing an international warrant for his arrest.

Ilani Halimi was found naked, bound and gagged near Paris, with horrific injuries after being held for ransom three weeks. He died on the way to hospital. French prosecutors at first denied anti-Semitic motives for the crime.

French ministers, clerics and trade union leaders will join a protest rally in Paris next Sunday.

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