A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending June 28, 2012

June 22, 2012 Briefs

  • Israel air force struck Gaza after another day of Palestinian missile fire
    Palestinian casualties reported in the Gaza Strip Friday night from an Israeli air attack as three Qassam missiles were fired at Ashkelon and another at the Eshkol district – all exploding on open ground.
  • 26 die in battle with Taliban fighters holding hostages in hotel near Kabul
    At least 16 people were killed when Taliban fighters shooting rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns burst into the lakeside Spozhmai hotel near Kabul Thursday. The insurgents took scores of hostages in their 11-hour siege. They were freed after most of the attackers were killed by Afghan special police backed by NATO forces.

June 23, 2012 Briefs:

  • Five Grad missiles fired at Ashkelon – all intercepted
    Palestinian missile fire from the Gaza Strip accelerated Saturday night with five Grad missiles fired at Ashkelon. This was a serious escalation in the weeklong barrage – despite the talk in Israel and by Gaza spokesman of a slowdown in violence. Iron Dome anti-missile batteries intercepted all five Grads. During the day, 45 Qassam missiles were aimed at smaller Israeli locations – 28 exploding harmlessly in Israel, three thwarted by Iron Dome and 14 landing on the Gazan side of the border.
  • Barak convenes top IDF command on Gaza escalation
    Special General Command consultation held Saturday on deteriorating security in broad region of Israel battered by Gaza missiles. It is to be continued Saturday night.
  • Egyptian liberals to US: Stop pressuring military council to hand over to Brotherhood
    Egypt’s liberal political parties appealed to the US to stop trying to sway results of the country’s first post-Hosni Mubarak presidential elections and accuse the Muslim Brotherhood of “hijacking” the revolution.
  • Bathers evacuated from Israel’s southern beaches amid rising Gaza threat
    Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz has called an emergency conference of generals to determine Israel’s next steps in view of the continuing missile barrage (150 in a week) from the Hamas-ruled Gaza strip on Israeli locations.
  • US embassy warns of imminent terrorist attack in Mombasa, Kenya
    US personnel advised to leave the city. A Kenyan official reported two suspected Iranian terrorists were arrested this week and one led counter-terrorism officers to Mombasa to recover 15 kilos of a powdery substance believed to be explosive material.
  • Nine-missile volley from Gaza seriously injures Israeli man in Sderot
    People living within range of Gaza ordered Saturday to stay 15 seconds away from shelters after 120 missiles were fired from Gaza, most harmlessly, but leaving scores of shock victims. An Israeli man in Sderot was injured Saturday by a direct hit to a plant where he worked, damaging the building. Iron Dome missile defense batteries intercepted five. Israel air strikes were conducted against three Hamas bases, one a command center in Gaza City, and missile teams. The Palestinians report 20 injured.

Newly-supplied Russian anti-air missile downed Turkish warplane

23 June. Syria Friday shot down the Turkish Super Phantom jet with the sophisticated self-propelled medium range anti-air Pantsur-1 missile recently supplied by Russia. Short of time to master the improved missile system, the Syrian crews would have called on their Russian instructors to help launch them. debkafile: Moscow and Damascus may have decided to stop the almost daily Turkish air force flights over the Syrian coast for spying on Russian arms deliveries through the Russian bases of Tartus and Latakia.
This would be the first instance in the 15-month Syrian uprising of an advanced Russian-supplied weapon hitting the military target of a NATO member.

Muslim Brotherhood Mohammed Morsi is president of Egypt

24 June. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has achieved the goal set at its foundation 84 years ago. Its candidate Mohammed Morsi was declared Sunday afternoon, June 24, president of Egypt with a 51.73 percent win over Ahmed Shafiq, former prime minister under the ousted Hosni Mubarak. Jubilant Brotherhood supporters massed in Tahrir Square are now preparing to fight the Supreme Military Council to transfer the sweeping powers assumed by the generals to the president and back him in Egypt’s transformation into an Islamic republic akin to Iran.

Al Qaeda opens new front against S. Israel. Egypt posts elite unit

24 June. Al Qaeda infiltrators from Libya are spearheading much of this month’s anti-Israel violence from Sinai and the Gaza Strip – a dangerous development Israel, Hamas, Egypt and the US prefer to conceal, which may tie in with the arrival of al Qaeda’s ex-Iraq fighters in Syria. Deeply concerned to check this spillover from Libya Cairo has posted its elite counter-terrorist “999 unit” in El Arish, on Egypt’s border with the Gaza Strip and along the northern sector of its frontier with Israel.
Israel also faces a menacing al Qaeda presence in Syria on its northern border.

June 25, 2012 Briefs

  • Turkey: All options against Syria on the table
    Dep. PM Bulent Arinc said after a cabinet meeting in Ankara that all options against Syria were on the table including the right to military retaliation. “Turkey will protect itself within international law,” he said, adding that Syria’s downing of a Turkish jet “in cold blood and a hostile way” could not be left unpunished. But then he said, “We do not intend to make war with anybody.”
  • Putin holds talks with Netanyahu
    Russian President Vladimir Putin paid a 24-hour visit to Israel culminated in talks with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. (See two debkafile articles.)” He arrived with a party of 300 – several ministers including Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, advisers, journalists and a large component of business leaders – aboard four Russian aircraft. Putin stays in close touch with Israel’s million ex-Russian migrants whom he still regards as Russian. Unveiling a monument commemorating the Red Army’s victory over Nazi Germany and liberation of Auschwitz, he warmly embraced Jewish Red Army veterans.

Putin to Israel: Iran won’t get a nuclear bomb, so don’t attack

25 June. At his 90-minute talks with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem Monday, June 25, Russian President Vladimir Putin firmly assured him that Iran would not get a nuclear bomb. “It would be contrary to Russian interests, and so it will not get one,” he said, debkafile reports exclusively. “We [Russians] know more about what is going on with Iran’s (nuclear) capabilities than the Americans,” he said, indicating that Israel would be better served spending in Moscow some of the time taken up in endless palaver with the Americans.

Putin-Netanyahu talks to focus on rising Islamist power

25 June. The Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power in Egypt was the top issue when Monday, June 25, Russian President Vladimir Putin on a short visit to Israel met Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. On one issue at least they have common ground: The Muslim Brotherhood governments rolling out along Middle East shores with US encouragement – Libya, last year; Egypt, yesterday; and Syria, tomorrow – are seen as a threat to regional stability rivaling even the menace of a nuclear-armed Iran.

June 26, 2012 Briefs

  • Five Palestinian Grad missiles aimed at Netivot
    Missile fire resumed from the Gaza Strip Tuesday night after a short lull. At least four Grad missiles fired at Netivot – two were intercepted by Iron Dome, two exploded on open ground.
  • Putin from Bethlehem: Unilateral acts are not constructive
    After meeting Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, Russian President Vladimir Putin said “Unilateral acts before there is a final solution are not constructive.”
  • Arson causes two raging fires in Jerusalem hills
    Hundreds of dunams of vegetation More than 40 firefighting teams from Jerusalem and other places fought the flames backed by aircraft spraying fire retardant.
  • UK security chief warns Arab Spring new terror breeding-ground
    MI5 Director Jonathan Evans said in a lecture that al Qaeda has taken advantage of regional instability in the wake of Arab revolutions to spread its influence and create new bases of attack. “Today parts of the Arab world [Libya, Egypt and Syria] have once more become a permissive environment for al-Qaeda…” In some cases they are absorbed into the ruling establishment.
  • Putin visits Church of Sepulcher, Western Wall
    Russian President Vladimir Putin ended his 24-hour visit to Israel with visits to two holy sites in Jerusalem: the Church of the Sepulcher and the Western Wall. He said both were sacred and emotive for him.
  • Orderly evacuation of Ulpana Hill
    Tuesday and Wednesday, 30 families quietly left their homes at the Ulpana Hill estate of Beit El for temporary accommodation as per a High Court ruling that they were built ten years ago on land whose sale by the Palestinian owner was in question. Government policy bars settling privately-owned Palestinian land on the West Bank.
  • Israel’s bank interest pared to 2.25%
    Central Bank Director Stanley Fischer cut July interest by 0.25% to 2.25%, adjusted annual growth estimate to 3.1% in 2012 and 3.4% next year. He also forecast a rise in consumer prices including housing rent and taxes.

British forces in Syria. Assad presidential compound said under attack

26 June: Unconfirmed reports from British, French and Turkish sources say British special operations forces crossed from Turkey into northern Syria Tuesday, May 26, and advanced up to 10 kilometers inside the country. The same sources report heavy fighting around the Republican Guards compound guarding the presidential palace on Mount Qaisoun overlooking Damascus. If confirmed, the two-pronged assault on the Assad regime began at the tail-end of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Israel, and challenged his repeated objections to foreign intervention.

June 27, 2012 Briefs

  • Turkish opposition: A Russian warship shot down the Turkish warplane
    Masum Turker, leader of the opposition Democratic Left Party, says the Turkish military jet was shot down Friday June 22 by a Russian warship, the Admiral Chabanenko, one of the three Russian vessels docked at Latakia.
  • Israel and US deny receiving assurances from Cairo
    Senior political sources in Washington and Jerusalem report there is no foundation to the reports aired by Israeli media Tuesday claiming that incoming Egyptian president Muhammed Morsi had sent Israel reassuring messages about the future of Egyptian-Israeli peace ties. No such messages were sent either directly or through Washington, said the sources.
  • Smaller Syrian units with stronger firepower treble fatalities
    The Syrian fatality figure shot past the 100-a-day mark this week rising to 107 Tuesday, June 26. debkafile’s military sources report 1) Both sides are using more and heavier weapons – e.g., Tuesday saw rebels firing light 60mm mortar fire for the first time on regime targets in Damascus area; Wednesday, their first raid on a TV station in the capital, killing three members of the Ikhbariya staff; 2) The Syrian army, possibly running short of manpower, is using more intense fire power than ever before.
  • Ahmad Shafiq quits Egypt after losing presidential vote
    Western and Gulf sources confirm that Gen. Ahmed Shafiq, the Mubarak veteran who lost the presidential election to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Muhamed Morsi, has left the country with his family and private assets. His aides in Cairo insist he has only taken a holiday and will return to lead an opposition movement. However, Western sources say he is unlikely to risk arrest and trial on charges of corruption.

Obama nixes leading Turkish assault on Syria

27 June. Another urgent bid for the US to lead an allied offensive against Syria’s ruling regime fell on deaf ears. It came Tuesday, June 26, from Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who is spoiling for action over the Syrian shoot-down of a Turkish military plane last Friday. Obama turned him down and urged US, British, Turkish and French covert operations to continue. Erdogan is forced to resort to the strategy employed by Binyamin Netanyahu on a nuclear Iran – tough rhetoric accompanied by inaction

June 28, 2012 Briefs

  • Israel’s military deploys for al Qaeda attacks from Syria
    Brig.-Gen. Tamir Hayman, commander of the 36th Division, warned that the weakening of the Syrian government and its control over the Horon province bordering on Israel poses a potential threat to Israel’s northern border after years of calm. Al Qaeda gangs from other parts of Syria may take advantage of lax government for attacks on Israel. The IDF is preparing appropriate measures to withstand this potential threat.
  • Gulf sources report US, Gulf armies on high alert pending Syria action
    Various Gulf sources, some US military, report a high alert pending a strike against Syria in two days in US regional positions and Saudi Special Forces and National Guard. NATO forces are about to move to Turkey and Israel too is mobilized. This report is not confirmed by any official sources.
  • The US backs Annan’s unity government proposal for Syria
    The proposal, which other powers have promised to back, will be aired at a meeting of the UN Action Group on Syria in Geneva Saturday.
  • Hamas leader killed in Syria, Assad regime suspected
    A Hamas official, Kamal Hussein Ghannaje, was killed Wednesday in the Qudsaya suburb Damascus. Hamas accused Mossad of the assassination, while the Syrian opposition fingered the pro-Assad militia.
  • Hillary Clinton does not plan visit to Cairo yet
    “I think we need to let President-elect Morsi get himself inaugurated, pull his government together,” she said Thursday.

Assad is confined to palace by his Republican Guard

28 June. debkafile, citing Western intelligence sources, reports Thursday, June 28, that the Republican Guard battalion commander charged with the Syrian president’s security has kept Bashar Assad and his family shut away in his palace in what they call “partial siege” since last week. This officer decides whether they can come or go. It is not clear to whom he defers. “"Inside the palace, Assad and his family have become fearful enough to import tasters to check all the food and drink served them… Assad and his wife are both in very low spirits and the atmosphere inside the palace is very bleak." There have two attempts to poison them by planting poison in food supplies, which means the rebels have penetrated the heavy layers of security around them.

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