A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending July 19, 2007

Palestinian Islamists pound northern Lebanon with Syrian-supplied Katyusha rockets – a new departure in their revolt against Beirut


13 July: Our military sources report the pro-Damascus Palestinian factions fighting the Lebanese army for two months in the northern Nahr al-Bared camp took their first delivery of rockets this week, the first items of heavy hardware Syria has ever supplied to its Palestinian surrogates in Lebanon. Three salvoes of 11 rockets were fired from the Palestinian camp near Tripoli Friday after two months of clashes with Lebanese forces.

Five landed on the plains of Arqa and Beit Hadara in the northern Akkar province, three more in the Minieh and Deir Emar districts and another three crashed on to the highway linking Lebanon to Syria. At the same time, Fatah al-Islam terrorists launched an attack on a Lebanese position outside the camp and lost 15 men. Lebanese correspondents describe fires and damaged house and vehicles in North Lebanese villages as reminiscent of the scenes in northern Israel after Hizballah’s 34-day Katyusha barrage last year.


Damascus-based Palestinian terrorist Nayef Hawatmeh asks Israel for permission to enter Ramallah


13 July: debkafile reports that the ageing head of the Democratic Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestinian claims he is no longer an active terrorist, while at the same time sending his adherents to join the pro-Syrian Fatah al-Islam battling the Lebanese army for two months.

Israel’s security authorities must take this into consideration when examining his request to enter Ramallah and run his DPFLP in the next Palestinian general election. Hawatmeh was responsible for the deaths of 22 Israeli schoolchildren in the 1994 attack he ordered on the northern Israel town of Maalot – one of numerous other terrorist strikes. Ehud Barak turned down his previous request to enter the West Bank in 2000. One Israeli minister Gideon Ezer is of the opinion that the main thing today is to bolster Mahmoud Abbas against Hamas, even if this means admitting Hawatmeh.


A Formula for Evading Penalties in Nuclear Watchdog’s Deal with Tehran


14 July: Although it is full of holes, the deal struck with the UN nuclear watchdog for visits to Natanz and the Araq heavy water reactor is a diplomatic breakthrough for Tehran. It arms the sanctions opponents in the UN Security Council with arguments to hold off a third round of punitive measures against Iran for refusing to abandon uranium enrichment. Tehran has won an uninterrupted space up until December 2007 for its last stretch on the road to its objective with immunity against further sanctions or a US or Israeli military attack.

On June 22, Iranian interior minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi announced that Iran has stocked more than 100 kg of enriched uranium and 150 kg of uranium gas.

Our sources point out that 500 kg of enriched uranium of a relatively low grade would be sufficient for building a single nuclear bomb. According to intelligence experts keeping close tabs on the program, Iran has accumulated enough enriched uranium for 2 or 3 nuclear bombs under cover of years of diplomatic haggling with the West.


Pakistani forces backed by US special units are closing in on al Qaeda’s No. 2 Ayman Zawahiri and possibly also Osama bin Laden


15 July: Our counter-terror sources report that a frantic effort by al Qaeda and Taliban to head off the pursuit set afoot the bloody battle in Islamabad’s Red Mosque, the attempts to shoot down President Pervez Musharraf’s plane and the suicide attacks on Pakistani military convoys, which cost 68 lives Saturday and Sunday, July 14-15.

Until the middle of last week, Zuwahiri sheltered with the local Pashtun tribes in Bannu, North Waziristan. As the pursuit approached, he switched hiding places Tank or Tang, 120 km to the south.

Musharraf meanwhile decided last week to storm the Red Mosque on a tip-off from his own Inter-Service Intelligence that two of Zawahiri’s closest lieutenants, Majid Hassan al-Tawil and Mohammad Othman, were inside preparing a mega-attack in Islamabad and other important Pakistani towns to disrupt the combined Pakistani-US operation to capture their master. At that point, Pakistani intelligence turned up a lead to the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden himself.

According to our sources, the intense pursuit continues despite setbacks.


Abbas convenes PLO Council session Wednesday in ploy to obtain legitimacy for Fatah’s West Bank government


15 July: The umbrella Palestinian Liberation Organization brings together most Palestinian parties and factions excluding Hamas for the next stage in the battle for legitimacy between the Fatah government in Ramallah and the Hamas administration in Gaza. The government headed by Salim Fayyad was declared transitional after he failed to obtain parliamentary endorsement last week when a Hamas boycott left the legislature without a quorum for voting. Abbas has therefore summoned heads of overseas Palestinian parties and splinter factions to endorse his caretaker administration.

The Olmert government is assisting his effort by allowing blacklisted terrorist leaders to attend.


Israel Pays Cash for Palestinian Non-Violence Preparatory to Easing IDF out of West Bank


16 July: Last week, Olmert announced 250 jailed Palestinians, excluding Hamas gunmen, would be released as a gesture of support for the Palestinian leader. In another gesture, Palestinian Liberation Organization faction leaders – all radicals and including at least one master-terrorist fugitive – will be allowed to travel to Ramallah.

Sunday, 178 wanted Palestinian terrorists, including 150 of the violent Fatah-al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, paraded the handing over of their weapons and signing of pledges of non-violence. Each Palestinian gunman was paid up to IS.100,000 ($24,000).

None of the 2,500 al Aqsa members were required to give up their caches of explosives, roadside bombs, grenades and rocket-propelled grenades.

Yet three days earlier, Israeli forces halted their pursuit of all wanted terrorists on the West Bank. Why did the IDF give up hunting Hamas, Jihad Islami and Palestinian radical Front gunmen as well?

debkafile‘s military sources disclose another concealed element of the plan. In the interests of the maneuver, the Fatah al Aqsa Brigades secretly incorporated armed Hamas and Jihad Islami adherents, boosting their number to 4.500.

Thousands of Fatah will now don fresh uniforms and join up with the Palestinian Authority’s security forces, purportedly to fight radical terrorists and quell violence. Gen. Dayton has promised them prestige-boosting advanced military hardware, armored vehicles and 4x4s equipped state of the art communications gear.

Israel was now being asked to give Palestinian security forces the freedom to range over the West Bank. In other words, to take down roadblocks and the highly-successful system which reduced almost to zero Palestinian suicide attacks in which Fatah played a leading part. The elements are therefore in place for easing Israeli troops out of the West Bank altogether and handing over responsibility for fighting terror to Palestinian terrorists in new uniforms.

President Bush and his secretary of state are badly in need of tidings that can be presented as a big breakthrough for their Middle East policies. Olmert and Co. will not dare rain on their parade.


Security alerts at Latin American Israel embassies and Jewish institutions for 13th anniversary of Buenos Aires Jewish center terror attack


17 July: Nestor Kirchner will be the first Argentine president to take part in the ceremonies in memory of the 85 Jewish killed in the attack on July 18.

debkafile's counter-terror sources report that today Al Qaeda terror networks are present on the continent in competition with Shiite cells, Hizballah and Iranian, thus tripling the threat to US and Jewish targets.


Bashar Assad calls for indirect peace talks with Israel – but only after a guarantee for the Golan’s restoration is granted


17 July: debkafile‘s sources: Assad was in fact asking Israel to send officials to “proximity talks,” probably in Ankara, with Turkey playing the role of go-between. He made the offer at the inauguration of his second term as president of Syria Tuesday, July 17. The Israeli prime minister has repeatedly offered to hold direct peace talks with the Syrian ruler anywhere without prior conditions. Assad called up the case of his predecessor Yitzhak Rabin who gave up land for peace.


State Controller slams government heads for flawed management of homeland security in 2006 Lebanon War


18 July: The 600-page report submitted to the Knesset Speaker Wednesday, July 18, finds PM Ehud Olmert, ex-defense minister Amir Peretz, former chief of staff Dan Halutz and homeland security chief Yitzhak Gershon guilty of abandoning to their fate the population of northern Israel. The controller singled out PM Ehud Olmert’s decision-making processes as deficient. He criticized Olmert’s failure to take into account or brief the ministers about advance intelligence that a sustained Hizballah rocket offensive faced northern Israel. He then waited two weeks after night-and-day attacks began to consider though not execute the evacuation of distressed civilians.


Bush’s Middle East peace conference plan peters


18 July: Our Washington sources report that the White House tried to play down the importance of the proposal put forward by President George W. Bush Monday, July 16, after it was clear that Saudi King Abdullah Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak would not be coming.

Neither goes along with Bush’s boycott of Hamas.

The Bush Middle East statement had the effect of accentuating the gaps dividing Arab rulers into three camps:

– The US, Israel and Jordan, who believe boycotting Hamas will bring down its Gaza government and restore Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah.

– Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco and most of the Gulf emirates object to this boycott.

– Iran, Syria, Yemen and Hizballah, whose solid backing for the Palestinian Islamists is expressed in cash, arms, advisers and combat training.

As long as Hamas has their support, even the massive US-Israeli cornucopia of cash, benefits and concessions will not sustain the Abbas regime in Ramallah for long.


NATO encounters Iran-made armor-piercing EFP road bombs in Afghanistan like those Tehran sends to Iraq and Hizballah in Lebanon


19 July: US Col. Thomas Kelly reported finding four of the explosively-formed projectiles in Herat near the Iranian border and one a month ago in the capital Kabul. He said Taliban insurgents may have access to the device but may not yet know how to use them.

debkafile‘s military sources reveal that the six Spanish peacekeepers killed in South Lebanon last month were not attacked by a suicide bomber but an early version of the armor-piercing EFP disguised as a rock. This model was developed by Hizballah and widely used with deadly effect against Israeli forces maintaining a security belt in South Lebanon in the 1980s.

Last week President Bush accused Iran and Hizballah of training Iraqi insurgents in the use of these weapons against US forces.


A senior Israeli officer warns that the window of opportunity for cutting down Hamas’ growing army is fast closing


19 July: In an urgent briefing to reporters Thursday, July 19, the officer reported that Hamas has built up an army of 13,000 trained men. They have been freshly armed with anti-tank Sagger and anti-air missiles and a mountain of explosives. If the Israeli population bordering on the Gaza Strip has had to put up with daily salvoes of Qassam missiles, Hamas is preparing to upgrade its offensive with Katyusha rockets like the Lebanese Hizballah.

In the past month, Hamas imported 20 tons of explosives through the wide open Philadelphi border strip on the Egyptian Sinai border. In comparison, until the Israeli pullout from Gaza two years ago, Hamas was unable to smuggle in more than four tons per year!

Today, the quantities of arms entering the Gaza Strip for Hamas run into many tons. Neither is there any bar to hundreds of Hamas fighters leaving through the Philadelphi strip for training courses in Iran, Syria and Lebanon. The Israeli officer issued a grave warning. The IDF must take action quickly else it will be too late.

When Israel withdrew unilaterally from the Gaza Strip in 2005, debkafile predicted the crisis which today faces Israel from the evacuated territory. According to an opinion poll conducted this week, 62% of Israelis brand the pull-out a fiasco.

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