A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending July 18, 2013

July 12, 2013 Briefs

  • US official: Israel Launched Airstrike in Syria
    Israeli warplanes conducted an airstrike on July 5 in the northern Syrian port city of Latakia, three U.S. officials told US media adding that they targeted Russian-made Yakhont anti-ship missiles. Israel has not commented.
  • Israeli Supreme Court: Amona settlers may stay on purchased land
    In a landmark ruling Friday, the Supreme Court accepted the state’s position against evacuating Jewish settlers who built homes on land they purchased privately from Palestinian owners in Judea and Samaria (West Bank). The court partially granted the petition filed by the Yesh Din organization against the court against the evacuation of Amona, but ruled that buildings on land that had not been legally purchased must be vacated by July 24.
  • Israel tests the propulsion system of long-range rocket
    The pre-planned test was carried out from the Palmachim army base in central Israel Friday.
    The defense ministry imposed a news blackout on further information including whether or not the test was successful.

Israel okays Egyptian Apache base in Sinai

12 July. Israeli military sources reported Friday, July 12, that an Egyptian Apache gunship flying over the Gaza Strip had strayed off-course. debkafile: The Egyptian helicopter was not off-course; its mission was to block the two-way, inter-terror traffic ongoing between Sinai and the Gaza Strip. The Apaches at the new Egyptian military helicopter base in El Arish enabled Egyptian forces Friday – for the first time – to strike Hamas targets in Gaza and also reach al Qaeda-affiliated Salafists in their Jabal Al-Halal mountain strongholds of central Sinai.

July 13, 2013 Briefs

  • Egyptian prosecution in spy probe against Morsi, MB leaders
    The deposed president and Muslim Brotherhood leaders are accused of espionage, mass incitement and wantonly sabotaging the national economy. Also under investigation is their suspected role, according to the prosecution, in the attack on the Egyptian border police post near Rafah in August 2012 in which 16 soldiers were killed. The prosecution claims it has incriminating video tapes of conversations in which Muslim Brotherhood leaders discussed the attack with armed groups in Sinai and the Gaza Strip.
  • Obama talks to Saudi King Abdullah. No agreement
    The White House reported that President Barack Obama discussed Friday the crises in Egypt and Syria with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.Their conversation ended with the US president and Saudi king at odds on both Syria and Egypt.

July 14, 2013 Briefs

  • Netanyahu injects new urgency in countering nuclear Iran
    Describing Iran’s new president Hassan Rouhani as “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” who would “smile and build a bomb,’ Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told CBS Sunday that Iran had not yet crossed the red line he laid out last September, but was nearing it. He said that, because Israel is closer and “more vulnerable,” it would “have to address this question of how to stop Iran, perhaps before the United States does.”
  • Property of 14 Muslim Brotherhood leaders confiscated
    Egyptian officials Sunday seized the assets of Muslim Brotherhood leaders, including deposed president Mohamed Morsi, Supreme Guide Mohammed Badie and the movement’s treasurer, the tycoon Khairat elShaiter.

US push against Egyptian, Israeli go-it-alone military actions

14 July. The Obama administration is exhibiting strong disapproval of Israel’s independent military action against Syria and of the Egyptian army’s steps against the Muslim Brotherhood. debkafile: Washington is also put out by the campaign the Egyptian army has launched, with Israel’s active support, to root out the Islamist Salafist and Hamas terror blighting the Sinai Peninsula. US warships and marines are deployed off Egypt’s Red sea coast to warn the Egyptian generals not to go too far and also, if necessary, to secure Suez Canal shipping and intervene in Sinai.

July 15, 2013 Briefs

  • Al Qaeda murders French hostage in Mali
    President Francois Hollande disclosed Monday that the body has been found of Phillipe Verdon, two years after he was kidnapped by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb from his hotel room while on business in northern Mali. AQIM reported in March that he had been put to death.
  • Israel’s top soldier: Iran is still after a nuclear bomb
    Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, IDF Chief of Staff said Monday that Iran is still driving for a nuclear capability. He admitted he was not happy about cutting down on combat personnel in the near term, but he had been forced to accept that resources are limited.

Many casualties in Egyptian army-Islamist Sinai hostilities

15 July. The last ten days have seen dozens killed and hundreds wounded in battles between Egyptian security forces and a coalition of increasingly aggressive Islamist Salafists and Palestinian Hamas and Jihad Islami fighters, debkafile reports. The Egyptian military has clamped a news blackout on the Sinai battlefield. One of four battlefronts is located on the Sinai-Gaza border where the Salafists are fighting to impede Egyptian military operations to block smuggling tunnels. A second is in El Arish; a third along the Egyptian-Israeli border and a fourth in Jebel Halal.

Tough talk between Egyptian Gen. El Sisi and US William Burns

15 July. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, the first senior US official to visit Cairo since the military coup, had a tough two-hour conversation with Defense minister Gen. Abdel Fattah El-Sisi Monday.
The general advised Washington to be more realistic about Egypt. Burns called for an Egypt that is "stable, democratic, inclusive and tolerant." El-Sisi replied that in ousting Morsi, the military had obeyed the authentic will of the Egyptian people. He implied bilateral military ties might suffer if the US suspended military aid to Egypt.

July 16, 2013 Briefs

  • A Jewish man seriously hurt in Palestinian knife attack
    The man, aged 30, is in serious condition from a knife attack by two Palestinians as he left the Old City of Jerusalem through Damascus Gate after praying at the Western Wall. He was stabbed six times in the chest and back. The police are hunting for his assailants.
  • Netanyahu blasts EU: First solve Syrian crisis and Iranian N-bomb
    Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu castigating the new EU guidelines barring ties with Israeli communities outside Green Line, advised the Europeans to better spend their energies on ending the Syrian war and stopping the Iranian nuclear bomb. “I will not let hundreds of thousands of Israelis living in Judea, Samaria, Golan and Jerusalem, our eternal capital, come to harm,” he said. Outsiders will not dictate our borders, only direct negotiations, he said.
  • New interim government sworn in in Cairo
    Interim President Adly Mansour swore in 35 ministers with three deputy prime ministers headed by PM Hazem Beblawi, in a quick ceremony Tuesday afternoon. Most cabinet members are technocrats and liberals.
  • Nineteen Grad missiles intercepted in Sinai on way to Cairo
    A consignment of 19 Grad missiles and a large quantity of explosives was intercepted on its way to being smuggled into Cairo.
  • Jerusalem police again close Temple Mt to Jewish visitors
    For the second day running, police Tuesday prevented hundreds of Jews from entering Temple Mount on Tisha Be’Av, the annual day of fast and mourning for the destruction of the Jewish Temples, while tens of thousands of Muslim Palestinians attended Ramadan prayers at al Aqsa.
  • David Cameron accused of betraying Syrian rebels
    "The West promises and promises. This is a joke now," General Salim Idris, the head of the Free Syrian Army, said Monday. "I have not had the opportunity to ask David Cameron personally if he will leave us alone to be killed. On behalf of all the Syrians, thank you very much." Gen. Idris said.

Yaalon denies Israel attacked Syria’s Latakia arms depot

16 July. Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon Tuesday, July 16, contradicted claims by US officials that Israeli air strikes were responsible for destroying Russian-made Yakhont SS-N-26 anti-ship missiles stored at outside the Syrian port town of Latakia on July 5. Israel consistently abstains from comments in such cases. This time, Yaalon appeared to be trying to block a US step for drawing Israel into the Syrian conflict.

July 17, 2013 Briefs

  • Hamas accused of sending rockets to MB in Cairo
    Gen. Osama Askar, commander of Egypt’s Second Army, posted to Sinai this week to curb Islamist terrorist operations, reported Wednesday that the 19 Grad rockets, intercepted Tuesday on their way to Cairo for the Muslim Brotherhood, came from Hamas military stores in the Gaza.
  • Aman chief takes off for working visit to Washington
    Maj. Gen. Avivi Kochavi, head of military intelligence (AMAN) flew to Washington Wednesday for working sessions with senior US military and intelligence officials.
  • Egypt’s strongman Gen. El-Sisi sworn in as deputy premier
    Defense Minister Gen. Abdel Fattah El-Sisi who led the coup against the Muslim Brotherhood was sworn in Wednesday as Deputy Prime Minister in defiance of US Dep Secy of State William Burns and EU executive Catherin Ashton, who came to Cairo to insist on the restoration of civilian rule without delay.
  • Al Qaeda confirms second-in-command in Arabia dead
    The AQAP confirmed Wednesday that Said al-Shehri died in a US drone strike in Yemen, but did not say when the strike occurred.
  • Israeli minister mobbed by Palestinians on Temple Mount
    Scores of Palestinians shouting Allah Akbar! mobbed and threatened Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin when he and a party paid a visit to Temple Mt. Wednesday morning. Elkin did not go there to pray but to commemorate a dead friend. All the same, he was forced to leave. He accused the Jerusalem police of falling down on their duty to protect visitors of all faiths to Temple Mt.
  • Palestinian attack Israeli force with gas grenades, rocks
    The attack took place Tuesday night outside Nebi Salah, a village near Ramallah on the West Bank, using gas grenades for the first time in years. No one was hurt.
  • About 5,000 Syrians die every month, refugee on Rwanda genocide scale
    UN asst secy-gen for human rights Ivan Simonovic warned the UN Security Council Tuesday that an estimated 5,000 Syrians are dying every month in the country’s civil war. Two-thirds of the nearly 1.8 million refugees have fled this year alone, an average of 6,000 a day. “We have not seen a refugee on this frightening scale since the 1994 Rwanda genocide.”

Obama uses EU to confront Israel with tough interlinked choices between borders and nuclear-armed Iran

17 July. President Barack Obama has set loose the Europeans in full cry against Jerusalem and its policies, by timing their new guidelines with John Kerry’s arrival in Amman. EU foreign affairs executive Catherine Ashton chairs the international negotiating forum with Iran. And so, the EU, with backing from Washington, gives Tehran a broad wink that that a fresh round of nuclear diplomacy is worth their while now that Israel is on the run in the settlements-cum-borders dispute and the third Netanyahu cabinet is in a weak state.
Painfully short of ministers dealing with foreign diplomacy and national security affairs, the prime minister is obliged to carry most of the burden himself. While juggling two threatened conflicts and the approach of a nuclear Iran, he is bound to drop a ball or two. The last ball to slip was the EU guideline which distinguishes between the state of Israel and territories outside the 1967 Green Line in awarding funds and grants. Netanyahu blasted the new guideline as unwarranted interference in the determination of Israel’s borders and a show of pro-Palestinian bias.

July 18, 2013 Briefs

  • Kerry again fails to sell peace track to Palestinians
    US Secretary of State John Kerry ends his sixth attempt to draw the Palestinians into resumed peace talks with Israel without success. The State Department in Washington said there would no announcement of an early resumption of talks. The word from Ramallah was that the Palestinians demand further changes in the Kerry blueprint.
  • Egyptian forces kill 10 “jihadists” in Sinai
    The Egyptian military reported Thursday that a security operation carried out by the armed forces in northern Sinai in the past 48 hours led to the deaths of 10 jihadists. Armed militants killed three Egyptian policemen in separate overnight attacks.

Sinai Salafis in all-out war on Egyptian forces

18 July. The Islamist war on the Egyptian police and military in Sinai is far beyond isolated strikes. debkafile: Salafist Bedouin, Muslim Brotherhood adherents and Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters are blocking northern Sinai’s key road arteries, stopping goods traffic to the Israeli border, besieging the MFO base and halting work at the El Arish cement factory. Their attacks on Egyptian targets have mounted to 30 strikes per day.
The Egyptian army is sending a steady flow of reinforcements to the area, with Israel's consent. An armored force of 13 tanks reached northern Sinai Wednesday July 17, to bolster the Egyptian Second Army force, headed by Gen. Ahmed Wafasi.

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