A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending June 7, 2012

June 1, 2012 Briefs

  • Putin: We see civil war elements in Syria
    Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke of emerging elements of civil war in Syria after talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Moscow, but said Russia supports neither side.
  • Israeli soldier killed by Gaza infiltrator
    First Sgt. Nethanel Mushyashvili, 21, from Ashkelon, was killed by an armed infiltrator who broke through the Gaza-Israel border fence early Friday between Nirim and Kisufim and attacked a group of Golani soldiers. The attacker was shot dead in the ensuing exchange of fire. Israel tanks and air units went into operation over the border area and the southern Gaza Strip to search for more infiltrators. The surrounding Israeli population was alerted and advised to stay indoors.

Syrian rebels abduct 5 top Hizballah commanders

1 June. Despite the deep secrecy surrounding the incident, debkafile reports exclusively that unidentified commandos this week kidnapped five top Hizballah commanders, naming them as Ali Safa, a senior officer of Hizballah’s intelligence service and nephew of Hassan Nasrallah; Hussein Hamid, Dep. Commander of Hizballah forces in South Lebanon; Ali Zerayb, member of its Jihad Council; Hassan Arzouni, chief of intelligence in the Bin Jbeil district bordering on Israel; and Aras Shoeib, head of training in the Beqaa Valley of E. Lebanon.
After a 25-year record of kidnap and murder against Israelis, Americans and other Westerners, HIzballah was dismayed to find the shoe on the other foot. The commandos, guided apparently by precise intelligence beamed down from a hostile aircraft, commandeered a Hizballah vehicle driving through Syria and captured the five top-ranking Hizballah officers. A sixth escaped and reported the incident in Beirut.

June 2, 2012 Briefs

  • Sen. McCain slams Iran Stuxnet attack leak for Obama campaign
    US Republican Senator John McCain Saturday accused President Barack Obama's administration of leaking details of a reported cyber attack on Iran and other secret operations to bolster the president's image in an election year. He called those leaks “incredibly disturbing,” because they may “give some benefit to our adversaries.” The New York Times report Obama had secretly ordered sophisticated attacks on Iran’s enrichment facilities computers in collaboration with Israeli cyber teams.
  • Mubarak sentenced to life in prison, his sons acquitted
    The Former Egyptian President, 84, was sentenced to life in prison with his Interior Minister Habib al-Adli for conspiring to kill some of the Tahrir Square protesters. Mubarak, his sons Alaa and Gamal were cleared of corruption and acquitted as were six of al-Adli’s aides and the Egyptian tycoon Hussein Salem accused of profiteering from gas contracts with Israel.
  • Clinton accuses Putin on Syria
    The US Secretary of State warned Russia that its refusal to sanction UN action against Syria could see the outbreak of civil war which “could morph into a proxy war in the region.” She also accused Moscow of supplying the Assad regime with arms.

Turkey ditches Syrian rebels, Hizballah may move Scuds into Lebanon

2 June. Turkey has abandoned its 14-month support alongside the West for the Syrian revolt and made common cause with Russia in supporting Bashar Assad. Further exacerbating fears of a “proxy war” involving Israel, Iran and Syria, the Lebanese Hizballah is preparing to transfer its Scud D missiles, capable of hitting any point in Israel, to Lebanon from Syria, where they are lodged at two Syrian military bases near Damascus. Israel has threatened to stop their crossing by force.
Failing to curtail their transfer across the Syrian-Lebanese border in compliance with its 2010 ultimatum will seriously undercut Israel’s deterrent capabilities and military credibility against its enemies, including Iran.

June 3, 2012 Briefs

  • Palestinian rocks damage cars on Modiin-Jerusalem highway
    Eleven Israeli vehicles were damaged Sunday night by stones lobbed by Palestinians against passing cars at two points: the Givat Zeev-Ofer Camp junction and the Dor gas station. Rocks also damaged a Jewish residence on Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives.
  • Brilliant Salute Israel Parade in New York
    The sidewalks of Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue Sunday were crowded with spectators Sunday, June 3, to watch tens of thousands of marchers waving blue and white flags, 29 colorful floats and 18 marching bands and dancers who celebrated the 48th annual Israel Day Parade. They were led by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, US congressmen, Israeli ministers Silvan Shalom and Yuly Edelstein, UN ambassador Ron Prosor and Consul-General Ido Aharoni.
  • Egypt’s state prosecutor and Mubarak to both appeal
    In response to street protests, the state prosecutor’s office in Cairo says it will appeal the sentences handed down against ousted President Hosni Mubarak, his sons and security officials. So too will Mubarak and the security official convicted with him.
  • Saudi FM accuses Assad of maneuvering to gain time
    “Every initiative accepted by the Syrian regime was not implemented,” he said.
  • Khamenei warns against Israeli attack
    If Israel attacks Iran, the response will land on its head like thunder, said Iran’s Supreme Leader.
  • Israeli Air Force strikes five Gaza sites
    Three arms factories and two terrorist tunnels were hit early Sunday in response for the June 2 Jihad Islami attack Friday in which Golani fighter Nethanel Moshiashivili was killed.

Rebels set fire to Syrian air base opposite Golan

3 June. As Syrian ruler Bashar Assad stood before parliament in Damascus Sunday, June 3, declaring, “Not even monsters could have carried out the Houla massacre,” rebels attacked a Syrian Air Force base east of the southern town of Deraa opposite the Israeli Golan border – their first such attack in the 14-month uprising,
Firing mortars, the torched fighter aircraft and assault helicopters in their hangars and ripped up runways at the As Suwayda air base, which is Syria’s southernmost air facility for providing air cover for the forces defending the Golan border with Israel and the Jordanian and Iraqi frontiers.
In northern Syria, the rebels have shown up with a new piece of war materiel, dubbed “T-HOMS 75” – improvised armored vehicles sporting anti-air rockets or heavy machine guns capable of downing the aircraft or combat helicopters.

June 4, 2012 Briefs

  • Al Qaeda-linked Bedouin kill an Egyptian policeman, injure six in Sinai
    The gunmen belonging to an al Qaeda Sinai cell known as Taqfir al-Hajira staged two separate attacks on police posts in Wadi Firan in South Sinai firing heavy machine guns from vehicles. debkafile: Sunday night, Bedouin allied with al Qaeda engaged members of the Barhoum, one of the larges clans in the northern Sinai region of El Arish, in a fierce gun battle using anti-tank missiles.
  • Palestinian attacks Israeli border policeman with a nail
    A police officer was injured outside the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron by a Palestinian who struck his head with a large nail. The officer shot his assailant. Both were taken to hospital.

Obama plans air-sea blockade against Iran

4 June. US President Barack Obama has again persuaded Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to hold off attacking Iran’s nuclear program in the coming months by promising a new set of tough sanctions against Iran. US administration officials assured debkafile’s Washington sources that Israel’s leaders were won over once again – this time by the Obama administration’s promise to impose an air and sea blockade on Iran failing progress at the Moscow nuclear talks. Tehran may hit back by closing the Strait of Hormuz.

June 5, 2012 Briefs

  • Moscow may accept Assad’s exit from power
    Dep. FM Gennady Gatilov said this must take place as part of a political settlement but not in talks with other nations. The Yemen transition model would not work in Syria, he said, because Assad’s foes refuse to negotiate with him.
  • The US confirms death of al Qaeda’s No.2
    A drone strike in NW Pakistan 24 hours ago targeted and killed al Qaeda’s second top man Abu Yahya al-Libi. The US confirming his death describes it as a "major blow" to the jihadist group. Islamabad strongly protested US “unlawful violations of its sovereignty and “a red line.”
  • Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz slams Iran policy critics as no longer in the know
    Israel’s chief of staff pointed out to a Knesset panel that the Iranian situation was fast-moving and dynamic and former security chiefs who used to know what was going on, no longer do. Despite the many changes in Iran’s nuclear program in recent months, its leaders have not yet decided to cross the threshold to bomb production for strategic reasons of their own.
  • Israeli Chief of Staff warns of al Qaeda threat from Syria
    Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz confirms Israel’s concerns about al Qaeda attacks from Syria and the planned transfer of Hizballah’s weapons from Syria to Lebanon – both first revealed by debkafile. “We may face terrorist attacks on the Golan border fence,” he warned.
  • Syria expels 17 ambassadors and envoys
    They include the US, UK, French and Turkish envoys. Damascus agrees to allow international aid agencies to enter the most violence-struck provinces.
  • Russia and China still oppose intervention in Syria
    Russian President Vladimir Putin and China’s Hu Jantao ended their talks in Beijing Tuesday reiterating their opposition to intervention in Syria. They called for the immediate cessation of violence and resort to a negotiated resolution of the conflict.
  • Iran secretly building a third enrichment plant
    David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) reports Iran may be building a third gas centrifuge enrichment plant in addition to Natanz and Fordo and as a new round of Iran-IAEA talks begin in Vienna.
  • Three-day home front security drill in Jerusalem region
    The exercise covering the outlying towns of Beit Shemesh and Maaleh Adummim will simulate rocket attacks on urban areas. A separate home front exercise takes place Tuesday in the southern town of Dimona.

June 6, 2012 Briefs

  • Qaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam escapes Libya
    He got away from the Zintane militia holding him to Niger or Cyprus the day before Qaddafi officials go on trial in Tripoli.
  • Clinton meets British, French, Turkish, Arab colleagues on Syria
    US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gets together with colleagues in Istanbul Wednesday evening to seek a way out of the Syrian crisis.
  • First civil disobedience in Damascus
    Many stores in have been closed for a week in protest against the massacre of 108 people in al Houla – the first organized civil disobedience by Syria’s business class – defying security forces efforts to reopen them for a week..
  • Barak confirms Israel’s cyber war capability
    In this type of warfare, Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak said, “Fighting off a cyber offensive is much harder and more important in comparison with the gains from attacking [enemy computer systems] – although both are present. We are at the world’s cyber forefront – for both civilian and security systems.”
  • Knesset defeats outpost bill 69 to 22
    Five Ulpana buildings in Bethel to be evacuated and removed as per Prime Minister Netanyahu’s plan. No ministers voted against the bill for overruling the High Court order to remove them by July 1 after Netanyahu threatened to fire them. Scores of Ulpana residents and pro-settlement supporters blocked the main Jerusalem highway to Tel Aviv in protest.
  • Olmert’s PA Shula Zaken gets off lightly
    Although convicted of breach of trust and fraud, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s ex-chief of bureau Shula zaken was sentenced by a Jerusalem magistrate to four months community service and a two-month suspended sentence.

Russian-Iranian ire builds up over Azerbaijan’s stake in Israeli energy

6 June. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Baku, Azerbaijan Wednesday, June 6, to kick off a South Caucasian tour amid Iran’s Ali Khamenei and Russia’s Vladimir Putin’s deep disapproval of President Ilam Aliyav’s pro-Western orientation and fast-growing military and energy ties with Israel. Frictions center on Baku’s $1.6 billion arms transaction with Israel. debkafile reports that the deal is matched by expanding Azerbaijani investment in Israel’s Mediterranean gas and oil projects. Both sides of this tradeoff are earmarked for major expansion.
For Washington, Azerbaijan is an expanding strategic asset: Since Pakistan closed its overland route for supplies to US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, the US is increasingly reliant on Azerbaijan’s airfields. Designated US ambassador to Baku Richard L. Morningstar was active in the contracts Israel, Greece and Cyprus for the distribution of offshore Mediterranean gas and oil beds.

June 7, 2012 Briefs

  • At UN, everyone agrees Annan plan has failed
    UN-Arab League’s special envoy Kofi Annan warned that despite the presence of international monitors, his peace plan is not being implemented. The monitors on their way to check a report of 70 dead in a massacre in Hama were shot at with small arms while trying to get to a site of a massacre, he said. “If the situation doesn’t change, Syria faces all-out civil war.”
  • Iran must come to talks prepared
    US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the major powers want Iran to come to the nuclear talks ready to take concrete steps to curb its enrichment of uranium to 20 percent purity. She said the world must start planning for post-Assad Syria.
  • Panetta: US reaching limits of patience with Pakistan
    US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in Kabul that the US was reaching the limits of its patience with Pakistan because of the safe havens it offered insurgents in neighboring Afghanistan. This was the strongest language used by an American official to describe the strained relations between Washington and Islamabad.
  • Jerusalem court: South Sudanese infiltrators may be expelled
    Creating a precedent, the district court rejected appeals by social NGOs’ against Interior Minister Ellie Yishai’s order to end the policy of immunity for illegal migrants from South Sudan. Yishai said he hopes to apply this precedent for the illegal migrants flooding into Israel from other African countries through the leaky Egyptian border.
  • Military junta’s ultimatum for Egyptian parties
    They were given until Thursday to agree on the 100 members of the parliamentary commission assigned with writing the new Egyptian constitution and setting out the powers of the president when he is elected June 16-17.
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