A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending June 29, 2006

Olmert’s Taboos Tie Israeli Military Hands against an Increasingly Porous Gaza-Israeli Border


23 June: The Olmert government has instructed the IDF to confine itself to air force activity in the war against the Qassam missile – and barred all other means of warfare.

The result is a simple equation, debkafile‘s military experts say.

Heightened Palestinian missile attacks on Israeli civilian locations generate increased air force activity to stop them. The further the Qassam launchers retreat for shelter into populated areas, the greater the number of Palestinian civilians who stand to be hurt. Therefore, the effort to avoid civilian casualties on the Palestinian side is tantamount to bringing the IDF’s counter-missile war to a full stop.

While the Israeli prime minister repeatedly vows “We will never compromise in the fight against terror,” he and the defense minister are consciously tying the IDF’s hands against pursuing this fight.

debkafile‘s military sources reveal here the five different constraints they have clamped down on counter-terror operations:

The IDF high command is at its wits’ end to cope with these five taboos while yet performing effectively against hostile forces tirelessly disrupting the lives of the people living in the western Negev.

Our military sources reveal that IDF statistical models updated to the third week of June point to the imminent probability of a steep rise in Israeli military and civilian casualties under the daily Qassam bombardment.


Osama bin Laden’s deputy warns “America will not know security until security is real in Palestine and other Muslim countries”


24 June: In a videotape aired by al Jazeera Arabic TV Friday night, Ayman Zawahri swore vengeance against the US for the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Al Qaeda’s No. 2 hailed the dead al Qaeda in Iraq leader as a hero and “prince of martyrs.” It was the first acknowledgement by al Qaeda’s center of the death of its Iraq chief.

Zawahri criticized Turkey for being a security state which welcomed US bases and recognized Israel.


An officer and sergeant killed and a corporal kidnapped in Hamas-led attack early Sunday outside S. Gazan Kerem Shalom crossing


25 June: debkafile has obtained exclusive details about the course of the Palestinian triple attack. Palestinian gunmen wearing IDF uniforms and badges, armed with Israeli regulation MI6 rifles, leaped out of a tunnel 200 meters behind Israeli lines, early Sunday, June 25. Led by Hamas S. Gaza commander, Abu Shamleh and representing several terrorist groups including the “Islamic Army (an al Qaeda cover name), they hurled grenades and a rocket-propelled grenade into the tank guarding the IDF position, killing the commander and another soldier, blew up an empty armored carrier and stormed the Telem military position facing the southern Gaza Strip.

debkafile reports: This was the first IDF post in the fortifications ringing the Gaza Strip to fall into Palestinian hands.

The assailants had spent 24 hours before the attack in the one-kilometer long tunnel, which they had been digging since winter from Rafah on the Gaza side of the border.

Israel intelligence was alerted to the abduction after more than an hour.


Israel holds off immediate military action in Gaza for fear of harm to kidnapped Israeli soldier Corp. Gideon Shalit, 19, from Mitzpe Hilo, is safe


25 June: This was decided by a special security cabinet consultation called by primeminister Ehud Olmert Sunday evening, June 25.

debkafile‘s military sources say the cabinet’s options were narrowed by the slow reactions of the generals on the spot – Maj.-Gen Yoav Galant (Ariel Sharon’s former military secretary) and Brig. Aviv Cochavi – plus the chief of staff’s reluctance to act independently without deferring to his political masters. Had the IDF gone roaring after the terrorists and kidnappers – or even launched a blind pursuit without waiting for a decision from the policy-makers – Israel might have gained the initiative and been in a position to force the kidnapped soldier’s release by pinning the Palestinian terrorists to the wall.

Amir Peretz, upon learning that an Israeli naval Dabur missile-ship had opened fire, ordered the vessel to stand down in case of repercussions to the abducted soldier.

These responses were seen by the Palestinian terrorist groups which carried out the concerted attack early Sunday as a sign of weakness and lack of resolve.


Israel holds Palestinian Authority headed by Abbas and Palestinian government responsible for terrorist outrage inside Israel


25 June: Abbas warned Palestinian terrorist leaders of harsh consequences at Israeli hands if they do not surrender the abducted soldier within 24 hours. Hamas wants to use information about the soldier's condition as a bargaining chip.

All Gaza’s international crossings have been closed.

Zeev Boim, agriculture minister for Israel’s ruling Kadima, linked the large-scale Hamas-led assault from Gaza Sunday to his government’s misjudgment of post-disengagement security. He admitted that Israel had failed to confront terrorist threats with adequate deterrence and had made the wrong responses to the proliferating Palestinian Qassam blitz on Israeli civilian locations outside the Gaza Strip.


Gaza Strip is locked down by land and sea, on PM Olmert’s order


26 June: Entry and exit of the Gaza Strip are now barred, he said in a tough speech in Jerusalem Monday, June 26.

Olmert vowed Israel’s response would reach every terrorist, every terrorist group where they are, however far away and wherever they hide. No office-holder who bears responsibility will enjoy immunity. debkafile's sources interpret this as a threat to the Damascus-based radical Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal. “We will act to restore our soldier safe and well to his family,” he said.

Olmert stressed that time is running out for an extensive military action. Israel will not be the object “Hamas, terrorist extortion.” He pledged: “No negotiations are taking place on the release of prisoners – nor will they be. Israel does not intend to put up with “bloodthirsty, terrorist fundamentalist, fanaticism.”


Corp Roee Amitai, 19, from Lod, injured in the Hamas attack on his post Sunday, says his unit had been warned about a tunnel from Gaza.


27 June: They were also told to be alert because a Palestinian group was preparing an attack. Lt. Hanan Barak, 20, from Arad and Sgt. Pavel Slotzker, 20, from Dimona, were killed when the Hamas-led terror group struck their tank and post opposite the Kerem Shalom crossing Sunday, June 25. Corp. Gideon Shalit, 19, was taken hostage.


debkafile: Rice urges Israel to give diplomacy a chance. For Olmert time is running out


27 June: On her way to Pakistan Tuesday, June 27, the US secretary of state referred to the standoff over the kidnapped 19-year old Israeli soldier and the continuing massing of Israeli troops on standby on the Gaza border.

She said: “There really needs to be an effort now to try and calm the situation.”

US ambassador Richard Jones said he is cautiously optimistic about the prospects of recovering Corp. Gilead Shalit.

debkafile‘s sources: From Washington, Israel’s reaction to the kidnap of Gilead Shalit is viewed as overly excited, if not hysterical, and certainly not grounds for embarking on total war against the Palestinians. Likewise, the concentration of Israeli armored strength on Gaza’s border appears not only unnecessary but counter-productive in that it reduces prime minister Ehud Olmert’s room for maneuver in negotiating the Israeli hostage’s release.


The Palestinian Hamas kidnappers break off contact with foreign diplomatic mediators


27 June: In the two days since Corp. Gilead Shalit’s abduction, none of the diplomats seeking to negotiate his release attained direct access to the kidnappers before the effort, led by Egypt, France, Turkey and others, broke down, It is feared that the Hamas faction hold the Israeli corporal have smuggled him out of the Gaza Strip through Sinai to a hostile Arab country.

Israel’s armed forces are making every effort to prevent the Israeli hostage from being taken out of the Gaza Strip, but without firm knowledge of where he is hidden, they are groping in the dark. The IDF are now paying in full the price for passing the Philadelphi border strip to Egyptian security (and intelligence) control.

Earlier, Palestinian PRC umbrella spokesman Muhammed al-Al said Gilead Shalit has been moved to hideout where “the Zionists will never reach him”


First Israeli tank columns roll into southern Gaza Strip Tuesday night after Israeli air strike knocks out transformer station south of Gaza City


27 June: Palestinian sources say the Israeli force is taking up positions around Rafah where captured Israeli soldier Gideon Shalit is believed held by Hamas captors.

Much of the territory has gone dark. Israeli artillery also opened up from the tank emplacements at Nahalf Oz, Kisufim and Sufa to prevent the Palestinians shooting Qassam missiles

Two earlier air strikes bombed bridges and cut the main highway linking Gaza City with the south, reportedly to disrupt the movements of Gilead Shalit’s captors with their hostage.

The Israeli incursion followed the breakdown of diplomatic efforts to negotiate the Israeli corporal’s release.


Massed Tanks Seek to Repair Israel’s Tattered Deterrence


27June: Prime minister Ehud Olmert ordered this display the day after a Hamas-led terrorist force tunneled its way from Gaza and came up behind an Israeli army post and tank, killing the tank commander and a soldier, injuring six and taking a hostage.

Olmert had a number of objectives in mind:

1. To rebuild the Israel armed forces’ faded deterrent strength in the eyes of the Palestinians and the Israeli public. It has been gravely eroded by years of Israeli “self-restraint” in the face of Palestinian terrorist actions and a succession of Israeli missteps:

– The pullback from Gaza belatedly admitted as reckless by most military experts;

– The concomitant metamorphosis of the Philadelphi border zone dividing Gaza from Egyptian Sinai from an enclave controlled by Israeli forces to the main highway for replenishing Palestinian terrorist groups with weapons and fighters;

– The rise of Hamas as head of Palestinian government;

– Al Qaeda’s incursion of the Gaza Strip;

– The ill effects of Israeli dithering over measures to stamp out the Palestinian Qassam blitz on Israeli civilians living within range of Gaza launch pads;

– The need to eclipse the impact of the successful combined Palestinian operation against the IDF’s Telem post inside Israel and their capture of an Israeli hostage;

– The hope of scaring the Palestinian terrorists into appreciating the weight of the iron colossus about to hear down on them if they refuse to give up the Israeli corporal and instead insist on haggling.


Syria says its air defenses opened fire on Israeli air force jets which buzzed Assad’s Latakia palace.


27 June: Israeli N. border forces on high alert for Hizballah attack. Unofficial Israel sources confirm that 4 Israeli F16 fighters buzzed the Syrian presidential summer palace in Latakia early Wednesday, June 28, as pressure on Bashar Assad to bring about Hamas’ release of kidnapped Israeli corporal Gilead Shalit. Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal whom Syria harbors is accused of orchestrating Hamas attacks and hostage-taking.

Syria accuses Israel of “a hostile and provocative act.”


Hamas Gaza leaders, including PM Ismail Haniyeh, go to ground Wednesday, 24 hours ahead of Israel’s round-up of 87 top Hamas ministers and lawmakers in West Bank and Jerusalem


29 June: The operation, approved by Washington, aimed at toppling Hamas government in the Palestinian Authority, according to debkafile‘s sources. Its virtual eclipse leaves a dangerous Palestinian regime vacuum. The foreign and interior ministers Mahmoud a-Zahar and Siyad Siam have also disappeared.

Among the scores detained overnight are 8 Hamas ministers, 20 Hamas members of the national legislature including the speaker and the mayors of Qalqilya and Jenin.


Eliahu Asheri aged 18 from Itamar was kidnapped and murdered by Palestinian Fatah-Tanzim terrorists


29 June: His body was found Wednesday night buried in a field in Ramallah

Security officials report that Eliahu Asheri was murdered Sunday, June 25, shortly after he was seized and only hours after Hamas kidnapped Corp. Gilead Shalit outside Kerem Shalom opposite Gaza. Two Fatah operatives captured in Ramallah in the villa suburb occupied by Fatah leaders including Mahmoud Abbas, confessed they were paid tens of thousands of dollars for the crime.


Israel’s Gaza Operation is put on hold Thursday


29 June: debkafile‘s exclusive sources report a deadlocked dispute between prime minister Ehud Olmert and defense minister Amir Peretz.

The armored forces and tanks which rolled into southern Gaza Tuesday night have been stationary for 24 hours, only directing desultory artillery fire at empty ground in the north.

Amir Peretz is blocking a swift and expeditious offensive urged by the prime minister’ Ehud Olmert and the IDF high command to rescue Gilead Shalit, the Israeli corporal kidnapped by Hamas Sunday, June 25, and eradicate the Qassam missile infrastructure.

Yet the prime minister is hesitating to pull rank and pass orders to the army over the defense minister’s head

Peretz is clinging to a policy of “restraint and diplomacy,” despite the complete breakdown of mediated negotiations in the early hours of the abduction. PMO officials and top commanders are furious with the defense minister.

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