A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending July 11, 2013
July 5, 2013 Briefs
- Top US soldier speaks with Egyptian, Israeli counterparts
Gen. Marin Dempsey spoke with Egyptian chief of staff Lt. Gen. Sedkil Sohbi and also twice with Israel’s chief of staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz about the situation in Egypt and Sinai. No details were provided about their conversations.
- Egypt’s top soldier briefs Saudi king on Cairo takeover
Defense Minister Gen. Abdel Fattah El-Sisi called Saud King Abdullah with an update on the situation in Cairo. The Saudi monarch was the first Middle East ruler to congratulate Egypt on its changeover of power. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan condemned it as a dangerous step.
- Egypt’s provisional president dissolves upper house
Judge Adli Mansour, Egypt’s provisional president acted Friday, the day after his swearing in, to dissolve the upper house of parliament in which the ousted Muslim Brotherhood was the largest party, in preparation for elections.
- Gen. El-Sisi sacks Intelligence chief
After firing Gen. Rifat Shahtaeh as chief of intelligence, Egypt’s defense minister Friday appointed Gen. Muhammed Tohami in his place. debkafile: Gen. Shahtaeh was a Morsi appointee, whereas the minister preferred someone he trusted in this sensitive post.
- Crude spikes towards $107 on Suez emergency
Brent crude for August delivery rose to $106.55 Friday after Egypt’s army declared a state of emergency in the provinces of Suez and South Sinai, following multiple Islamist attacks on the Sinai airport of El Arish and other parts of the peninsula. So far Suez ports and shipping have not been affected.
- Two Egyptian officers die in ongoing battles with Sinai Islamists
Two Egyptian officers were killed Friday night defending government house in El Arish at the end of a day of battles between Egyptian forces and Salafist gunmen. The gunmen continued to shoot up military positions and vehicles in various parts of the northern Sinai town. From early morning, armed Salafists staged attacks on Egyptian security forces in Sinai, causing a number of casualties.
They fired rocket-propelled grenades at army checkpoints guarding El Arish airport near the Gaza Strip and Israeli border. Another attack targeted a police station in Rafah south of Gaza, close to the local headquarters of Egyptian military intelligence. debkafile: The Egyptian army has imposed a blackout on the attacks. They are believed to have been more extensive than reported and entailed substantial casualties.
Obama interrupts July 4th holiday to confer on Egyptian crisis
5 July. President Barack Obama spent part of the holiday meeting members of his national security team at the White House Situation Room Thursday, the day after the Egyptian military deposed President Mohammed Morsi. His aids were in touch with Egyptian officials and regional partners: US Secretary of State John Kerry called Israeli and Turkish prime ministers and Qatari and Emirati foreign ministers. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke with Egyptian army chief El-Sisi and Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, and National Security Adviser Susan Rice with Israeli National Security Advisor Amidror.
They echoed Obama’s earlier call for a transparent political process and a return to democratic government that is inclusive of all parties and groups.
High Egyptian, Israeli military alerts for Islamist threat from Sinai
5 July. Egyptian and Israeli forces raised their alert levels Friday, July 5, after the Muslim Brotherhood declared a revolt against the army for ousting Mohamed Morsi on July 3. A “War Council” established in Sinai formed a coalition with Hamas, Jihad Islami and al-Qaeda-linked Salafists, following which gunmen mounted a multiple attack in northern Sinai killing two Egyptian officers. The army posted Patriot anti-missile batteries and anti-air weapons systems to protect Suez Canal shipping from Sinai rocket fire. The Sinai border crossings to the Gaza Strip and Israel were closed as an Egyptian officer warned that an “Islamic caliphate” would be forcibly prevented from rising in Sinai.
July 6, 2013 Briefs
- Coptic priest murdered in Sinai by Islamists
The Coptic priest Mina Aboud Sharween was attacked Saturday by Islamist gunmen in the northern Sinai town of El Arish shortly after the Muslim Brotherhood declared Sinai its center of revolt. The Brotherhood criticized Pope Tawardros, leader of Egypt’s 8 million Copts for giving his blessing for Morsi’s removal by the military.
- Mysterious blasts hit Syrian army arms store in Latakia
A series of explosions Friday blew up the local Syrian army unit’s weapons and ammo store in Latakia. Since the rebels have no presence in this Alawite stronghold town, military sources believe the explosions, which were precisely targeted, were caused by missiles fired from a distance, possibly from outside Syria.
July 7, 2013 Briefs
- Israeli Air Force F-16 crashes in sea opposite Gaza
As the Israeli Air Force F-16 “Storm” fighter-bomber, which took off from its base at Hatzerim Sunday, flew over the Mediterranean opposite the Gaza Strip, the pilot and navigator signaled the engine had died. They both ejected safely and were picked by an Israeli military helicopter. The F-16 crashed into the water. The AIF commander ordered all F-16 planes grounded for a full investigation.
- Abu Qatada deported from Britain for trial in Jordan
Radical cleric Abu Qatada has been deported from the UK to Jordan to stand trial on terrorism charges after the UK and Jordan signed a treaty that evidence obtained through torture would not be used against him. Abu Qatada, whose real name is Omar Mahmour Mohammed Othman, is wanted in Jordan for retrial in several terror cases in which he was sentenced in absentia. He managed to delay his deportation for eight years by legal maneuvers in the UK.
Obama frowns on Egyptian army’s coming crackdown, alignment with Gulf regimes
7 July. At least another six months are needed for the rewriting of a new Egyptian constitution, installing a working interim administration and setting up elections for the presidency and parliament. In that time, Egypt will be on a knife’s edge. debkafile: Therefore, Army chief, Gen. Abdel Fattah El-Sisi plans two steps to follow on last Wednesday’s military coup: The roundup of thousands of local Muslim Brotherhood operatives across the country, and a military crackdown on the Brotherhood’s center of revolt in Sinai, which is based on an alliance with al-Qaeda-linked Salafists and the use of weapons hoarded there in advance. Although he risks Washington’s censure, he is assured of Saudi and Gulf Arab approval. In seeking Israel’s consent for this crackdown under their peace treaty, Egypt’s military rulers would bring their collaboration with Israel out in the open.
Scores dead in Cairo shoot out with Muslim loyalists: Egyptian army defends Suez and oil facilities
8 July. Egyptian soldiers Monday, July 8, shot dead scores of Muslim Brotherhood supporters, injuring 322, at a sit-in outside the Republican Guards Club in Cairo. The army, which lost two officers and seven wounded soldiers, said “armed terrorists” tried to storm the compound to release deposed president Mohamed Morsi who is held there.
debkafile: Away from the Cairo limelight, the army prepares to secure the Sumed pipeline carrying Persian Gulf oil to the Mediterranean, and Suez Canal shipping, on intelligence of a Muslim Brotherhood clandestine unit conspiring with Sinai Salafists and Hamas to target them. This coalition also plans a major campaign of terror against Israel. Sunday, July 7, armed Salafists blew up the Egyptian gas pipeline to Jordan in northern Sinai. That night, the Israeli Counter-Terror Bureau strongly urged Israelis to avoid traveling to Sinai and travelers already there to leave at once amid a rising danger of attack and abduction.
July 9, 2013 Briefs
- Economist Hazem el-Beblawi named Egyptian prime minister
The Egyptian government spokesman announced Tuesday that the economist and former finance minister Hazem el-Beblawi, 77, was the new provisional prime minister, shortly after Saudi Arabia and the UAE transferred $5 billion in emergency aid to Egypt’s central bank. Mohamed ElBaradei was named vice president for foreign affairs.
- New Israeli ambassador to the US is Ron Dermer
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Tuesday appointed one of his senior advisers US-born Ron Dermer, 52, Israeli ambassador to Washington. He succeeds Ambassador Michael Oren who served in this post for four years. Dermer has served the prime minister on a number of top-secret missions the US administration. He moved to Israel in 1996 and is married with four children.
- Egypt’s Salafist Nur Party reaffirms support for military coup
The Islamist Salafist Nur Party Tuesday reaffirmed its endorsement of the Egyptian military coup against the Muslim Brotherhood after condemning the shooting of 53 Brotherhood supporters in Cairo Monday. debkafile: The support of the Salafist party is an important asset for Defense Minister Gen. Fattah al-Sisi’s next steps.
- At least 50 injured in car bombing at Hizballah’s Beirut HQ
The car bomb blew up at a Hizballah office building in the Sir al-Abd quarter adjoining a Shiite mosque and a technical school which were also hit.
- Israeli Muslims head for Jordan in peak Ramadan numbers
The Israeli-Jordanian Allenby Bridge border crossing will stay open around the clock on the first two days of Ramadan Tuesday and Wednesday to accommodate the peak number of 12,000 of Israeli Muslims heading for Mecca in the last 24 hours.
- Egyptian Army Sinai war command for El Arish
The Egyptian army was Tuesday pumping large military contingents into Sinai, debkafile’s military sources report. Maj. Gen Ahmed Wasfi, commander of the Second Army arrived in the northern Sinai town of El Arish and established a command center for a major campaign against Islamist opposition and terrorist networks.
Egypt’s army chief says no to dialogue. Assad nixes ceasefire
9 July. The holy Muslim month of Ramadan beginning in the Middle East Tuesday, July 9, heralds more, rather than, less bloodshed. After at least 53 deaths in a Cairo shootout Monday, Egypt’s military chief Gen. Abdel Fattah El-Sisi rebuffed US efforts for national dialogue and is preparing rapid action to meet the Muslim Brotherhood’s “intifada” in Egyptian towns and Sinai. Iran and Russia are rushing military supplies to Bashar Assad, who is pressing ahead with his projected Syrian-Hizballah battle for Aleppo after rejecting a Ramadan ceasefire.
July 10, 2013 Briefs
- Israel bolsters Golan border against new Hizballah presence
The IDF military spokesman Wednesday for the first time confirmed debkafile reports of a Hizballah military buildup on the Syrian Golan, disclosing that the Shiite group is gathering intelligence on Israel’s deployment. SinceHassan Nasrallah threatened to turn the Golan into a new front against Israel, “more [Israeli] companies have been sent up, and more tanks.”
- Egyptian prosecution orders 10 Brotherhood leaders detained
The ten Muslim Brotherhood leaders, including “General Guide” Mohammed Badie, under detention orders are accused of “inciting the violence” which led to a shootout and 53 deaths Monday morning in Cairo. Indictments were also filed against 200 Muslim Brotherhood loyalists who took part in the clash.
- Two Egyptians killed, 6 wounded in Salafist Sinai attack
The Islamists used rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine gunfire to attack an Egyptian security checkpoint and police station in northern Sinai early Wednesday. In the hills north of the Israeli town of Eilat across the border, Israeli troops found the remains of an Islamist rocket attack from last Thursday.
Saudis, UAE, Kuwait grant Egypt $13 bn in aid
10 July. In a dazzling display of monetary muscle, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates poured $8 billion in a single day into the coffers of Egypt’s army rulers in cash, grants, loans without interest and gifts of gas, a dizzying life-saving infusion into its tottering economy. Kuwait has pledged another $5 billion, rounding off the total to $13 billion – the next chapter in a development first revealed by debkafile last week of Saudi and UAE backing for the Egyptian military’s July 3 takeover of power from the Muslim Brotherhood.
July 11, 2013 Briefs
- Body of decapitated Christian merchant found in northern Sinai
Magdy Habashi, 60, was the second Christian murdered in northern Sinai in less than a week. Last Saturday, Islamists gunned down a Coptic Christian priest Mina Abboud Sharobeen.
- Dzhokhar Tsarnaev pleads not guilty to Boston bombing
At his first public court appearance Wednesday, he pleaded “not guilty” in a federal courtroom to 30 potential capital murder charges, including using a weapon of mass destruction.
- Saudi missile base “targets Iran and Israel” – report
Images analyzed by experts at IHS Jane's Intelligence Review revealed a nuclear-capable, surface-to-surface missile base deep in the Saudi desert. The photos revealed two launch pads with markings pointing north-west towards Tel Aviv and north-east towards Tehran.debkafile ran this story on July 4, 2012 as part of a disclosure about a deal between Riyadh and Beijing for the sale of Dong-Feng 21 ballistic missiles (NATO codename CSS-5) to Saudi Arabia. When asked where Riyadh would find nuclear warheads, a Saudi official said: “We can get them at any moment.”
- Obama orders review of U.S. aid to Egypt
Shortly after US officials said on Wednesday, that the United States will go through with the delivery of four F-16 fighter jets to Egypt in the coming weeks, President Barack Obama ordered a review of US assistance to Egypt.
Israeli green light for Egyptian Sinai offensive, after Islamists fail to assassinate Egyptian general
11 July. Israel Thursday July 11 approved a major Egyptian offensive for curbing the mounting Islamist terrorist aggression in Sinai, the day after the commander of the offensive, Egypt’s Second Army chief, Maj.-Gen. Ahmad Wasfi – who took part in the July 3 coup in Cairo – escaped unhurt from an assassination attempt near El Arish. This was the first attempt by radical Islamists on the life of a high-ranking Egyptian general. Their prior knowledge of military convoy’s movements raised concerns that they had penetrated Egypt’s military apparatus in Sinai.
On the other side of the Sinai border, Israeli Defense Forces are heavily deployed along the Sinai and Gaza border fences and in the southernmost sector of Eilat on intelligence that the armed Islamists plan to retaliate for an Egyptian assault by attacking Israel.