A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending July 19, 2012

July 13, 2012 Briefs

  • Israelis within range of Gaza must stay near shelters
    The southern Home Command Friday issued terror and rocket warning to Israeli locations within range of the Gaza Strip. People were advised to stay within reach of shelters and fortified spaces. Thursday, Israeli air and tank forces foiled two Palestinian attacks from Gaza.
  • British spy chief: Iran will have nuke by 2014
    Sir John Sawers, head of the British MI6 spy agency said Friday that covert operations by British spies had prevented Iran from developing nuclear weapons in 2008, but it would likely achieve this goal by 2014. The other points he made were:
    1. US and Israel must decide whether to embark on military action to preempt a great danger;
    2. Were it not for British action, Iran would be nuclear-armed by now;

Syria takes chemical weapons out of storage

13 July. Syria Thursday, July 12, test-fired advanced Scud D ballistic missiles capable of carrying chemical weapons and nerve gas and “hitting targets deep within enemy territory” as part of its war exercise. In Washington, US officials disclosed that parts of Bashar Assad’s huge arsenal of sarin nerve agent, mustard gas and cyanide, were moved out of storage. One warned of “the precedent of WMD being used under our watch,” calling it “incredibly dangerous to our national security."
debkafile: Chemical weapons have been transferred to Syrian units.

July 14, 2012 Briefs

  • Tel Aviv social protester in serious condition after setting himself on fire
    The man in his 40s poured flammable material on himself before setting himself alight during a protest rally of 5000 people in Tel Aviv Saturday night.
  • A Hizballah drone crashes in east Lebanon
    It crashed in the Baalbek town of Younin, said The Daily Star of Lebanon. debkafile: Hizballah has been using drones to catch the movements of Syrian rebel fighter and arms across the border.
  • Israel accuses Tehran of Hizballah plot against Israelis in Cyprus
    “Iranian terror has no borders,” the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem said in a statement after the detention in Cyprus of a Hizballah operative on a terrorist mission against Israeli tourists in Limassol and flights to Cyprus. “It’s about time the international community dealt with the world’s biggest exporter of terror,” the statement said.
  • UN observers enter Syrian massacre site
    Two days after 220 people reported by opposition to have been massacred by shelling and knife-wielding militiamen, UN observers entered the Syrian village of Tremseh, near Hama.

Western sources: Israel in line for Syrian missile strike

14 July. As the pace of unthinkable slaughter in Syria accelerates, Western military sources warned Saturday, July 14, that not only Israel, but Turkey and Jordan should prepare for Syrian chemical missile strikes, after Syria missiles were test-fired this week against all three. Western officials disagree on Assad’s motives for moving his WMD out of storage. Some Americans say he is safeguarding them against falling into rebel hands; British officials report chemical weapons deployed at Homs, Latakia and Aleppo and predict an ethnical cleansing campaign.

July 15, 2012 Briefs

  • Israel and Greek launch joint naval exercise Wednesday
    Western military sources report that the Israeli and Greek navies begin a maneuver Monday, July 18, in the Aegean sea of Milos Island. There was no word on the scale of the exercise or its duration.
  • The Red Cross: Syrian conflict now is civil war
    The Red Cross Committee in Geneva is the first international organization to call the violence in Syria a full-blown civil war, meaning international humanitarian law applies throughout the country and a basis exists for war crimes prosecution.
  • Clinton meets with head of Egypt’s military council
    The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s meeting with Field Marshal Mohammed Tantawi took place in Cairo Sunday the day after she urged “the military to return to its national security duties and to allow Morsi assume his full presidential authorities.”

More top Syrian generals desert Assad

15 July. Several high-placed generals bolted Bashar Assad’s inner circle Sunday, July 17 to Turkey, including such key figures as two security services chiefs who were operations commanders of the Alawite Shabiha militia plus the former head of Syria’s chemical and biological administration who took six other generals with him, debkafile reports exclusively. Another senior general was assassinated in Aleppo. Assad also received a last warning not to move his chemical weapons again or else they would be destroyed from the air.

July 16, 2012 Briefs

  • Syria-bound Russian warships refuel at Limassol
    The first vessels of the Russian war flotilla bound for its base at Tartus, Syria, are putting into the Cypriot port to re-supply and rest their crews.
  • Two Palestinian missiles explode in Sderot
    One of the missiles fired from Gaza landed harmlessly on open ground, the second exploded on the Gaza side of the border.
  • Palestinian terrorist cell kidnap plot exposed
    The Shin Bet, IDF and Israeli Police reported Monday the capture of a Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) cell which had made a number of failed attempts to kidnap an Israeli soldier as hostage against the release of jailed Palestinians terrorists.
  • Chemical missile attack simulated in Israeli town
    The exercise in Petach Tikva east of Tel Aviv was staged Monday by the Home Command, IDF, Magen David and the fire brigade.
  • Clinton in Israel after Donilon
    The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton holds talks in Israeli with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Iranian nuclear program and other Middle East issues, including the peace process. She follows National Security Advisor Tom Donilon who visited Israel from July 14-15 and consulted with the prime minister, defense minister and National Security Advisor Yaacov Amidror.

July 17, 2012 Briefs

  • Kadima quits Netanyahu-led government
    Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz Tuesday announced his Kadima party was returning to opposition benches after 69 days as member of the ruling coalition, after he and the prime minister failed to agree on the details of new legislation for universal compulsory conscription that was to have ended the granting of exemptions from military and civic service for ultra-Orthodox yeshiva seminarists and Israel Arab citizens.
  • Haifa stages big home exercise for Syrian-Hizballah chemical attack
    Wednesday, July 18, he Home Command launches its first large-scale peparedness exercise for an emergency arising from a potential Syrian and/or Hizballah chemical attack on Haifa, Israel’s third largest town. The scenario simulates a chemical missile revenge attack by Hizballah on the Institute of Technology’s scientists, a direct rocket strike to set loose convicts from jails and the use of the big Kiryat Eliezer stadium to accommodate victims.
  • Syrian rebel chief orders all-out offensive on Damascus and Aleppo
    Free Syrian Army commander Colonel Riad al-Asaad has ordered an all-out offensive on all sectors: Rebel forces in the south and rural orders told to capture Damascus; northern and eastern forces to seize Aleppo, Syria’s financial capital.
  • US missile-defense radar to go up in Qatar
    A powerful new American X-Band radar station will be built in Qatar following Iran’s successful testing earlier this month of surface-to-surface Shahab-3 missiles, which are capable of reaching Israel and southern Europe. They can also hit US bases in the region. The new station will supplement the US missile-defense radar stations operating in Israel’s Negev and central Turkey.
  • Israel broke up 10 terrorist plots in Sinai
    Israel’s Military Intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Aviv Cochavi: Using intelligence tools, we have thwarted 10 terrorist plots from Egyptian Sinai in recent months.

If Damascus falls, Israel and its gas fields feared threatened

17 July. The fall of Damascus will have wide regional repercussions, as debkafile demonstrates, because neither the Assad regime nor Iran will take it lying down.
debkafile reports their reprisals will be paced and scaled according to the momentum of the Syrian rebels’ advance on Bashar Assad’s door-step. On the Iranian-Hizballah list are Middle East oil installations as well as Israeli, US, Turkish, Saudi and Jordanian strategic targets. Saturday, the Cypriot police captured a Hizballah terrorist before he could blow up an Israeli El Al flight and tourist buses in Limassol.
Tehran is feared to be focusing on a plot to set Israel’s Mediterranean gas field Tamar on fire. It would be a spectacular curtain-raiser for the closure of the Strait of Hormuz and for strikes against Gulf oil installations.
Navy Commander, Maj. Gen. Ram Rothberg called last week for an extra five warships and submarines to safeguard Israel’s burgeoning gas fields at the cost of a billion dollars.

The Battle of Damascus has begun

17 April. Bashar Assad has gathered in his army to defend Damascus, concentrating armored vehicles in the center. Six Shabiha battalions cut off the roads to the center from the two southern suburbs of Meidan and Tadmon seized by the rebels Monday, July 16, and are trying the pound them into extinction while keeping them hemmed in. The Syrian general staff prepared for the last battle for Damascus by relocating its command headquarters to a well-fortified complex on Shuhada Street in the capital’s center.
The 130,000 Palestinians living in Damascus refugee camps have meanwhile joined the rebels. Two Syrian tank columns drove into those locations early Tuesday, July 17, and have been shelling them relentlessly, after 60 years in which the Assad regime supported and hosted the radical Palestinian Hamas, Jihad Islami, the Popular Front and Ahmad Jibril’s PFLA-General Command.

July 18, 2012 Briefs

  • Hizballah leader crows after Bulgarian bus blast kills five Israelis
    We know what your first strike will be and we promise you a big surprise,” said Hassan Nasrallah Wednesday night in Beirut. “The most important weapons we fought with in the July war (of 2006) were from Syria, not only in Lebanon but also in the Gaza Strip. They forced more than a million settlers to stay in bunkers and frighten Tel Aviv.
  • Lavrov: Decisive battle now in Syria
    Russia on Wednesday said a decisive battle was in progress in Syria and rejected a Western-backed U.N. resolution on the crisis that would allow military intervention.
  • A Taliban bomb destroys 22 NATO fuel tankers
    The vehicles were hit where they were parked Tuesday night in Samangan province in northern Afghanistan as they headed from Uzbekistan towards coalition forces.
  • Syrian rebels to be issued with chemical masks
    Free Syrian Army commander Colonel Riad al-Asaad reports information that government forces are armed with chemical weapons for use in areas lost to regime control. Preparations are under way to obtain protective gear for FSA fighters and defectors to their ranks.
  • Clinton warns against jihadist terrorist takeover of Sinai
    The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she had discussed at length the danger of the Sinai border between Egypt and Israel becoming a jihadist and terrorist operational base in her talks in Cairo and Jerusalem. The threat also affects the Americans serving in the multinational force monitoring the peace accord.
  • Jordan acts to ward off Syrian chemical attack
    Jordan has taken precautions to ward off a possible Syrian chemical attack, Jordan's foreign minister said Tuesday July 17, Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said reflecting concern that Syria might use such weapons if the uprising there threatens the regime.

Netanyahu accuses Iran of Bulgarian bus blast killing seven Israelis, pledges strong response

18 July. The flight from Tel Aviv had just come in Wednesday and the Israeli tourists had been picked up by three buses at Burgas airport when one of them exploded and caught fire. At least five Israelis tourists and the Bulgarian tour guide were killed on the spot and 35 injured, four critically. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak accused Iran of the attack and pledged a strong response. Israeli security would reach the perpetrators, they said.

Assad’s 4 top men killed by bomb

18 July: Four top members of Bashar Assad’s inner circle were killed in Damascus Wednesday, July 18: His brother-in-law Security Chief Assif Shawqat, Defense minister Gen. Dawoud Raijiha, Vice-Presidential aide and former defense minister Gen. Hasan Turkmani and Interior Minister Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ibrahim Shaar who is not expected to recover form his injuries: Their deaths were caused by a hidden 40-kilogram bomb in the cabinet conference room – not a suicide bomber as previously reported. Top-level consultations are under way in Washington, Jerusalem and other Mid East capitals to second-guess Assad’s expected reaction.
debkafile’s military sources report that US forces in the region, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Turkey have placed their armies on a high state of readiness until it is clear which way the Assad regime jumps after the disaster it sustained.
The Syrian president moved fast to fill a gap, appointing Gen. Fahd Jassem al-Freij defense minister hours after his predecessor was killed. It is obvious that the Syrian rebels lacked the expertise for a high-quality terrorist operation of the kind that decimated Assad’s inner circle. He may assume a foreign intelligence agency was responsible and lash out against the United States, Israel, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Turkey or Qatar.

July 19, 2012 Briefs

  • Mubarak’s former spy chief Omar Suleiman dies
    Gen. Omar Suleiman, long-serving Egyptian intelligence minister, died Thursday at a Cleveland hospital in the US while undergoing medical tests. Aged 76, he was gravely ill with an undisclosed ailment. Suleiman served briefly as Vice President before announcing Hosni Mubarak’s resignation last year in the face of the Tahrir Sq. revolution. debkafile: For 30 years he led the campaign against the Muslim Brothers and acted as the president’s foremost liaison man with the Israeli government.
  • Bulgarian investigators find documents on bus bomber’s body
    They included a probably forged US passport with a Michigan address. Israelis on the doomed bus at Burgas reported seeing a man in Bermuda shorts, with long hair and a back pack entering the vehicle before the explosion Wednesday that killed seven people and injured more than 30. The Bulgarian news agency reports that the FBI has not traced the bomber by the documents found on him, which confirms that they were forged, or found his fingerprints in their data bases.
  • US and Israel discussed IAF strikes to destroy Syrian chemical stores
    debkafile: US and Israeli officials recently considered an Israel Air Force operation to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stores.
  • Israeli Defense Minister: Syria may send Hizballah advanced missiles
    Ehud Barak warned that Syria is apt to transfer highly sophisticated missiles to Hizballah in Lebanon – and even possibly chemical weapons – for use in a campaign of retribution directed against Israel.
  • Mahmoud Abbas: Door to peacemaking closed
    After meeting Egyptian President Muhammed Morsi in Cairo Wednesday, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas told reporters that "the doors of the political process with Israel are shut."

Iran, Hizballah to pace anti-Israel terror with Syrian, Iranian conflicts

19 July. Iran, Syria and Hizballah resolve to up their terror assaults on “strategic” Israeli targets in step with the worsening war situation in Syria and a looming attack on Iran’s nuclear program, debkafile reports.
The Bulgarian bus attack was a “local” target – although seven people, 5 of them Israeli, were killed and more than 30 injured – whereas an Israeli plane or diplomat would be a “strategic” target. Nevertheless, US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu agreed that Israel will not react for now.

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