A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending July 9, 2015
July 3, 2015 Briefs
- ISIS-Sinai claimed firing three Grads at “Jewish positions”
The Sinai branch of ISIS reported Friday night: "Three Grad rockets were fired at Jewish positions in occupied Palestine.” The fragments of two rockets were found on open ground in the Eshkol district. There were no casualties or damage. This is the first time that ISIS’s Sinai arm has shot rockets deep inside Israel and not at Eilat, as in several former incidents
- Saudi police officer killed in operation against ISIS in Taif
The Saudi Interior Ministry announced that a group of policemen were shot at while inspecting a house in the Taif district. They shot back and arrested three suspects found in possession of ISIS flags, silencers and computers. One police officer was killed in the crossfire. debkafile: The Islamic State is evidently spreading its wings in Saudi Arabia. Taif is one of the most closely secured parts of the kingdom north of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
- IDF officer kills Palestinian youth in rock-throwing mob
The incident occurred Friday when a gang of Palestinian youths hurled rocks at IDF military vehicles near the A-Ram checkpoint north of Jerusalem. When a rocket smashed the windshield of his jeep, Col. Israel Shomer, Binyamin Brigade commander, stepped out and opened fire. A 17-year old Palestinian boy was injured and died on the way to hospital.
Israeli policymakers cause alarm by over-reliance on Egypt to grapple with Hamas and ISIS
3 July. The statements coming from different Israeli spokesmen this week on Egypt, ISIS and Hamas were at dangerous variance with the actual events on their back door. They seemed to overlook the radical axis formed by ISIS, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, which threatens Egypt with a drawn-out bloody war, overrunning much of Sinai up to the Suez Canal, seizing the Gaza Strip and launching a major offensive against Israel. Friday, July 3, rockets fired from embattled Sinai administered a dose of reality. Wednesday, the IDF closed to traffic the main Israeli highway heading south and running parallel to the Egyptian border.
July 4, 2015 Briefs
- Egyptian president visits troops in embattled N. Sinai
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi inspected troops and police in the North Sinai Saturday on the third day of the biggest offensive launched by the Sinai Province branch of ISIS, leaving hundreds of dead and wounded on both sides. Clad in military fatigues, El-Sisi spent two hours at the Egyptian El Arish command center. debkafile: In northern Sinai, Egyptian military intercepted half a ton of explosives bound by tunnel for the Gaza Strip, where it was destined to be used for manufacturing bombs and smuggled back into the peninsula for use against Egyptian forces.
July 5, 2015 Briefs
- Iran builds up air defenses as nuclear talks wind down
Brig. Gen. Farzad Esmaili, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' (IRGC) air defense force, unveiled the Ghadir phased-array radar in Ahwaz city in southwestern Khuzestan province near the Iraq border. He boasted that this radar can detect a plane at 600 km (373 miles) and a ballistic missile at 1,100 km. debkafile: He was indicating that the new radar can identify Israeli ballistic missiles moments after they are launched against Iran from a distance of 1,200 km.
- Series of US air strikes against ISIS Syrian stronghold
The US-led coalition against the Islamic State group said Sunday it had carried out one of its largest series of 16 air strikes in Syria on its main stronghold, Raqqa, to “deny Daesh [IS] the ability to move military capabilities throughout Syria and into Iraq." debkafile: This number of air strikes was too few to have the effect claimed.
- Urgent meeting of Turkish-Syrian border commanders
Sources in Ankara report that Turkish military chiefs have ordered commanders of the armored brigades of Syrian border troops and commando brigades to attend a meeting at military headquarters to discuss a possible cross-border operation in Syria. The air force's role in a possible intervention will also be discussed. A plan to have more than 400 armored vehicles, which will carry military personnel and be protected by jammers, to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant's (ISIL) planting mines across Syria's Turkey border, is also on the agenda.
- Syrian army and Hizballah enter key town of Zabadani
Hizballah’s TV Al Manar reported Sunday that Syrian and Hizballah troops had entered rebel-held Zabani on the second day of an offensive to capture this strategic border town which lies on the Damascus-Beirut highway near the Lebanese border. But their advance is slow. The town has been held by rebels since 2012.
- Head of Israeli police fraud squad commits suicide
Ephraim Bracha, 55, head of the Israeli police national fraud squad, committed suicide Sunday morning. He died by shooting himself in the head while sitting in his car in his home town of Modi’in. Bracha served in the police for more than 30 years.
- Arson suspected in natural woodland fires outside Jerusalem
Three fires in less than a week have consumed more than 100 hectares of natural woodland in and around Ma’ale HaHamisha kibbutz outside Jerusalem. Seventeen teams of firefighters and four aircraft were called out Saturday to fight the flames before they reached kibbutz buildings. The firefighters found evidence of Molotov bombs and suspect they were thrown over the fence from the neighboring Palestinian village.
ISIS rushes reinforcements to Egypt. Its next targets: The Pyramids and Sphinx
5 July. The Islamic State is rushing reinforcements to Egypt from Libya and Iraq on the fifth day of its battle with Egyptian forces in northern Sinai, debkafile reports. Both sides claim the upper hand, but the struggle is not over. Some of the new jihadist arrivals were sent to battle positions in Cairo and the Suez Canal. Friday, the ISIS “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, told followers that the destruction of Egypt’s national monuments, such as the pyramids and the sphinx, was a “religious duty.” President Abdel Fatteh El-Sisi has said that only one percent of the Egyptian army of 300,000 men had been assigned to Sinai.
Clearly, substantial military and intelligence resources are earmarked for defending the Suez Canal and Cairo, while the smaller Sinai force is restricted to defending three enclaves, the northern districts around Sheikh Zuweid, El Arish port and Rafah and Sharm el-Sheikh in the south.
July 6, 2015 Briefs
- Six Israeli Bedouin detained for promoting ISIS
The Shin Bet and Police Negev district reported Monday that six Negev Bedouin, including four schoolteachers, had been arrested on charges of disseminating the teachings of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. They held secret meetings for lectures on ISIS ideology and two were found to be preparing to set out to join the Islamist war in Syria. The teachers preached the word of jihad among pupils and fellow teachers.
- Greek FM visits Israel to a warm welcome
Netanyahu receives Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias who arrived in Israel for a three-day official visit Sunday the day after the crucial referendum in which a majority of Greeks voted against the European Union bailout. The visit was scheduled in advance of the Greek crisis.
Egyptian army backed by Apaches kills 241 Islamists
6 July. The heavy fighting between the Egyptian army and Islamic State in northern Sinai is evolving on its sixth day into an asymmetrical contest. debkafile: By Monday, July 6, the Egyptians were depending heavily on Apache helicopter air strikes, while the Islamist terrorists had turned to guerilla tactics for foot soldiers to strike by night and mount ambushes by day. The Apaches are attacking any moving object, while ISIS keeps Egyptian soldiers pinned down. ISIS has lost 241 men, but can keep going in the long term thanks to a constant influx of manpower and war materiel and its hide-and-seek tactics.
July 7, 2015 Briefs
- Saudi Arabia to invest a peak $10 bn in Russian projects
In another sign of warming ties between Moscow and Riyadh, the Saudi Public Investment Fund has agreed Tuesday to invest a record $10 billion in Russian projects over four-five years, the largest foreign investment in that country. It comes after Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman visited St. Petersburg last month and a deal for Russia to build 16 nuclear reactors and a nuclear research program in the oil kingdom.
- One minute’s silence in Britain on tenth anniversary of 7/7 terror
Britons observed one minute’s silence Tuesday in memory of the 52 victims of the July 7, 2005 Muslim terror attacks on London transport, among them one Israeli woman. Wreaths were laid at the scenes of the attack, and ceremonies held at the Hyde Park memorial and St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Some British media noted the failure of the British authorities to uncover the link between Mohammed Sidique Khan, who led the suicide squad in the London attacks, and his visit to Israel a few days earlier, when met two fellow British terrorists before they attacked the Mikes Place bar on the Tel Aviv promenade.
Had this link come to light in time, the 7/7 attacks might have been averted. At the time, debkafile reported that link and also the fact that the Tel Aviv bar attack took place near the US embassy. .
- Iran nuclear talks miss another deadline with no deal
Tuesday, the second deadline in eight days for a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran went by with no new date set for finalization. Some of the diplomats representing the six powers left Vienna. Russia’s Sergey Lavrov said he would return if necessary. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran’s Mohammed Javad Zarif planned to stay in Vienna and keeping negotiating, along with the EU foreign executive Federica Mogherini.
- State ceremony marks first anniversary of last Gaza war
Israel’s leaders warned that future acts of terrorism will draw a harsh response at a ceremony marking the first anniversary of the last Gaza war in which 67 soldiers and five civilians died in the fighting. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned: “I say to all enemies of Israel — Hamas, Hizballah, Iran and the Islamic State, too — whoever tries to harm us, their blood is on their heads.”
Israel merges IDF elite units to form the new Commando Brigade tailored to combat ISIS
7 July. Monday, July 6, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenkott unveiled Israel’s answer to the rising ISIS threat nearing its gates: the new Commando Brigade. An amalgam of four elite units, it is designed for quiet, bold, covert and effective action against terrorist groups posing a threat from the Sinai Desert to Egyptian sovereignty and Israel’s southern border. Such action would be coordinated closely between Israeli and Egyptian military and intelligence arms. Similar operations would also be staged if necessary from Israel’s northern border – against Hizballah or any threat from Syria.
The new outfit brings together the different skills and the high, focused fire power rendered by the four elite units’ assorted weaponry.
July 8, 2015 Briefs
- Unconfirmed reports of foiled coup against ISIS chief
Syrian and Iraqi sources report that 13 leading members of the Islamic State were put to death by beheading for an attempted coup against Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Syria. It was hatched by leading members from Morocco, Syria, Yemen, and Kuwait, as well as a Chechen and a Kurd and betrayed by one of the plotters.
- Syrian troops in new assault on Hermon. Druzes again threatened
Fresh fighting has erupted between Syrian army and rebel forces around Beit Jann and Hodr on the slopes of Mt. Hermon north of the Israeli Golan. Rebel sources reporting this add that the Al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front and Haramoun Army rebels engaged in the fighting have again warned Druze villages in the area not to intervene or else “they would suffer the same fate as the regime.”
July 9, 2015 Briefs
- A roadside bomb wounds 15 Egyptian police in N. Sinai
A bus carrying Egyptian police officers on leave was blown up by a remotely-controlled bomb outside North Sinai’s provincial capital of El Arish Thursday. The attack took place as the Egyptian military fights an Islamic State, Bedouin-backed offensive in northern Sinai.
- Two Israelis who crossed into Gaza were never Hamas hostages
The Israeli media made much ado Thursday about an Israeli-Ethiopian man, Avera Mengistu, 28, “presumed held captive by Hamas” – after climbing over a border fence into the Gaza Strip, and a Bedouin man from the Israeli Negev “held in custody” in Gaza.
debkafile clarifies these misleading reports. Mengistu, who is mentally disturbed, has kept on climbing the fence into the Gaza Strip since last September. The Hamas authorities always send him back. He will no doubt try again. As for the second case, dozens of Bedouin are known to cross back and forth from Israel to Gaza and Sinai on a regular basis. No one knows what their business is – whether they visit tribal kin or are part of the Sinai Bedouin smuggling rings. There is nothing new about either of the two cases.
Voices were raised at the Vienna nuclear talks Wednesday night against obdurate Iran
9 July. European Union Foreign Executive Federica Mogherini is quoted by debkafile’s intelligence sources as shouting Wednesday night, July 8, at Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif: “If that’s where you stand it’s a pity to waste any more time!” she hurled at him. Jarif is quoted as snapping back: “Don’t threaten us!” The US delegation led by Secretary of State John Kerry sat without moving a muscle. But Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov tried to calm the high tempers and suggested a return to the matters at issue.
The shouting started amid the discussion of sanctions relief, after the second deadline for a final deal had slipped by. Our sources deny Israeli media reports claiming that Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, who leads the US negotiating team, tried to call Israel’s National Security Adviser Yossie Cohen for an update on the state of the negotiations, but that he avoided taking her calls. If Sherman had really phoned Cohen, our sources say, her call would have certainly been put through to him.