A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending January 19, 2006

Combined al Qaeda-Palestinian strike against Israeli power station plotted from Lebanon and Gaza


13 January: Friday, Jan. 13, Lebanon charged 13 al Qaeda members with plotting terrorist attacks – without disclosing where. The 7 Syrians, 3 Lebanese, 1, Saudi, 1 Jordanian and 1 Palestinian will be brought before a Lebanese military court.

debkafile adds: Since its Dec. 27 Katyusha rocket barrage on northern Israel, al Qaeda has been actively preparing further attacks. This week, the Lebanese authorities disclosed the capture in Tripoli harbor Sunday, Jan. 8, four Palestinian al Qaeda members aboard a boat loaded with explosives, recoilless rocket grenades and other weapons setting out to strike a strategic target on the Israeli coast.

Lebanese investigators, according to our sources, discovered a conspiracy for a dual strike to emanate for the first time from two places. The seaborne team from Lebanon planned to strike Israel’s big Eshkol power station in Ashkelon from the water, while the Gaza attackers would have again aimed for the plant with Qassam missiles.


Hadassah is preparing to move prime minister Ariel Sharon still in deep coma to long-term hospitalization facility


14 January: The hospital has cut down its bulletins on the prime minister’s medical condition to terse “critical but stable” reports. Even after the reduction of sedation, he shows no sign of rousing from his deep coma. The specialists of the neurological department’s intensive care unit report they have completed his treatment and done all they can to contribute to his recovery from the massive stroke he suffered on Jan. 4. Some suggest recovery would be a miracle. For as long as he remains in a coma, the hospital has other departments for patients requiring long-term care. In one, a commodious suite is being prepared to accommodate the prime minister. A small space will be made available for his security guards.

debkafile adds: The change in the prime minister’s hospital arrangements and reduction of the security detail attending him enable the attorney general to advise the government that Ariel Sharon is incapacitated and therefore incapable of taking up his duties at this time. This opens the way to formally transferring his functions to acting PM Ehud Olmert..


Bush and Sharon Agreed to Let Hamas Win


15 January: There is an innate contradiction between Hamas running for election in the Palestinian legislative council everywhere but Jerusalem, and Israeli permission for Palestinians to cast their ballots in Jerusalem – excluding Hamas.

debkafile‘s political sources reveal that Olmert in fact picked up and ran with the last significant policy line Ariel Sharon laid down before he was struck by a massive stroke on Jan. 4. It evolved through secret diplomacy in full accord with the Bush administration. Washington and Jerusalem could have scuppered Hamas’ prospects of winning the Palestinian election by bowing to Abu Mazen’s fervent wish to postpone the ballot as demanded by his own Fatah.

Because they decided against this, the Palestinian Authority stands to become the first national entity in the Middle East to be dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is the Palestinian branch.

Its dominance will extend beyond civilian government and the legislature. Desertions from the Palestinian security forces at Abu Mazen’s disposal to Hamas are now estimated at 65%. Hamas already controls the only coherent Palestinian military force organized in military units with command structures.

So when Hamas comes to power in less than two weeks, the Israeli armed forces will have to contend with the largest combat-terrorist structure in the Middle East operating under a Palestinian “party” that was democratically elected with the unacknowledged endorsement of Washington and Jerusalem.

This powerful Palestinian fighting machine takes its place between the al Qaeda and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s networks planted in the Gaza Strip on Israel’s southwestern border and in Lebanon to the north.


Hebron is declared a closed military zone


16 January: Monday, Maj-Gen Yair Naveh, OC central command, signed the Hebron directive with orders to evacuate out-of-town demonstrators and detain masked demonstrators and stone-throwers on the spot.

Interim prime minister Ehud Olmert accused the protesters of extreme violence and instructed the police to take aggressive action to subdue them.

debkafile adds: The hundreds of protesters, some masked, include teenagers attracted to the forefront of any extreme action against government attempts to remove Israelis from the West Bank. With them is a large group of angry youngsters whose families were forcibly evicted from Gush Katif in the Gaza Strip last September and have vowed to fight against the recurrence of such action. More than a thousand of these teenagers are homeless, on the loose and in a state of extreme social alienation. There have been cases of attempted suicide, drug abuse and alcoholism. The eight Hebron families marked for eviction say they are living on former Jewish properties which they acquired legally and are willing to come to terms with the Palestinians who moved into the market. After listening to the arguments of one of these families which lives in three former shops, the Kfar Saba magistrate handed down a temporary injunction barring their eviction.


Egypt and Saudi Arabia ask Washington not to refer the Iranian nuclear question to the UN Security Council


17 January: The request was put before the US vice president Dick Cheney in talks he held with president Hosni Mubarak in Cairo Monday, Jan. 17. Cheney’s response was not disclosed. Earlier, Russian FM Sergei Lavrov reported Moscow’s oppositions to sanctions against Iran. debkafile adds: Moscow is muscle-flexing ahead of EU-Russian negotiations due to take place with Iran over a formula for Iranian nuclear enrichment in Russia, mediated by Chancellor Angela Merkel and accepted for study by Tehran. The Kremlin is saying the threat of UN sanctions is counter-productive if the next round of diplomacy is to succeed.

debkafile‘s nuclear experts add: As the prospect of sanctions recedes, Tehran is winning extra time to push ahead with its nuclear bomb program.


IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen Dan Halutz says Israel’s strategic situation has never been better


17 January: Iran’s potential acquisition of nuclear weapons will pose an existential threat to Israel, said Israel’s top soldier in a lecture at Haifa University Monday, Jan. 17. At the same time, he said he was extremely satisfied with the present national security situation.

debkafile‘s strategic experts note that Israel faces two strategic menaces even more immediate than the Iranian bomb.

1. The certain Hamas election win in the Jan 25 Palestinian general election potentially imperils Israel’s existence because will place Israel in the path of armed onslaught by its bellicose parent, the Muslim Brotherhood.

2. Al Qaeda has marked Israel down as a main target. The acuteness of this danger may be measured by two yardsticks:

First, by the impact of a mega-attack on the scale of the 9/11 assault on America. Israel lacks the geographical, economic and military resources of the United States, therefore a major al Qaeda assault which sent America reeling, might leave the Jewish state with a scant chance of survival.

Second, More than 150,000 American troops plus 50,000 allied soldiers are unable to vanquish al Qaeda in Iraq and are on the verge of retreat. The Palestinians see in Iraq an analogy for their own case, having convinced themselves that their terrorist campaign forced Israel’s pull-out frrom Gaza.


Interim PM Ehud Olmert orders a plan for evacuating unauthorized West Bank outposts


18 January: In a consultation with top security officials in Jerusalem, Wednesday, Jan. 18, he demanded the removal of eight Israeli families from the Hebron vegetable market within a week. debkafile: Olmert’s muscle-flexing against Judea-Samaria Jewish population and its supporters is the opening shot of his election campaign. Kadima has two months until the March 28 poll to seize the left-leaning center ground from Labor.

Olmert turned down army and police demands for reinforcements in the West Bank, advising them to apply resolve rather than depending on numbers and budgets. On her first day as foreign minister, Tzipi Livni spoke of a tussle in progress to determine the sovereign authority of Judea and Samaria. Chief of Staff Lt. Gen Dan Halutz declared the state was paying the price for its former indulgence and tolerance. There are people in Judea and Samaria, he said, who advocate liquidating the state of Israel and replacing it with the state of Judea.


Washington Punishes Mubarak who Snipes at… Israel


18 January: it is now admitted – at least by Washington – that none of the Egyptian “safeguards” for Gaza and the border held water. Terrorists troop back and forth through the Gazan-Egyptian border at will and lawless groups rule the roost in Gaza.

Disillusioned with the Egyptian performance, the Bush administration and secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, who brokered some of the Egyptian-Israel-Palestinian deals, have gone after the Mubarak government. They have left Israel and the dysfunctional security of its southwestern border hostage to their row with Cairo. Cairo is now considering pulling all its forces out of the flashpoint areas, accentuating the vacuum there, not because Israel complained about being cheated of security – it did not raise a murmur – but because Washington has decided to draw the line.

The Egyptian ruler is seen to have reneged on all its commitments to the United States. Instead of holding a free election, Mubarak violently repressed the opposition, failed to impose democratic reforms and preserved his corrupt regime. In particular, he victimized the liberal presidential candidate, Ayman Nour, trumping of forgery charges to throw him into prison. The White House has therefore set harsh economic penalties in motion.

1. A high-level Egyptian delegation due in Washington shortly to discuss a free trade agreement has been cancelled.

2. George W. Bush has moreover turned down Cairo’s request for hundreds of millions of dollars above its regular aid allocation to cover the cost of its security projects in the Gaza Strip.

It turns out therefore that, while only holding the threat of sanctions over the heads of Syria and Iran for their misdeeds, Washington has imposed de facto economic penalties on an Arab ally. Mubarak promptly hit back – not with a broadside against the US president but a sideswipe for Israel. Tuesday, Jan 17, he complained after meeting visiting US vice president Dick Cheney in Cairo that the West was turning a blind eye and deaf ear to Israel’s atomic program while making a fuss about Iran.

The Egyptian ruler aimed to put a spoke in the American wheel by diverting international pressure from Iran to Israel, hoping thereby to blunt the edge of the US-European effort to arrest Iran’s dash for a nuclear weapon at its most sensitive juncture.

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