A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending June 18, 2015
June 13 Briefs
- Six Yemeni terrorists released from Guantanamo Bay
Six Yemeni prisoners held for years at Guantanamo Bay detention centre have been shipped to Oman. debkafile: Oman has in recent years served the US as an important diplomatic facilitator in back-channel talks on Iran’s nuclear program and the effort to end the Yemen war.
June 14 Briefs
- Khamenei’s illness puts nuclear deal at risk
The frail health of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has set off a power struggle in Tehran that may derail the nuclear deal which he must ratify. The 75-year old leader has undergone several operations for prostate cancer and some Iranian media suggest he has only months to live. The frontrunner as successor is one of Khamenei’s protégés, Sadeq Larijani, 54, head of the judiciary and vocal hardliner, brother of Ali Larijani, Speaker of the Majlis. Sadeq is conducting a purge against the more moderate ayatollahs running against him and pressing a campaign to ditch the nuclear deal.
- Israeli Gaza report charges Hamas with war crimes
The inter-ministerial report published by Israel Sunday contains documentary evidence rebutting Palestinian charges that Israel violated the rules of war in its Gaza operation last summer. It lists as the causes for Israel’s defensive war long years of Palestinian missiles and mortar offensives against Israeli civilian locations, kidnappings, and attacks on Israel by sea and through cross-border assault tunnels. "Hamas combat manuals and training materials recovered by IDF forces in the Gaza Strip demonstrate that its strategy was to deliberately draw the hostilities into Palestinian urban terrain, and to use built-up areas and the presence of the civilian population as human shields for tactical advantage and political gain and propaganda.”
The report stated that "despite warnings to civilians of coming attacks, many Palestinians were deliberately exposed to the hostilities because of Hamas's illegal tactics that themselves constitute war crimes.” It shows mosques used by snipers, schools as ammo depots and hospitals as command centers.
The IDF routinely rigorously investigates every allegation of misconduct by IDF troops and any miscreants are punished – as it did after the Gaza operation. The Israeli document was published ahead of the UNHRC report, convinced it was designed to be the basis for the Palestinian war crimes case against Israel before the International Criminal Court. Israel refused to cooperate with the UNHRC probe, charging its findings were one-sided and determined in advance of any investigation.
- ISIS threatens Ramadan escalation in Sinai and Gaza
The Sinai Province of ISIS threatens spectacular terrorist attacks during the Muslim month of Ramadan – which starts Thursday night (June 18) – against Egypt, Hamas and Israel.
The biggest heist of secret US personnel data in cyber history is still ongoing
14 Jun. If the breach of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) was conducted by hackers linked to China, as suspected, the secrets of an estimated 41 million US federal employees were laid bare and US intelligence and military personnel compromised by what may have been the biggest data base theft in cyber history. While officials speak of two hacks, debkafile’s cyber security and intelligence experts report that it was a single breach and is still ongoing. It amounts to slow, continuous penetration by a computer virus, planted in an individual computer of a network, which duplicates itself gradually and insidiously. More malworm particles are certainly buried inside the OPM’s infrastructure, ready for a remote signal from the hackers’ command and control centers.
June 15 Briefs
- Iran brings home body of top-ranking officer killed in Syria
Hadi Kajbaf, a major general in the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), was killed I April near the rebel-held town of Busr al-Harir, about 100 km south of Damascus. He was the second senior Iranian to die there this year in fighting for the Assad regime.
- US air strike in Libya targets planner of 2013 Algeria attack
United States F-15E fighter jets carried out an air strike in Libya early Sunday targeting the terrorist leader, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, mastermind of the 2013 terrorist seizure of an Algerian gas plant that left 38 foreign hostages dead. The Libyan government stated Sunday night that the air strikes killed “a number” of other Libyan terrorists in the eastern part of the country. US officials expressed caution about Belmokhtar’s fate pending forensic proof.
- A Palestinian fighting with ISIS killed in Syria
Celebratory gunfire resonated across the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh on the outskirts of Sidon, Lebanon, over the weekend after news that one of its residents, Ahmad Hreish, aka Abu Misaab Al-Magdasi, was killed fighting with ISIS in the western Syrian city of Homs.
ISIS goes underground for guerilla warfare against new US “lily pad” strategy in Iraq
15 Jun. Following the US plan deploy American advisers in “lily pad” bases to work with Iraqi troops near the frontlines, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has adopted a new strategy. debkafile reports exclusively that ISIS is turning to tunnel warfare in pursuit of guerrilla tactics on all its active fronts in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Egyptian Sinai and the Palestinian Gaza Strip. The jihadis were impressed by the effectiveness of the Hamas assault and smuggling tunnel system for assaults on Israel and Egyptian forces in Sinai and took a leaf out of their book. Military experts expect to see soon small, highly-trained squads of ISIS fighters jumping out of underground burrows to strike their victims, instead of the long columns of trucks carrying thousands of jihadis which captured Ramadi and Palmyra.
June 16 Briefs
- The IDF cancels the off-limits Golan zone
Two hours after announcing that the northeastern section of the Golan was a closed military zone, the IDF lifted this restriction, but continued to keep watch on Druze movements on the Syrian side of the border. The measure was imposed to prevent Druze demonstrations on both sides of the border under the guidance of pro-Syrian interests hostile to Israel.
- IDF establishes new cyber command
The new cyber command announced Monday by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen Gady Eisenkott will oversee all activity related to cyber warfare operations, cyber defense, cyber attacks, cyber intelligence-gathering and operational planning. It is expected to take two years to launch. Eisenkott said that the new command will empower the IDF to perform better in these areas and utilize the technological and human advantages with which Israel is endowed.
- An Egyptian court upholds Morsi death sentence
The death sentence imposed on ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, initially passed in May, was confirmed by Egypt’s highest religious authority the Grand Mufti, and upheld by an Egyptian court. He was convicted of a series of charges including colluding with the Palestinian Hamas to stage a mass jailbreak in 2011. The death sentences of five other leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood, including its supreme guide Mohammed Badie, were also upheld. The verdict is subject to appeal.
- US drone said killed Al Qaeda’s top AQAP leader in Yemen
Tweets from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula operatives say their leader Nasir al-Wuhayshi was martyred, apparently by a US drone strike Friday in Yemen's Hadhramout region. They report that AQAP military commander Qasm al-Rimi (also known as Abu Hureira al-Sanaani) had been appointed to replace him.
- Unique 3,000-year old Hebrew inscription found near Jerusalem
The name “Ishbaal Ben Bada” came to light after the fragments of a clay pot found at the Hurvat Kiyafa dig at Emek Ha’Elah – led by the Hebrew University’s Prof. Yosef Garfinkel and Saar Ganor of the Antiquities Authority – had been painstakingly assembled. This name is found in the Bible in only one period: the reign of King David. Samuel II Ch. 3-4 refers to Ishbaal (identified as Ish-Boshet) as David’s rival in Judea. His name on a clay container attests to his having been a landowner important enough for his product to be packed in containers bearing his name. Clearly, the early days of the Israelite kingdom saw the emergence of a much more ordered society than once believed, as well as a wealthy class. Only few Hebrew inscriptions had been found from 10th century BCE Judea until recently. But the few discovered in the last five years revealed the existence of a kingdom run on organized lines employing clerks and writers.
June 17 Briefs
- Saudi Dep. Crown Prince visits Russia
Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad traveled to Moscow Wednesday for an official visit on behalf of his father King Salman. He will meet with President Vladimir Putin and top officials.
- US ambassador noncommittal on veto for Palestinian state
“We would oppose anything designed to punish Israel or undermine Israel’s security,” said US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing Wednesday. But when asked if the US would exercise its veto against a Security Council resolution calling for a Palestinian state, she said she would not make “blanket declarations on hypothetical resolutions.” debkafile: Far from being hypothetical, the Obama administration supports the French initiative for a Security Council resolution calling for a two-state solution.
- Kerry drops Iran’s past weapons tests as part of nuclear deal
US Secretary of State John Kerry now says that the US wouldn’t make Iran’s accounting of any past atomic weapons research as a condition for reaching a deal. “We’re not fixated on Iran specifically accounting for what they did at one point in time or another,” Kerry said. “We know what they did… What we’re concerned about is going forward.”
debkafile: The US has therefore dropped the demand for Iran to “come clean” on the secret nuclear weapons tests carried out at the Parchin military complex.
Kerry’s refusal to be “fixated” on Iran’s former nuclear misdeeds continues to indulge Tehran
17 Jun. President Barack Obama is about to make his most substantial concession yet to Iran by agreeing to release only one part of their nuclear accord, while keeping the technical protocols secret.
Senior US negotiator Wendy Sherman fought hard to get both parts released, but was overruled. The 50 pages of the nuclear accord’s practical annexes embody the adage that the devil is in the detail. But Obama may choose to keep it secret from Congress, the American public and US allies, while Iran is given free rein to pursue its objectives.
Syrian rebel coalition launches offensive near Golan to clear path to south Damascus. Israel acts to protect Druze
17 Jun. Jaysh Hermon (the Army of Hermon) Wednesday, June 17, launched a broad offensive on Syrian army forces in the Quneitra and Hermon sectors bordering on Israel. Its objective is to capture the Syrian army’s 68th Brigade headquarters Khan al-Shih which commands the main Quneitra-Damascus highway, debkafile reports. This would clear their path to the southern suburbs of Damascus and enable them to encircle the government troops defending the capital. Jaysh Hermon was warned by the US command in Jordan not to harm Syrian Druzes, after Netanyahu, Yaalon and Eisenkott interceded personally for their safety.
June 18 Briefs
- A record 60 million people forcibly displaced by conflict
Almost 60 million people worldwide were forcibly uprooted by conflict and persecution at the end of last year, the highest ever recorded number, the UN refugee agency said on Thursday in its annual Global Trends Report. More than half the displaced from crises including Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia were children.