A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending July 28, 2005

US threatens to withhold pullback aid failing Israeli cooperation with Palestinian demands


22 July: Visiting US Secretary Condoleezza Rice warned Sharon there would be no US aid for evacuations and IDF redeployment failing coordination with the Palestinians.

She spent Friday morning, July 22, on Sharon’s Sycamore Farm before flying off to Beirut for a surprise visit. Secretary Rice returns Saturday for talks with Palestinian leaders.

Our Washington sources report the Bush administration is furious with the Israeli prime minister for holding back final answers to Egypt and the Palestinians on key issues.

Sharon is keeping them in the dark as a device to ensure Palestinian non-violence during the pull-out. But the Palestinians counter by demanding answers now as the price for their cooperation on the post-evacuation disposition of the Philadelphi border route, the reopening of Gaza harbor and Dahaniya air port, the Gaza border crossings to Israel and Egypt and the land link to the West Bank.


Egypt requests permission to deploy thousands of troops in Sinai


23 July: debkafile‘s military sources: Egypt has asked Israel for permission to deploy thousands of Egyptian interior ministry brigade members at four Sinai locations to combat the al Qaeda presence. They are Sharm el-Sheikh, the Red Sea resort ravaged by three al Qaeda bomb attacks Friday night leaving at least 89 dead and 200 wounded, also Egyptian Rafah, El Arish and Nueiba.

The 1979 peace treaty provided for Egyptian Sinai to stay demilitarized. Israel tends to grant the request for an exception to be made.


US, Britain, Egypt and Israel Are Lost for Answers to Mounting al Qaeda Offensive


23 July: Al Qaeda’s first coordinated bomb attacks on London’s public transport which shocked Britain on July 7 were mounted at the same time as the G8 summit in Scotland. The Islamists not only directed their destructive urge against London, but addressed a graphic threat to the 20 leaders of the world’s industrialized nations headed by US president George W. Bush. Yet, strangely enough, all those leaders lined up to consign the attack to the British arena, as though it came from problems in British-Muslim relations rather than being an assault on the West.

The string of bombings at Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm al Sheikh July 23, two days after the second round of London bombings, also coincided with the Middle East trip of the US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice to Jerusalem and Ramallah. Here too there was method in al Qaeda’s timing.

Al Qaeda chose its moment to devastate the Sharm paradise when the US, Britain, Egypt and Israel were immersed in an intense effort to clear away obstacles to Ariel Sharon’s evacuation of Israelis from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank, and make sure it will be free of Palestinian terrorist violence.

By hitting Sharm al Sheikh, Osama bin Laden hammered home to Egyptian, British, American and Israeli leaders: We are now sitting on your doorstep. Get Sharon’s plan off the ground and you will find us entrenched on the map of Sinai next door to the Gaza Strip. The Gaza Strip is our next destination. The moment Israel hands the border crossing over to the Egyptians and the Palestinians, we will take advantage of the free ride on Israel’s chariot move into new forward bases for fighting Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority just as we fight the Americans in Iraq. Al Qaeda is looking forward to its first Mediterranean base and a springboard to Israel and Europe across the water.

Yet the only controversy in Israel over the pros and cons of the pull-back operation is confined to the domestic, political plane, the dispute between so-called “right” and “left”.

Washington and London, aside from certain anti-terror experts, are blind to the this threat and are pushing Israel and the Palestinians as hard as they can to make sure that Gaza’s handover takes place.

American and British spokesman keep on reiterating that Israel’s first evacuation of complete communities will, as day follows night, cool the flames of Middle East terrorism – Palestinian and Iraqi alike. They insist that the more land Israeli cedes – on the West Bank too – the faster terrorist violence will disappear.

The facts on the ground in London, Baghdad and Egypt in a single week fly in the face of this theory. As the date of the pull-back draws near, the flames of Islamic violence climb higher. The timing of the attack rounds off the picture of al Qaeda’s motivation. The blueprints drawn up in Washington, Jerusalem, Cairo and London, for securing the evacuations and their aftermath provide American, British and Egyptian assistance for setting up Palestinian intelligence and security bodies untainted by terrorism. This plan looks impressive – until it is examined in the light of the latest events in London and Egypt.


Israeli army on standby for large-scale assault on Gaza


24 July: debkafile Exclusive Military Sources: Sharon has ordered chief of staff Lt.-Gen Dan Halutz on standby for a major pre-emptive operation against Palestinian Hamas, Jihad Islami and Popular Fronts Gaza bases – before the mid-August pull-out.

It will consist of combined aerial-ground raids pinpointing the terrorist organizations’ leaders and infrastructure. The decision follows the news that these organizations are preparing to step up terrorist attacks and gunfire before the withdrawal. Hamas announced a halt during the evacuation of civilians, but not before or after it was over.


US and Israel disagree on Gazan Palestinian mobility


24 July: debkafile reports: Washington and Jerusalem disagree on issue of free Palestinian access from the Gaza Strip after Israel’s pullout

Israel is holding back assurances as long as terrorism is not eradicated. Until a bridging formula is found, Rice supports the Palestinian side. In a statement from Ramallah after her talks with Mahmoud Abbas Saturday, July 24, she said: We are committed to connectivity between Gaza and the West Bank and free movement of people and goods. A well-coordinated pullout could re-energize the peace process.


Abbas relocates from Ramallah to Gaza for pull-out period


25 July Monday, July 25, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and most of his government including prime minister Ahmed Qureia transferred the Palestinian government from its seat in the West Bank town of Ramallah to Gaza City.

The move, according to debkafile‘s Palestinian sources, was not of Abbas’ choosing.. It was forced on him by US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice during her Ramallah visit Saturday, July 23. After the fact, Abbas’ spokesmen presented the move as a strategic decision to be on the spot and ascertain that Palestinian terrorists do not accompany Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in mid-August with gunfire.

But that had not been his intention. Asked where he would be during the sensitive period, Abbas told Rice he would be in Ramallah. She replied: “No way are you going to run things by remote control!” Faced with this unyielding demand, he promised to make the move although he knew it was pointless.

Abu Mazen and two Egyptian generals spent all of last week trying to hammer home to the Palestinian terrorist chiefs the need to hold their fire. They did not budge them one inch. In fact, Saturday night, July 22, three Palestinian organizations launched a murderous shooting attack on an Israeli civilian car on the Kissifim road to Gush Katif, killing Dov and Rachel Kol. Abu Mazen declined to condemn the attack when confronted with a microphone. He has not raised a finger to catch the murderers, again betraying his complete lack of authority over the men of violence.


debkafile: Al Qaeda now threatens Rome. Berlusconi personally addressed


26 July The Abu Hafs al Masri Brigades who claimed the two London bombing attacks published a fresh warning Monday, July 25: “After London, it is Rome’s turn.” The Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is warned that by failing to withdraw Italian troops from Iraq, he would by his own hand “turn Rome into a graveyard.”

The statement run on the Internet threatens the Italian capital with harsher and more painful strikes than the London attacks. “As long as a single Italian soldier remains in Iraq, you the prime minister can look forward to nothing but “more and more blood.”

debkafile adds: All the European capitals have placed their security and emergency services of maximum terror alert. London too is bracing for more terrorist attacks. One of al Qaeda’s prime targets is expected to be the Vatican, which the terrorist organization sees as a world center of heresy.


debkafile Exclusive: Jordan on maximum alert for al Qaeda attack


26 July: It was prompted not just by last week’s triple blast at Sharm el-Sheikh but by specific intelligence that a team Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had sent in from Iraq had contacted local radical Muslim groups to prepare a joint operation in the kingdom.

Jordan’s army, police, security and emergency services are on standby, and heavy troop reinforcements have been rushed to the capital, Amman, to Petra, the popular tourist site in the south, and to the northern town of Jerash where a summer festival is taking place.


Rumsfeld on unannounced visit to Baghdad


As he landed, Wednesday, July 27, the US military announced 4 US soldiers had been killed Sunday night when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb in SW Baghdad. Tuesday, 17 Iraqi factory workers died in an insurgent shooting ambush of their bus.

The US defense secretary told Iraqi leaders to resist interference by Syria and Iran. Syria is accused of allowing foreign terrorists to enter Iraq while Iran is bidding for political influence in Baghdad. The committee drafting Iraq’s new constitution resumed work Tuesday after a six-day boycott by Sunni Arab members elicited a pledge of more security and an investigation of the assassination of one of their number. Any delay in completing the charter would be very harmful, said Rumsfeld. We have troops in the line of fire. It’s time for compromise. Washington, he said, is working on a new legal arrangement to define the role of more than 160,000 foreign troops in Iraq, possibly a renewed UN Security Council resolution or a “status of forces” agreement with Iraq.

debkafile‘s Washington sources report: Ibrahim Jaafari’s visit to Tehran earlier this month to Tehran and the understandings he reached with Iran and Damascus elicited the US defense secretary’s comments Wednesday, July 27, in the Iraqi capital.

His reiteration of the need for compromise and emphasis on the constitutional drafting committee’s meeting its August 15 deadline are designed to boost Iraq’s Sunni Arabs’ political role in the Iraqi government, as evolving from Iyad Allawi’s peace mediation effort, to counter-balance the direction in which Shiite Jaafari is pulling the country. Rumsfeld also stressed that US forces would stay in Iraq as long as necessary to stabilize Iraq, regardless of Jaafari’s plans to curtail their presence.

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