A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending June 22, 2006

An exploding car door detonated by an Israeli plane over Lebanon is suspected of killing the brothers Mahmoud and Nidal Mahjub in Sidon May 26


 


16 June: This is one of the disclosures emerging from Lebanon’s break-up of two alleged Israeli sabotage-spy rings held responsible for the targeted assassination of the brothers, who were Hizballah coordinators with West Bank suicide bomb controllers, and a string of Hizballah and Palestinian terrorist activists in Lebanon. Two Israeli agents reportedly flew into Beirut international airport by commercial flight on false passports three days before the operation. They are believed to have headed for Sidon, replaced a door of the Mahjub brothers’ car with the booby-trapped facsimile. They are said to have flown out again after an Israeli plane over Sidon detonated the planted explosives with an electronic beam.


Lebanese defense minister Elias Murr reported that in a raid of a house in Sidon, security forces discovered a device for flashing to Israeli planes the coordinates for locating targets rigged for explosion, as well communications, surveillance and bomb-making equipment.


When he was captured, the ringleader of one network, Mahmoud Rafeh, a Druze from Hasbaiah in South Lebanon, made a full confession without waiting to be pressed. Rafeh described the unusual functions of his network as a logistics-cum-information center, which laid the groundwork for Israeli operations against targeted terrorist operatives. Lebanese agents were never informed of the targets, just ordered to leaving the means of destruction at drop points for Israeli agents to pick up – and then make off.


Israel will no doubt deny any of the charges leveled by Lebanon when the issue comes up at the UN Security Council.


 


Olmert secretly allows 1,000 M16 rifles to be delivered to Abu Mazen’s Force 17, while admitting to only 200


 


17 June: Israel’s top military and security chiefs are up in arms against prime minister Ehud Olmert and defense minister Amir Peretz after discovering the far-from-token scope of the arms delivery the ministers allowed to reach Abu Mazen’s private army. While stating that 200 automatic rifles had been transferred to Mahmoud Abbas, it transpires that, under the table, 1,000 guns and 3 million bullets were delivered to Abbas’ “presidential guard”, Force 17 (a veteran terrorist arm of Fatah with a long history of hundreds of attacks against Israelis.)


Saturday night, June 17, Hamas too discovered the real scale of the arms delivery to Fatah and furiously demand that the “the American-Israeli plot” against it be investigated. There was no comment from Israel.


To avoid the stigma of being seen as an US-Israeli puppet, Abu Mazen Saturday, June 17, denied taking delivery of the American weapons through Israeli good will. They are now stowed away in the Force 17 arsenal. But Abbas cannot allow them to be distributed to its members without losing face.


 


The Strong Chinese-Hamas Intelligence Connection


 


19 June: A Chinese intelligence officer is engaged in covertly aiding the ruling Palestinian Hamas terrorist group, according to a Paris-based intelligence newsletter picked up by the Washington Post’s Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough on June 19.


They identify Gong Xiaosheng as a Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS) official who has worked out of Ramallah since Nov. 2002.


debkafile‘s intelligence sources add: The Chinese “strategic agent” was so close to Yasser Arafat that he was among the handful of aides and terrorist chiefs confined with him in two rooms of of the residential apartment of the Palestinian leader’s Ramallah headquarters when it was stormed and besieged by Israeli forces in April and May 2002.


After his death, Gong moved over to Hamas. As far back as 2004, the Chinese MSS pegged the Islamist terrorist group as an up-and-coming force heading for Palestinian rule. The American CIA and Israeli Mossad were far slower in assessing Hamas’ rise to power – even on the eve of the Palestinian election in January, 2006. debkafile‘s Palestinian experts were alone in predicting the Hamas win.


Our sources disclose that the Chinese intelligence officer is very close to Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya, a-Zahar and Muhammed Jaabari, chief of the Hamas armed wing, Ezz e-Din al-Qassam. They habitually consulti him for advice. Hamas’s actions and decisions are there not merely influenced by its relations with fellow Palestinian groups, Iran, Syria and other parts of the Muslim world. The Hamas-Gaza, Beijing connection is no less influential.


 


Palestinian Qassam missile was aimed at Sderot during Israeli president Katzav’s visit


 


19 June: The president was accompanied by defense minister Amir Peretz, who was earlier taunted by lawmakers in Jerusalem for “cowardice” and “doing nothing” against the constant missile attacks on his own home town.


debkafile adds: Palestinian terrorists were not afraid to target Sderot during the Israeli president’s visit – which was no secret. This is a measure of the slump in Israel’s deterrent strength caused by its military’s failure to put a stop to their systematic violence against a sovereign Israeli town.


 


New Syria-Iranian defense treaty to bring Revolutionary Guards to Israel’s Golan border by summer’s end


 


19 June: debkafile‘s Tehran sources disclose the Iranians seek to attain three objectives by deploying RG units to the Golan Heights:


1. Another direct front line against Israel.


2. A forward position for an Iranian electronic warning station to sound a timely alarm of the takeoff of American warplanes or missiles from the eastern Mediterranean basin on their way to attack.


3. The station can also keep electronic track of movements on Israeli air and missile bases, covering also Arrow anti-missile missile systems.


The breadth of Syrian-Iranian military relations can be measured by the military treaty’s financial scope of $800 m and the size of the delegation Damascus sent to Tehran – 60 officers representing every branch of the Syrian armed forces, including intelligence and munitions industries.


 


Coalition Aims at Heading off Taliban Advance on Kabul


 


20 June: “Operation Mountain Thrust,” the biggest coalition offensive since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, has taken US-led forces deep into the remote mountains of the south. Its primary purpose is to abort the revived Taliban’s drive to retake Kabul the capital, and the key city of Herat by severing its routes.


The operation, launched Thursday, June 15, is being fought in the southern mountains of Uruzgan. Helmand, Kandahar and Zabul, which border on Pakistan. US spokesmen noted that Sunday, June 18, was the first time coalition soldiers had ventured into the Bagham Valley north of Helmund. They landed by helicopter and quickly set up artillery and fortified positions primed to block off Taliban movements and cut its mainline supply routes below.


debkafile‘s counter-terror sources conclude that, beyond the verbal sparring, the harsh reality is that,: four and a half years after its eviction, the Taliban has retaken one-third of if not one half of the country.


Operation Mountain Thrust faces three problems with little hope of a cure:


1. The bulk of Taliban strength is tucked away safely across the border in Waziristani sanctuaries. However hard they are hit in southern Afghanistan, they will still retain plenty of reinforcements in reserve and out of reach.


2. Even further out of reach are the Taliban’s backers, the most important of which is the Pakistan intelligence agency, SIS, which feeds the Taliban arms, money and intelligence data. The second are the opium farmers and marketers. In Pakistan, al Qaeda’s smuggling networks take over part of the produce from the Taliban and handle its consignment to the Middle East, Europe and the Far East.


The Taliban finds a third mainstay in disaffected Afghan tribes and clans alienated by the corruption of President Hamid Karzai’s regime and its neglect of the population’s basic needs in the remote provinces.


3. In the view of debkafile‘s military experts, the coalition force of 11,000 men is far below the strength required to take on a guerilla force, which is not concentrated in two or three bases, but scattered across 200,000 square miles of wild terrain, rugged mountains, steep valleys, and dry rivers.


 


The twin Red Sea ports of Aqaba and Eilat may share a new international airport with terminals on the Israel and Jordanian sides of the border


 


21 June This was one of the joint plans discussed by Jordan’s King Abdullah and Israel’s Dep. PM Shimon Peres in Petra Wednesday. Another is to cut a canal across the desert from the Red Sea to replenish the ebbing Dead Sea which is divided between the two countries.


 


And Israeli airborne rocket misses Palestinian terrorists, kill two civilians in a Khan Younes house


 


21 June: The Israeli strike missed a car full of Palestinian Popular Resistance Committees terrorists.


debkafile‘s military sources note: This is the fourth Israeli air force targeted attack that has misfired in a week – at the cost of a score of unintended Palestinian civilian casualties.


The following debkafile report discusses what is amiss with the Israeli counter-terror war.


 


Has Israel Lost Its Way in War on Terror War?


 


21 June: After two weeks of relentless Palestinian missile and gunfire and attempts to kidnap Israelis, and Israeli targeted and misaimed attacks on terrorist operatives, the Olmert government has no clue how to handle the crisis. The prime minister appears to believe his own verbal acrobatics that hinge on –


1. The “unstoppability” of his realignment plan for the West Bank.


2. A promise to get together with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.


3. The boldness of his counter-terror initiatives compared to those of his predecessor, Ariel Sharon. These initiatives, focusing heavily on targeted hits of terrorist operatives, consistently miss their mark because they do not arise from coherent, well-thought out policy but allow Palestinian terrorists to set the pace.


The Olmert plan to unilaterally mark out Israel’s eastern border after realigning the settlement blocs, was again set back twice this week: The US-European summit in Vienna came out against any Israeli unilateral steps on the West Bank, and in Jerusalem, MK Yossi Bailin stated that the plan had no chance of Knesset endorsement because both his left-wing Meretz faction and the Arab bloc would vote it down.


Olmert cannot afford to lose any more time in getting his act together and deciding what to do next:


A. Go back to the starting line and compile a completely new policy program.


B. Make the war on terror his first priority, ahead of realignment or peace talks with the Palestinians. As his predecessors discovered, a devastating military blow to Palestinian terror cannot be avoided as a prerequisite for talks with – and concessions to – the Palestinians


C. Go directly to talks with Abbas, inevitably folding under Palestinian demands for exorbitant concessions.


Israeli’s security crisis under an inexperienced government is compounded by the breakdown of the chief of staff, Lt-Gen. Dan Halutz’s strategic doctrine for fighting terror. That doctrine, because it is in thrall to political considerations, had failed to measure up to changing realities. The theory developed for the Gaza pull-out that southern Israeli can be defended by remote control, using the air force, fences and electronic technology, has collapsed. The country has sunk into a muddle, a welter of contradictory steps and meaningless rhetoric. Palestinian terrorist tacticians are pressing their advantage hard. The Qassam missiles fly day by day in the Negev, together with threats of more extreme action in other parts of Israel.


 


A gunman riding pillion on a motorbike attempted to kill Ayatollah Mughtada Kazbani in Karbala this week – the first staged in Iraq by this method


 


22 June: The ayatollah who escaped unharmed is one of the most prominent theological authorities in the Shiite Muslim world. The attempted assassination was at first treated as a sectarian Sunni revenge attack against a senior Shiite cleric. But debkafile‘s sources report that US and Iraqi intelligence now conclude it was the work of Iranian intelligence, which is now engaged in knocking off independent-minded Iraqi Shiite clerics standing in the way of Tehran’s domination.


 


Four US Marines were killed, another wounded, in a combat operation in Kamdesh district of Nuristan in eastern Afghanistan


 


22 June: debkafile‘s military sources add: This engagement in the Kamdesh district of Nuristan on June 22 signifies that the Taliban has opened a second front in the east against US-led coalition troops which launched Operation Mountain Thrust in four southern provinces on June 15.


Earlier, those sources estimated that the 11,000 coalition troops assigned were below the strength required for taking on the scattered Taliban forces and accomplishing their mission of cutting off Taliban routes to Kabul and Herat.

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