A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending July 14, 2005:

debkafile Exclusive: Assad threw a gala banquet for Palestinian terrorist leaders after London bombing


8 July: Thursday night, July 7, as London was beginning to digest it had been subjected to a quadruple terror attack, Syrian president Hafez Assad entertained a group of hard-line Palestinian terrorist leaders at a banquet in Damascus.

Although he claims to be a close friend of Britain, it did not cross his mind to call off the occasion or remove from its guest list the heads of organizations which Britain as well as the United States have listed as proscribed terrorist groups.

Present were the notorious Hamas leaders Khaled Mashal and Abu Marzouk, Jihad Islami chief Ramadan Shalah, Ahmed Jibril,of the PFLP-General Command, Maher al Tarah of the Population Front and their senior operations officers.

They had just spurned an appeal from Mahmoud Abbas, who was also there, to join his government and hold their fire for Israel’s pull-back from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank. They were willing to promise just the reverse, to escalate their attacks on Israel.

Friday morning, July 8, Abbas left Damascus for Beirut for another impossible mission, to persuade the Palestinian militias in Lebanon to disarm. Abu Mazen is under heavy pressure from the Bush administration to prove himself leader of all Palestinians like Yasser Arafat. He will be meeting Lebanese leaders to coordinate steps for the Palestinian militias, especially in the Ain Hilwa camp near Sidon, to surrender their weapons. At least 5,000 Palestinians there are thought to bear arms. But according to debkafile‘s Palestinian sources, Abbas has as little hope of getting the Lebanese Palestinians to disarm as he has the terrorists in the areas directly governed by the Palestinian Authority.


debkafile Exclusive: Al Qaeda gets its bombs in Serbia


8 July: Belgrade is where al Qaeda goes shopping for the explosives and arms for its terror attacks, according debkafile‘s exclusive intelligence and counter-terror sources. Thursday, July 7, eight hours after four coordinated blasts hit London transport and killed at least 50 people, British terror experts were on a special flight from London to the Serbian capital.

They were carrying samples of the explosives collected from the four crime scenes to probe their origin and find out how the substance was smuggled into the UK. According to our sources, several large illicit weapons traffickers set up business in Belgrade a year ago. Al Qaeda is one of their biggest customers. The Americans discovered this from examinations of explosives and weapons seized from terrorists in Iraq and Israeli probes of the origin of weapons seized from smugglers crossing through the southern Negev on their way from Egyptian Sinai to Jordan and thence to Iraq.

The Serbian government has not responded to appeals from Washington to shut down this arms racket.


British and al Qaeda in Hush Mode


8 July: Forty-eight hours after al Qaeda’s bombing attacks on London transport, only two unauthenticated claim of responsibility have come from al Qaeda, the latest Saturday, July 9. Their secret internal communications networks are silent. The British authorities are likewise being frugal with information in order to keep the most extensive forensic investigation they have ever undertaken as dark as possible.

debkafile‘s intelligence and counter-terror sources say the silence of al Qaeda’s internal communications is unusual. Even in cases when al Qaeda was not directly responsible, its Web sites usually kept the mujaheddin abreast on “the warfronts against the infidels.” This ominous hush has raised the fears of British security officials that the terrorists are keeping their heads down for follow-up operations in London or other parts of the United Kingdom. They are therefore holding tight to any information they may have garnered.

The head of the British anti-terrorist branch Andy Hayman revealed only that the devices used in the four blasts were a relatively small 4.5 kilos of high explosives in bags. Other details of the probe, including the names of the dead and missing – or even their numbers, are withheld. This has left hundreds of anguished relatives hunting for information. Our experts explain that many of the missing people belong to Muslim families. It is possible that, without their families’ knowledge, the perpetrators or their accomplices may be among them. In the war of intelligence now at its peak, the investigators will not give out the extent of their knowledge to the enemy.

The British anti-terror branch has turned for collaboration to foreign agencies in the United States, Europe, the Middle East and South Asia. A Spanish team is due in London with expertise gained from last year’s Madrid bombings. Israel offered to share its specialized knowledge immediately after the attack.


Gush Katif set to refuse special passes, first scuffles at new checkpoints


13 July: The anti-evacuation protest was fueled by the prime minister Ariel Sharon’s unexpected order to seal the Gaza Strip’s Israeli communities Wednesday, July 13. The order, issued one day after a Palestinian bomber claimed the lives of four Israeli women in Netanya, will stay in force until pull-out day August 17.

The special checkpoints thrown up around the three crossings – Erez, Kissufim and Sufa – saw the first scuffles as dozens of visitors to Gush Katif were turned away after waiting in the summer heat. Kfar Darom leader Avner Shimoni said his community would collectively refuse residents’ free passes from the military. “We will enter our own towns like any normal citizens,” he said.

debkafile‘s military sources reported: Troops of the 7th Brigade and 36th Division together with police forces were deployed from Kissufim in the north to the Sufa terminal in the south, as well as manning the new checkpoints. They are ordered to keep the anti-disengagement protesters planning a mass march on July 18 out of the territory. Vehicles are now checked at the crossings and Israeli entrants required to display proof of residence in the Gaza Strip.

However, Yesha chairman Bentzy Lieberman vowed the anti-evacuation march to support the Gaza Strip communities would nevertheless take place next Monday, July 18, as planned – regardless of the closure. He promised tens of thousands would rally to the protest.

Fifteen troops of one the units deployed Wednesday, the Israeli combat Givati Brigade, refused the order to enforce the blockade of the Gaza Strip. Five were sentenced to 21 days in jail. An IDF paratroop exercise was cancelled Wednesday when some commandos jumped waving orange streamers to betoken their opposition to pull-back operation.


Israel and Abbas Are Powerless to Reach the Netanya Bombing Masterminds


14 July: Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon ordered the Israeli army to catch the men who engineered the suicide bombing Tuesday, July 12 which killed five Israeli shoppers in Netanya. The order was followed by a statement by chief of staff Lt. Gen Dan Halutz that Israel knows the identities of the terrorist masterminds who sent the suicide bomber from Atil in the Tulkarm district. When asked if the military operation in Tulkarm following the bombing had netted any of the planners, bomb-makers or their accomplices, the general replied in the negative. No one asked him why not.

As he spoke, debkafile‘s exclusive Palestinian sources report that Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas had three of his security chiefs on the carpet, Tawfiq Tirawi, who was Arafat’s chief of general security on the West Bank and his top axe-man, Ziyad Ariah, head of the West Bank Preventive Security Service, and Bashir Nafa, commander of Special Palestinian Forces. He ordered them to detain and bring before him the senior perpetrators of the Netanya bombing. The officers nodded and after they left the room exchanged shrugs.

Clearly, the Palestinian leader, like the Israeli chief of staff, knows the identities of the hidden hands behind the Netanya attack. So why does no one bring them in?

There are two reasons.

1. No Palestinian security officer will lay hands on terrorists. They would rather disobey Abu Mazen.

2. debkafile‘s intelligence sources reveal that, straight after being called to account by Abbas, the three Palestinian officers sent messages to Israel saying: We will not lift a finger against Jihad Islami members, but we can pass on to you – or Abu Mazen – our information on the identities and moving hiding places of the Netanya bombing masterminds.

Israel has not taken the offer up.

One reason is that it comes from Tirawi who is the last Palestinian Israel can trust. Any information he obtains from Israel he will be sure to use to tip off the Hamas and Jihad Islami to keep their operatives out of harm’s way, while the intelligence he provides may well lead Israeli forces into a trap.

Abu Mazen therefore goes to the Gaza Strip Thursday, July 14, empty-handed for another hopeless mission.

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