A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending June 28, 2007
A third US carrier, the nuclear-powered USS Enterprise Strike Group is speeding towards the Persian Gulf
21 June: According to debkafile‘s military sources, the US naval build-up off the shores of Iran marks rising military tensions in the region, accentuated by last week’s Hamas victory which has endowed Iran with a military foothold on Israel’s southwestern border.
The USS Enterprise CVN 65-Big E Strike Group, the US Navy’s largest air carrier, will join the USS Stennis and the USS Nimitz carriers, building up the largest sea, air, marine concentration the United States has ever deployed opposite Iran.
debkafile‘s military sources report Washington is considering deploying the fourth US carrier for the region in the Red Sea opposite Saudi Arabian western coast to secure the three US carriers in the Gulf from the rear as well as the Gulf of Aqaba and Suez Canal.
Hamas threatens suicide attack, says Egyptian and Palestinian intelligence knew all about arms smuggling tunnels
23 June: debkafile‘s intelligence sources report: The Islamist group is satisfied that none of the four rulers meeting at Sharm el-Sheikh will resort to military action to upend its putsch. After all, Cairo could have massed troops on its border with Gaza – with the silent encouragement of the US and Israel – and slapped down a 48-hour ultimatum for Hamas to hand over the usurped Palestinian ruling institutions, or be forced out by Egyptian guns. But just as Israel opted to keep its powder dry, so too has Cairo. Therefore, Hamas in Gaza is pressing its advantage.
Coupled with the threat of violence, Hamas released Saturday a batch of documents captured in the Palestinian Authority’s intelligence archives in Gaza, which include complete maps in the hands of the Palestinian Preventive Security service and Egyptian intelligence of 22 gunrunning tunnels from Sinai to Gaza. Exes marked the points of ingress and exit under cover of buildings.
This incriminating expose attests to the two governments’ deliberate inaction in preventing the Hamas military build-up.
Mubarak decides suddenly to lift Egypt’s anti-Hamas blockade of Gaza
24 June: Only Saturday, President Hosni Mubarak’s denounced Hamas for staging an illegal coup. Yet the next day, an official VIP convoy headed by Hamas’ interior minister Siad Sayam – who masterminded the Hamas coup in Gaza – was allowed to drive out of Gaza with 15 senior Hamas commanders who led the military action against Fatah last week. Their cars bore official Palestinian government plates. Egyptian security units escorted the convoy from Rafah to Cairo international airport, where the Hamas delegation emplaned for Damascus.
debkafile‘s military sources describe Cairo’s action as a slap in the face for the three leaders he invited to the Sharm el-Sheikh conference, Jordan’s King Abdullah, Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. He called the get-together in the first place to discuss ways of isolating Hamas into submission.
His reversal was also a message for Israel’s new defense minister Ehud Barak.
By helping the Hamas minister in charge of defense take off for military consultations with Syrian leaders, the Mubarak government was informing Israel that it would line up with Hamas against any Israeli military action ordered by Barak in Gaza. Since the Hamas takeover, Qassam missiles and mortar attacks against Israel are a daily occurrence. One of the new defense minister’s tasks is to devise means of halting the attacks.
Six Spanish UN peacemakers killed in powerful blast in S. Lebanon
24 June: The attack by a car packed with explosives driven by a suicide bomber took place near Al Khiyam, in the eastern sector close to the Israeli border, exactly a week after a Katyusha rocket attack on Kiryat Shemona.
debkafile reports this is the first terrorist attack against UNIFIL forces since the Lebanon war of 2006. The Spanish contingent is 1,000 strong. For some weeks, al Qaeda-linked groups controlled by Syrian military intelligence in Lebanon as well as Hizballah have been threatening the lives of the international peacekeepers assigned to South Lebanon by the world body after the 2006 war.
Israel switches backing from Mahmoud Abbas to Palestinian PM Salim Fayyad
24 June: Ahead of the Sharm al Sheikh summit, the Olmert cabinet decided Sunday, June 24, to release frozen funds “in a phased process to support a new Palestinian government” – not the Palestinian Authority, which is headed by Mahmoud Abbas.
Salim Fayyad holds the key finance and foreign ministries as well as the premiership in the Ramallah-based emergency government established after Hamas’ takeover of the Gaza Strip earlier this month.
According to debkafile‘s Washington sources, Ehud Olmert switched his support from Abbas to Fayyad after talking to President George W. Bush in the White House on June 19. That conversation was acrimonious. The US president asked straight off which part of the Israeli ruling establishment should be held responsible for neglecting to heed the rising strength of Hamas.
And indeed striking differences were demonstrated at the cabinet meeting in Jerusalem Sunday. The Shin Bet domestic intelligence service chief Yuval Diskin warned Hamas was plotting a terrorist attack to undermine Abu Mazen (Abbas), while military intelligence AMAN chief Maj. Gen Amos Yadlin maintained that terrorist attacks were not expected in the near future before Hamas consolidated its gains.
Washington no longer believes Abbas is capable of combating Hamas or any other terrorists on the West Bank. Fayyad was chosen to carry the policy through.
Captured Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit, in first audio tape, calls for release of thousands of Palestinians in Israeli jails.
debkafile: Hamas has a second video tape as yet unpublished
25 June: You must meet the demands of the moujeheddin to get me out of prison,” said the kidnapped soldier in the first sign of life Monday, June 25. “Just as I have parents who miss me, so too do the thousands of Palestinian prisoners and they deserve to have them home. It has been a whole year and my health is continuing to deteriorate and I need lengthy hospital treatment. I was on a military mission under orders and not a dope peddler.
The same day, al Qaeda’s No. 2 Ayman Zuwahiri released a new audio video supporting Hamas and its seizure of the Gaza Strip in a dramatic swing round from its earlier criticism.
Sunday, Hamas aired footage produced by al Qaeda’s Army of Islam showing BBC correspondent Alan Johnston wearing an explosive belt and warning that it would be detonated in any attempt to free him.
debkafile‘s counter-terror sources: The release of the Shalit, Johnston and Zawihiri tapes within a few hours – the first two by Hamas – strongly indicates the timing was coordinated between Hamas and al Qaeda.
Fatah-Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades chiefs defy Mahmoud Abbas’ ban on unauthorized persons bearing arms on West Bank
26 June: Abbas gave the order in default of a pledge he gave Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert at Sharm al-Sheikh Monday, June 25. In return for Israeli immunity from arrest, Abbas promised to collect signed statements renouncing terrorism from Fatah-al Aqsa members, have them turn in their weapons to the Palestinian Authority forces for registration and join up with Palestinian security forces.
Abbas explained he needed the Brigades fighters, many of whom are wanted for orchestrating suicide attacks against Israel in the last decade, to combat Hamas on the West Bank.
Olmert told Abbas his Fatah fighters would have immunity for nightly Israeli raids if he held them to Israeli conditions. Instead, Abbas issued an order banning unauthorized persons from bearing arms which had no chance of being obeyed.
The Army of Islam in Gaza threatens to slaughter BBC journalist “like a lamb”
26 June: In a statement on June 26, the Palestinian radicals demanded that Jordan release the Iraqi woman, Sajida al-Rishawi, who was sentenced to death over triple hotel attacks in Amman that killed 60 people in 2005; Abu Mohammed al-Maqdissi, also held in Jordan since then; and the radical Palestinian-born cleric Abu Qatada, reputed former al Qaeda spiritual leader in Europe, who is held in Britain.
debkafile reports the threat was prompted by Hamas Executive Force’s abduction earlier Tuesday of Musab Durmush, a kinsman of Mumtaz Durmush, chief of the al-Qaeda linked Army of Islam, and his bodyguard Mahmoud al-Katib.
debkafile‘s counter-terror sources add: Six days ago, Hamas threatened to free the BBC reporter by force. Durmush rose to the challenge by promising to meet force with force. Two days ago, Alan Johnston, 45, was shown on video wearing a bomb belt and saying his Gaza captors would detonate it if any attempt was made to rescue him. The British journalist was snatched at gunpoint in Gaza City on March 12.
Former prisoner of Zion Ida Nudel petitions high court to withdraw from Hamas, Hizballah prisoners benefits they deny Israeli captives
26 June: She bases her petition against internal security minister Avi Dichter on the right to equal treatment. Israel permits family and Red Cross visits to Hizballah and Hamas prisoners which the two groups have denied Gilead Shalit, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser in their year as captives. This situation is intolerable, says Ms Nudel, and increases the dangers they face.
At least three Iranians killed in petrol rationing riots underlining the oil-rich country’s fuel vulnerability
27 June: At only two hours notice, Tehran Tuesday, June 26, announced the rationing of gas for Iran’s private motorists to 100 liters per month as a war measure.
Why is the oil-rich power so short of refining capacity that it imports 40% of its gasoline and oil products requirements?
The Islamic regime decided to allocate national funds for establishing oil refineries in Malaysia and Indonesia to enable its top officials to skim millions of dollars off those budgets and funnel them into their personal businesses and private bank accounts in the Far East. Like many a corrupt regime, its leaders fondly believed the people knew nothing of their abuses. The violent protests which the fuel rationing decree sparked across the country told them the population had not been fooled.
Iranian Revolutionary Guards suicide unit’s incursion of S. Iraq is another step in undeclared war
27 June: Early this week, Tehran deployed in southern Iraq and southern Iran contingents of Revolutionary Guards Corps suicide fighters in anticipation of an American attack on Iranian soil.
debkafile‘s military experts add: In effect, the Iranian military incursion of Iraq is the fourth military invasion of foreign territory in the Middle East at this very moment. None is officially admitted.
1. The Turkish army is fighting Kurdish PKK rebels in Iraqi Kurdistan on the other side of their border.
2. Syrian began pushing hundreds of Palestinian fighters into Lebanon in the second week of the six-week long confrontation between the Lebanese army and the pro-Damascus radical Palestinian Fatah al-Islam near Tripoli.
3. Israeli tank and armored infantry forces conduct ongoing counter-terror operations against Hamas, Jihad Islami and allied Palestinian terrorist groups in southern and northern Gaza.
Israeli forces kill 11 armed Palestinians, injure 40, in counter-terror operations in Gaza Strip Wednesday. Two Israeli soldiers slightly injured
27 June: The Palestinian fired 6 Qassam missiles and a dozen mortar rounds into Israel during the fighting, another two later in the evening.
At Sejaya near Gaza City, an Israeli tank force targeted Hamas, Jihad Islami and Fatah-al Aqsa Brigades operatives involved in the manufacture and shooting of missiles into Israel. Most of the Palestinians were killed resisting the force.
Near Khan Younes in the south, Palestinian gunmen opened up with machine gun and anti-tank fire on an IDF unit hunting smuggling tunnels and explosives caches. Israeli air strike hit five-member Palestinian missile team near the Karni crossing to Gaza Wednesday afternoon.
Palestinians fire mortar salvo at Gaza’s Erez crossing Wednesday after planting large explosive device at Kerem Shalom
27 June: debkafile reports: Frequent mortar and bombing attacks on the Gaza crossings lead Israeli authorities to conclude that Hamas is trying to fabricate a humanitarian crisis for international consumption. The Karni crossing was shut down by Palestinian attacks and reopened as was Kerem Shalom. The Sufa terminal which is still functioning is under threat of bombing.
Seven Israeli soldiers injured in Nablus Casbah, West Bank, overnight and Thursday morning
28 June: Explosive devices were hurled at the Israel unit during an ongoing search for wanted terrorists. One soldier was seriously wounded and three, including an officer, suffered moderate injuries.
Dismay in Washington and Jerusalem over Tony Blair’s first steps as Middle East Quartet’s envoy
28 June: Shortly after the former British prime minister stepped into his new job, he assured Russia and the Europeans that he did not mean to adhere to the US-Israeli boycott of Hamas. One of his first tasks would be to establish ties with Hamas representatives in Gaza and Damascus.
debkafile‘s Washington sources report that the British politician conveyed this intention in a telephone conversation with Russian president Vladimir Putin Tuesday, June 26. This assurance persuaded Moscow to drop its resistance to naming him envoy. Those sources affirm that Blair’s sudden turnaround contradicts the understandings he reached with US president George W. Bush and secretary of state Condoleezza Rice on his leave-taking visit earlier this month.
German chancellor Angela Merkel is also looking askance at the new Blair strategy. Thursday, June 28, she commented: “Tony Blair’s mandate as new Middle East envoy would be limited and he would report to the international Quartet, not the other way round.”
Concern was also voiced in Washington over the new British prime minister Gordon Brown’s appointment of David Miliband as foreign secretary.
One US official remarked that if Brown, Miliband and Blair and their advisers coordinated Middle East policies, then Washington and Jerusalem had plenty to worry them.