The Russian energy giant Gazprom to acquire a military arm
July 6: A majority of 341 deputies in the Russian parliament passed a bill Friday authorizing the company to establish an autonomous military force to guard Gazprom’s oil and gas fields and pipeline network.
debkafile adds: President Vladimir Putin, who uses the company as a key tool of Moscow’s foreign and defense policies, will thus command the services of a private army after he retires as president in March 2008.
The company’s profit almost tripled last year. Net income in 2006 advanced to $1.3 billion from $457 million a year earlier.
Last Israeli troops pulling out of Gaza Friday brought with them seven missile launchers
July 6: Some of the launchers were found with timers and one complete with a Qassem missile ready for firing into Israel. In Israel’s two-day air and ground operation, to curb Palestinian missile attacks, 11 armed Palestinians were killed, several injured and 109 were detained for questioning. Two Israeli soldiers suffered minor-to-moderate injuries from Palestinian fire. The dead terrorists belonged to Hamas and Jihad Islami. Helicopters struck two missile teams, after being guided to target from the ground. The Israeli incursion up to the outskirts of the central Gazan al Bureij and al Maghazi camps was 1-1.5 km deep.
Twenty British lawmakers want to engage Hamas after its help in freeing BBC reporter Alan Johnston in Gaza
7 July: They include MPs from all three parties including Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond. Their petition said Hamas because of its pivotal role in ending the kidnap should join Palestinian reconciliation efforts. The motion was tabled by the ruling Labor’s Richard Burton. Hamas is boycotted by western powers as an extremist terrorist group dedicated to destroying Israel by violence. The Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit whom Hamas-led raiders kidnapped a year ago is still in captivity.
Israel’s Security Chiefs Accuse Olmert of Jeopardizing Prisoner Release
8 July: The quarrel between Israeli prime minister and the Shin Bet domestic security agency burst into the open in the wake of a report in a Palestinian publication that an Israeli official is in direct negotiation with Hamas for the release of Cpl Gilead Shalit, kidnapped a year ago in a raid from Gaza.
debkafile‘s security sources say Shin Bet chiefs accuse the prime minister of causing irreparable damage to the abducted Israeli soldiers’ prospects of freedom by raising the exchange ratio to a level which is unsustainable without compromising national security. Too many high value terrorists serving long stretches for mass murder are on offer to Mahmoud Abbas, who does not even hold any Israeli prisoners.
America’s Exit from Iraq Is Taken for Granted in the Middle East
9 July: Since April 2007, George W. Bush has had on his desk an exit plan from Iraq, built around the phased pull-back by early 2008 of a little more than half of the 170,000 or so troops there at present. Around 50-70,000 soldiers are to be redeployed to huge strategic fortified enclaves in the south and the north as a semi-permanent US presence. They will be backed by four naval and aerial strike groups in the Persian Gulf and Red Sea and a chain of giant air bases outside Iraq.
The military sources of debkafile and DEBKA-Net-Weekly have been tracking the evolution of this White House master plan since April 27.
It is already apparent that the US army’s main enemy after withdrawalwill be al Qaeda, as it is today.
From the end of 2005, Iraq has veered towards partition between an independent Kurdish state in the north and one, or even two, independent Shiite entities south of Baghdad.
The American campaign today focuses on rooting jihadist terrorists out of Baghdad, Baqouba, Ramadi and Falluja in order to determine the identity and character of the third segment, an independent Sunni Muslim independent enclave in central Iraq.
debkafile‘s Washington sources report that on three points the Bush administration has not yet made final decisions:
1. Whether to launch a military operation against Iran.
2. How to respond to an Iranian pre-emptive attack on US Middle East interests.
3. The exit dates for US forces from Iraq.
debkafile reports Syria calls on citizens to leave Lebanon ahead of a military “eruption” expected
9 July: Damascus is also moving home Syrian students at Lebanese universities due to “unstable conditions.”
Our Washington sources also connect the cancellation of defense secretary Robert M. Gates four-tour national Latin American tour this week to deteriorarting security situation in the Middle East and Gulf.
DEBKAfile discloses that Iran, Syria Hizballah are stoking up a major conflagration in Lebanon to forestall the expected Security Council reprimand at its July 16 session for non-implementation of Resolution 1701. A UN report confirmed their arms smuggling to Hizballah.
Word has reached Riyadh from Damascus indicating that president Bashar Assad plans to use the showdown in Lebanon to ignite war clashes in all of Lebanon and against Israel on two fronts, the Golan and the Gaza Strip.
Abbas Double Deals on Two Tracks – Overtly with West, Covertly with Hamas
9 July: debkafile‘s Iran sources reveal that Fatah and Hamas representatives have launched secret talks in Stockholm to patch up their quarrel under the guiding hands of the Iranian and Saudi ambassadors.
With war clouds hanging over the region this summer, Tehran informed Hamas leaders that Palestinian unity is essential to the Iranian-Syrian-Hizballah bloc as a strategic asset in its coming conflict with the US and Israel.
The same advice came from UAE president Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan to visiting Mahmoud Abbas when they met Sunday.
debkafile‘s Palestinian sources note that Abbas’ approval of the Stockholm track does not interfere with his appeals to the US and Israel to prop up his West Bank government and persevere in their economic and diplomatic boycott of Hamas.
In New videotape Al Qaeda’s No. 2 issues dire threats against UK and Lebanese government heads
10 July: Ayman Zawahiri’s tirade catches Britain in a highly edgy state after three attempted terrorist attacks, and Lebanon in the grip of a Damascus-backed al Qaeda linked offensive.
He says “a very precise response is in preparation” to the Salman Rushdie knighthood. Turning to British PM Gordon Brown, he says: “The policy of your predecessor has brought tragedy and defeat upon you, not only in Afghanistan and Iraq but also in the center of London.”
He then calls on all Muslims in the Lebanon to rebel against the forces which oppose Islam and have encircled them, and threatens: “Those who conspire against jihad and the mujahideen in Lebanon through American weapons, Zionist corruption, and Saudi money must start to dig their graves with their own hands.”
debkafile‘s Middle East sources say the reference to Lebanon is the key passage of the tape. It is a reply to a message dated June 30 to al Qaeda leaders which the Fatah al-Islam group fighting Lebanese troops in the northern Nahr al-Bared camp relayed through Al Qaeda in Iraq and signed by “Syrian bin Laden” and “Abu Dujana al Shami.”
Shin Bet can’t recommend more than 120 Fatah prisoners for release
10 July: This is the domestic security agency’s rejoinderin its dispute with the prime minister over prisoner swaps for kidnapped Israeli soldiers. The Shin Bet reports that any number of Fatah convicts above 120 would set free hardened terrorist murderers dedicated to returning to killing Israelis. Their original list of 250 which Olmert rejected was therefore eked out with prisoners approaching the end of their jail time.
Hizballah Acquires Missiles for Downing Israeli Warplanes One Year after Lebanon War
12 June: One year after the Lebanon war, debkafile‘s military sources report Hizballah has 50% more rockets now than before, supplied by Syria and Iran, 18,000 in all.
Its long-range rockets are stored out of sight on the Syrian side of the border; the short-range rocket unit is stationed near Tyre in the South within striking distance of northern Israeli towns. The Shiite terrorists are back in the South, albeit well hidden in the Shiite villages.
Hizballah has tripled its shore-to-sea C-802 missiles and doubled its stock of anti-tank missiles, including “Third Generation” missiles bought in Russia with Iranian funding.
Hizballah has established its first air defense unit armed with ground-to-air shoulder-borne Strela-7 missiles and the mobile Iranian-made Rapier 2s.
Last year, Hizballah fielded 1,600 well-trained commandos, the backbone of its fighting force, and lost 750 in combat with the Israeli army. Since then, 1,200 fresh fighters have been recruited for training in Iran. By the end of the year, Hizballah will have 2,000 elite troops, 400-500 more than at the outset of the last war. The militia’s total fighting manpower today is between 15,000 and 16,000. Its new war chief is the veteran Hizballah super-terrorist and kidnapper, Imad Mughniyeh.
Hajj Khalil Harb commands Unit No. 1800, which kidnapped the two Israeli soldiers and is responsible for special operations in Israel, the Palestinian territories and Iraq.
The Muslim authorities are again digging illegally on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount with tractors
11 July: An inspection carried out by Israel’s Antiquities Authority on July 9 discovered a 1.5 m deep trench dug near the Dome of the Rock into the original landfill of the Jewish Second Temple. Broken remains of an ancient wall possibly dating to the First Temple are visible. Heavy earthmoving equipment is barred by Israeli law at the shrine. Yet the excavation is being carried out to install new cable lines without regard to damage to Jewish relics and artifacts under the surface of the present-day plaza and mosques. A report on the damage was filed after the site’s inspection by Gideon Harlap, Antiquities Authority trustee.
An Israel soldier was killed, two others injured, during Givati counter-terror operation in the Bureij camp of Gaza Strip
12 July: debkafile‘s military sources report that for the first time in the two years since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip, an Israeli force on a counter-terror mission was hit by a Hamas-Jihad Islami ambush using the tactics employed by Hizballah on Day One of the Lebanon War, July 12, 2006.
Then, a tank giving chase for the kidnappers of Udi Goldwasser and Eldad Regev was ambushed and blown up. Four soldiers were killed. Now, early Thursday, July 12, 2007, a Givati unit of 10 tanks and a bulldozer ran into a bomb trap on its way to the central Gazan al Bureij camp for an anti-terror operation. A tank and an armor-plated bulldozer were blown up killing one Israeli soldier and injuring two.
The Israeli advance was brought to a stop and a second Givati unit crossed into Gaza to continue the interrupted operation.