A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending Jan. 30, 2014
January 23, 2014 Briefs
- US designates Palestinian Ziyad al-Nakhalah wanted terrorist
Deputy Secretary General of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Ziyad al-Nakhalah been designated by the State Department as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, following the Dec, 22, 2013 bus bombing in the Israeli town of Bat Yam.
- Rouhani: No place for nuclear weapons in Iran’s security strategy
President Hassan Rouhani, describing himself as a prudent moderate, assured the Davos Economic Forum Thursday that his country had no intention of “acquiring nuclear weapons.” He referred to recent cooperation with the US and other powers over Iran’s nuclear program as a major development and urged US leaders to accept Iran’s Islamic revolution as ending “a struggle for freedom.”
- Israeli leaders’ riposte for Iran’s Rouhani at Davos
If Iran has no intention of acquiring nuclear weapons, then why is it developing long-range, nuclear-capable ballistic missiles? Israel’s President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu asked Thursday at the Davos Forum. As a “prudent moderate,” they asked, how does Rouhani justify sending arms and Hizballah units into Syria and financing terrorist networks across the world? Is this how the Iranian president conducts his avowed goals of peace and stability? They asked.
Netanyahu urged the world not to be gulled by deceitful Iranian attempts to deny it intended developing nuclear weapons.
January 24, 2014 Briefs
- Netanyahu meets Kerry, says no Jordan Valley settlements will go
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said his 90-minute meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry went well. Israel, he said, had no intention of evacuating any Israeli settlements from the Jordan Valley or uprooting any Israelis who live there. He said he isn’t ignoring the spreading boycott against Israel but economic pressure will not advance the peace process, only harden Palestinian rejection.
- Former minister, civil rights activist Shulamit Aloni dies
Shulamit Aloni, who died aged 86, pioneered civil rights and consumer movements in Israel’s Labor party. She went on to found the far left Meretz party and served as education minister in the years 1992-1993 and minister of science and arts 1993-1996. Aloni was awarded the Israel Prize for her life’s work.
Abbas turns to Moscow, dumps US-led peacemaking
24 Jan. Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas launched his “diplomatic intifada” against Israel and exit from the Kerry peace initiative Thursday, Jan. 23, from Moscow. His talks with Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev marked his breakaway from the peace track with Israel, four months before it was due to expire, and signaled his bid to replace it with Russian backing for a Palestinian state.
Abbas’s defection caught both Secretary of State John Kerry and Prime Minister Binyamin – and their intelligence agencies – napping.
January 25, 2014 Briefs
- Iran: No need for nuclear watchdog office of Tehran
“Considering the volume of nuclear activities in the country, there is no need for a nuclear watchdog office in Iran,” said Tehran’s delegate at IAEA headquarters in Vienna. This refuted President Obama’s earlier assurance that the interim accord guaranteed daily UN inspections.
- An Egyptian army helicopter crash in N. Sinai kills five crew
Local witnesses say the plane was destroyed Saturday killing five Egyptian soldiers by rocket fire. Al Ahram attributed the crash to a technical problem. It was later claimed by Ansar Bait Al Maqdis terrorists.
- Palestinians sign bilateral accords with Russia in breach of deals with Israel
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Palestinian Authority foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki signed in Moscow Friday bilateral agreements, including cooperation in customs, police and health, as part of PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s four-day official visit to Russia and talks with President Vladimir Putin. Those agreements conflict with accords in force between the Palestinians and Israel on the same fields.
- Bombing attacks continue in Cairo
One person was wounded in a bomb blast near a police academy in Cairo early Saturday, the 3rd anniversary of the Tahrir Sq. revolution, after a string of bombing attacks killed 6 people and injured more than 60 in the Egyptian capital Friday.
Israel re-evaluates Syrian war neutrality over al Qaeda 30,000-strong buildup
25 Jan. In a special briefing to foreign correspondents Friday, Jan. 24, a high-ranking Israeli intelligence officer reported that Israel is rethinking its strategy of neutrality in the Syrian civil war following the buildup of more than 30,000 al Qaeda-linked fighters there. Many are massed closed to its borders and openly threaten to turn their sights on Israel after toppling Assad. debkafile: To fight this terrorist army, the IDF would have to study US combat tactics in Afghanistan, rewrite its war doctrine and build large commando units for protracted warfare. But Israel would have to decide if it was worth doing when its intervention would ease the pressure on the Assad regime and its Iranian and Hizballah allies.
January 26, 2014 Briefs
- Netanyahu believes Jewish settlers should stay in Palestinian state
An official in the Israeli prime minister’s office said Sunday Binyamin Netanyahu believes Jewish settlers should have the option of staying in a future Palestinian state. In Davos, he told the World Economic Forum Saturday that he did not intend to uproot any Israelis in a peace deal. The prime minister sees no reason why a Palestinian state should be “ethnically cleansed.”
- Four Egyptian soldiers killed in Sinai
Four Egyptian soldiers were killed and nine wounded in attacks in the restive Sinai Peninsula Sunday. Egyptian security officials said the assailants fired on a bus transporting soldiers as it drove near a military post in North Sinai which came under simultaneous rocket attack.
Secret Iranian team in Beirut to counter suicide attacks, upgrade HIzballah intelligence
26 Jan. debkafile Exclusive: Iran has undertaken to urgently rebuild Hizballah’s intelligence and security mechanisms following the ravages inflicted by suicide attacks on its strongholds in Beirut and the Beqaa valley since joining the Syrian war. A secret Iranian Al Qods-Ministry of Intelligence team assigned to the task arrived secretly in Beirut last week, after a top-level Iranian-Hizballah conference concluded that the Lebanese group’s security and intelligence can’t take much more battering without folding. The Iranians will also build Hizballah’s fighting units in Syria a new field intelligence arm.
January 27, 2014 Briefs
- US warns Erdogan against violating sanctions in Tehran visit
Monday, the day before Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Tehran, he was warned by David Cohen, Undersecretary for Terrorism of the US Treasury Department, that “Iran is not open for business. Sanctions remain in place and… businesses that are interested in engaging with Iran really should hold off.”
- US Senate panel approves Apaches sale to Iraq
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has approved the sale of 24 Apache helicopters to Iraq after receiving assurances from Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki that their use would be restricted to fighting al-Qaida terrorists and not crackdowns against the opposition.
- West Bank 2013 terror attacks more than double 2012 figure
The Shin Bet General Security Service report just released shows a rise in Palestinian terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria in 2013 – 1,271, compared with 578 in 2012. Six Israelis were killed on the West Bank as opposed to 10 fatalities from terrorist attacks in 2012 – all in Israel. Half were stabbed to death, two killed by snipers and one, the soldier Tomer Hazan, was kidnapped and strangled. Most attacks took place in the last quarter of 2013. Seventy percent of the 44 injuries were caused by lobbed rocks or fire bombs.
- Israeli Air Force resumes Lebanon over-flights
Lebanese sources report that Israeli Air Force jets are again carrying out low-flying surveillance missions over parts of Lebanon. The IDF has denied a Hizballah claim that an Israeli soldier was injured in an explosion near the Western border fence. No Israeli soldiers were hurt, said the IDF spokesman.
- US drone strikes kill terrorist leader in Somalia
At least five al-Shabaab fighters, including a senior commander, were killed in a drone strike in southern Somalia Sunday.
- UN Secretary leads International Holocaust Remembrance Day
Memorial services and ceremonies take place at the UN, led by the UN Secretary, in Britain, the EU and other parts of the world Monday, Jan. 27 for international Holocaust Remembrance Day on the anniversary of the 1945 liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau by Soviet forces.
Fifty-four Israel Knesset Members lawmakers head to Poland Monday for the joint Israeli-Polish ceremony at Auschwitz-Birkenau, to be joined by 24 survivors and lawmakers from France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Romania, Spain, Poland and the UK. The US delegation was led by House of Representatives Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia), who was joined by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California) and Patrick McHenry (R-North Carolina). Canadian Minister for Multiculturalism Jason Kenney also attended.
El-Sisi as president takes on four major security challenges
27 Jan. Egypt’s Defense Minister and strongman Gen. Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi Monday, Jan. 27, promoted himself to field marshal and resigned as defense minister, before announcing his run for the presidency in a still unscheduled vote before parliamentary elections. The new constitution substantially reduced presidential powers by removing the army from executive jurisdiction. However, El-Sisi made his choice because the standing of head of state is unmatched at home and in foreign relations. As president, he must shoulder four huge security tasks: Eradicating Muslim Brotherhood influence, subduing Sinai-based terror, dealing with Hamas-ruled Gaza as a subversive force and resolving the Nile water disputge.
January 28, 2014 Briefs
- Abbas aide Jibril Rajoub on official visit to Tehran
Arriving in Tehran Monday night, Jibril Rajib, prominent Fatah official and aide to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, was received at the Iranian Foreign Ministry, where they discussed a range of Middle East topics “especially regarding the Palestinian issue.” This is the first time in many years that an associate of Palestinian Authority official from Ramallah has been received in Tehran.
- Gunmen kill high Egyptian senior official on day of Morsi trial
Gunmen on a motorbike shot dead Gen. Mohamed Saeed, a senior aide to the Interior Minister just as former President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood arrived in the capital to stand trial on the charge of breaking out of jail in 2011 at the peak of the anti-Mubarak revolution. Morsi faces four separate criminal trials.
US and Israeli buffer zones under Syrian rebel control designed to contain al Qaeda advances
28 Jan. The Obama administration announced Tuesday, Jan. 28, the supply to selected Syrian rebel militias of American light weapons including anti-tank – but not anti-air – rockets. And Friday, Jan. 24, an IDF intelligence officer revealed Israel was “rethinking” its Syria neutrality policy, in view of the 30,000 al Qaeda fighters massed on its Syrian border. debkafile: These disclosures amount to a shift in US and Israeli non-intervention policies in Syria. It leads to a plan for two security buffers in southern Syria to block Al Qaeda’s path to the Israel and Jordanian borders. As part of this US plan, the two zones will eventually merge to form a safe haven for the Syrian opposition under US, Israeli and Jordanian protection.
January 29, 2014 Briefs
- Palestinian gunman killed shooting up Israeli road traffic
A Palestinian gunman’s shooting spree against Israeli cars on the 465 highway outside Atarot, northwest of Ramallah, was cut short Wednesday. An Israeli force arriving on the scene shot the gunman dead before anyone was hurt on the road.
- Obama would veto new congressional sanctions bill on Iran
US President Barack Obama warned early Wednesday that he would veto any new sanctions bill passed by Congress against Iran. International negotiations on preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon “will be difficult and they may not succeed,” he said in his State of Union Address early Wednesday. But “For the sake of our national security, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed.”
Minister apologizes for criticizing Netanyahu on settlement issue
29 Jan. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reasserted his authority by forcing pro-settlement Jewish Home party leader and Minister of Industry and Trade Naftali Bennett to apologize Wednesday, Jan. 29, for offending him, under threat of dismissal. But Bennett did not back down. In another setback to Netanyahu’s credibility, US Ambassador Dan Shapiro denied that the framework document Secretary John Kerry was about to present was an “American document” as Netanyahu claimed, stressing that it reflected Israeli-Palestinian points of agreement. This was followed by the Military Intelligence chief’s revelation of “170,000 rockets threatening Israel” opening the prime minister to being asked why Israel never intervened to stop this accumulation.
According to debkafile’s sources, the prime minister faces a rising tide of criticism within his government and party when word gets out that he is willing to give up Arab suburbs of Jerusalem to a Palestinian state.
January 30, 2014 Briefs
- The Geneva-2 conference on Syria breaks up
The conference called for a political solution of the Syrian conflict wound up Thursday without results. The warring Syrian government and opposition delegations agreed to observe one minute’s silence together in honor of the war dead of both sides, but nothing else. They went their separate ways without a date for another the conference.
- Saudi Arabia grants Egypt another $5.8 bn in aid
The new $5.8 bn grant was extended by Riyadh Thursday, on top of the $14 already transferred to Cairo, to stabilize the Egyptian economy and bolster Gen. Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s run for president. Part of the grant will be transferred in cash to Egypt’s central bank and part in oil products to cover a shortage.