A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending March 13, 2014
March 7, 2014 Briefs
- Nine seriously injured Ukrainians, most Jews, flown to Israeli hospitals
A rescue airlift has begun to move Jewish casualties of the Ukraine conflict out of the country to Israeli hospitals. The first nine arrived Thursday night with gunshot wounds, the causes of which were not disclosed. The operation was organized by the United Hatzalah, which is responsible for protecting the Kiev Jewish community, and ZAKA, and led by Ukraine Chief Rabbi Reuven Azman and Hatzalah director Rabbi Hillel Cohen.
In response to their appeal, United Hatzalah and ZAKA in cooperation with the Isralife Foundation have been training Jewish volunteers in Kiev in emergency, as well as rescue and search techniques.
- Saudi Arabia outlaws Muslim Brotherhood as terrorist
The Saudi Interior Ministry has formally designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group. It listed two more organizations as terrorist – the Islamist Nusra Front fighting the Assad regime in Syria and the Iraqi al Qaeda (ISIS).
- Lavrov warns Kerry against hasty and reckless steps
In a phone conversation to US Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Friday night warned against “hasty and reckless steps capable of causing harm to Russian-American relations – particularly… sanctions, which would inevitably hit the United States like a boomerang.”
- Pro-Russian armed men take Ukrainian military post in Crimea
The Ukrainian defense ministry said 20 armed men thought to be Russian threw stun grenades and seized a Ukrainian missile defense post in Crimea near Sevastopol Friday night. No one was hurt.
Moscow secures Crimean poll with large military drill
7 March. Amid spiraling tensions between Moscow and the West over the fate of Crimea, Russia has mobilized its air and costal defenses and more than 1,000 missile and tank units for a month-long drill in Kapustin Yar, around 450 km from the Ukraine border in the Astrakhan district. debkafile’s military sources report that this facility is home to one of Russia’s biggest missile bases. The exercise covers the whole of March and early April, including the March 16 Crimean referendum on secession and its aftermath in case of any Ukrainian or Western attempt to disrupt Crimea’s expected application to join the Russian Federation. The US has also stepped up military activity in region in the last 48 hours.
President Barack Obama, in an hour-long phone call to President Vladimir Putin early Friday, March 7, declared the referendum was a violation of international law.
Putin replied that the regime in Kiev and its decisions were “absolutely illegitimate,” but maintained that bilateral ties should not be sacrificed for other issues.
Friday, March 7, the USS Truxtun guided-missile destroyer crossed the Bosporus into the Black Sea to join the fleets of NATO allies Rumania and Bulgaria fleets in a naval exercise, the day after the Pentagon unveiled plans to put another six US F-15 fighters on an air patrol mission over the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Twelve US F-16 fighter bombers and 300 military personnel are to be transferred to Poland over the weekend and more US military exercises are planned in areas around the Russia starting Sunday.
Israel’s capture of the missile ship is one down for Gen. Soleimani
7 March. Israel’s seizure of the Iranian missile ship KLOS C Wednesday, March 6, was the second time the IDF had poked a finger in the eye of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, head of the al Qods Brigades, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ intelligence-cum-terrorist arm. The first was the Israeli air strike on Feb. 24 on Hizballah’s arms convoys and missiles on the Lebanese-Syrian border. The ship was carrying dozens of Syrian-made 302mm rockets from Iran to the Gaza Strip. debkafile: Gen. Soleimani was quick to set up low-key yet ominous reprisals within days of Israel’s air strike and may well come up with payback for the ship’s seizure.
March 8, 2014 Briefs
- The 95th Ukrainian paratroop brigade leaves base
debkafile’s military sources report that the Ukrainian 95th Separate Airmobile Brigade, which counts as the special forces’ backbone of the Ukraine army, departed is base in the west of the country Saturday night, for an unknown destination.
- Crimean military office calm after takeover by armed men
The men equipped with automatic weapons took control of the regional military office in Simferopol from Ukrainian staff Friday night saying they belonged to the Crimean self-defense forces. The Russian navy also blockaded Ukrainian ships. As tensions mounted, Poland pulled staff from its consulate in the Crimean port of Sevastopol where Russia maintains a large naval base.
The Ukraine crisis: Russia may halt (START) strategic weapons inspections, revert to Cold War tactics
8 March. Russia further ratcheted up international tensions over Ukraine Saturday, March 8, with a statement that “Russia is considering halting foreign inspections of its strategic weapons arsenal, including nuclear-capable missiles, in response to ‘threats’ from the United States and NATO over the Ukraine crisis. debkafile: Moscow is warning that it is prepared to revert to the Soviet Union’s belligerent posture unless the US and the West back down on the Ukraine dispute. This would be an abdication from START, which was first signed between the United States and Russian in 1991, to end the Cold War and effectively disband the Soviet empire.
March 9, 2014 Briefs
- Forty rockets unloaded from Iranian arms ship in Eilat
Israeli troops Sunday unloaded 40 M302 rockets whose range is 160km, nearly two hundred 121-mm mortar shells and about 400,000 7.62-mm-caliber bullets for Kalashnikovs in the hold of the KLOS C ship from Iran, which Israeli commandos seized on the Red Sea last Wednesday.
- Egypt: The Iranian missile ship was bound for Sinai or Gaza
An Egyptian security source reported Sunday that the Egyptian missile ship apprehended by Israeli commandos destined for terrorists in Sinai or the Gaza Strip. The sea route through Sudan is plied routinely by smugglers and illegal migrant traffickers.
- US warns Russia against moves for Crimea annexation
In a call to Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Saturday, Secretary of State John Kerry “made clear that continued military escalation and provocation in Crimea or elsewhere in Ukraine, along with steps to annex Crimea to Russia would close any available space for diplomacy, and he urged utmost restraint," the state department reported. Warning shots meanwhile prevented OSCE observers from entering Crimea.
Lavrov had earlier said that the crisis in Ukraine was "created artificially for purely geopolitical reasons".
March 10, 2014 Briefs
- A Palestinian shot trying to snatch Israeli soldier’s sidearm
The incident occurred at the Allenby Bridge crossing in to Jordan. A Palestinian, aged 37 from Nablus, jumped off the bus which delivered him from Jordan, shouting Allah Akhbar, leaping on the IDF soldiers guarding the terminal and trying to snatch one of their guns. Civilian security officers and soldiers shot him dead. The incident later developed into a crisis with Jordan, after the Palestinian was identified as a Jordanian judge.
- US transfers another $429m to support Israel’s Iron Dome
The new US-Israel accord ensures "ensures continued US funding for procurement of Iron Dome systems and interceptors, and provides for significant co-production opportunities for US industry,"
Netanyahu: “Tomorrow Iran will hide nuclear suitcases.”
10 March. Binyamin Netanyahu warned Monday, March 10, that because the world chooses to ignore Iran’s concealed nuclear program, the next Klos C ship may not carry missiles but “nuclear suitcases.” debkafile: He was the first Western leader to acknowledge Iran’s possession of nuclear suitcases, which were part of a ten-year old illicit Ukrainian shipment to Iran of six X-55 nuclear capable cruise missiles with a range of 2,000km. A nuclear suitcase can enable terrorist organizations to quickly transport a tactical nuclear or dirty bomb from place to place.
In presenting the illicit cargo, Netanyahu also implicitly rebuked EU Foreign Police Executive Catherine Ashton for failing to raise the Iranian weapons ship in her talks in Tehran Monday, when he said, “There is a shrill chorus of international condemnation when we build a balcony in Jerusalem, but scarcely a word when Iran tries to smuggle missiles into Gaza.”
March 11, 2014 Briefs
- Saudis threaten to blockade Qatar by air, land and sea
If Qatar fails to cut its ties with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, shut down Al Jazeer global television channel and expel local branches of the US Brookings Institution and Rand Corporation think tanks, Saudi Arabia will blockade the emirate by air, land and sea.
- Israeli PM Office “regrets” Jordanian judge’s death
To calm an outcry in Jordan, the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office Tuesday issued an statement regretting the death of Raed Zueter, a Jordanian judge, in a clash with Israeli soldiers at the Allenby border terminal Sunday. It does not refer to the findings of the preliminary Shin Bet-police investigation based on the testimony of dozens of witnesses, that Zueter ran at an Israeli soldier screaming "Allah Akbar" and tried to snatch his sidearm. The soldiers shot at his legs. Zueter then set about beating the soldier with an iron bar, at which point they shot to kill him. The IDF will continue to investigate the incident.
- Israeli air strike kills 3 Palestinians attacking IDF Gaza border patrol
The air force went into action when a Jihad Islamii band attacked an Israeli border patrol from the southern Gaza Strip. The Palestinians reported three dead.
Russia launches paratroop exercise east of Ukraine. Moscow tycoons move assets from West to Far East
11 March. Russia launched its biggest military exercise in 20 years. It encompasses command elements, rapid deployment forces and paratroops and takes place in western Russia not far from the Ukraine border. Ivanovo paratroops’ formation of 4,000 troops and 36 military air transports are taking part in the maneuver. Also this week, debkafile reported that the Russian army had moved mobile coastal defense batteries from the Russian base of Novorossiysk to its Crimean base of Sevastopol. The K-300Ps (Nato codenamed SSC-5), the most advanced of their kind, were deployed for any contingency such as fighting off naval units or repelling landing forces and engaging in cyber war.
By Tuesday Moscow fielded a total of 60,000 troops – either in exercises in areas adjoining Ukraine or in military movements in and around Crimea.
The US, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria also launched a series of military drills Tuesday on the Black Sea and along the Polish borders with Russia. They are on a far smaller scale than the Russian show of strength.
As the West started working on sanctions, debkafile reported that tycoons close to President Putin had already begun moving their assets from the West to the Far East two months ago.
March 12, 2014 Briefs
- Israel’s military chiefs confer on Gaza rocket offensive
Deputy chief of staff Maj. Gen. Gady Eisenkott took the chair of a special General Command conference to evaluate the situation in the Gaza Strip after a continuous hail of up to 70 rockets was fired by Jihad Islami against Israel. Gen. Eizenkott is acting Chief of Staff during Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz’s absence in the US. Many thousands of citizens warned by red alerts ran for shelter and were told to stay there. No immediate reports of casualties.
- Palestinian held for trying to blow up eight Jerusalem buildings
Police Friday took into custody an East Jerusalem Palestinian, a member of Hamas, who confessed to cutting gas lines in eight residential buildings in the Jerusalem districts of Armon Hanatziv and Gilo in order to blow them up with maximum casualties. The suspect confessed that had aimed to kill a large number of Jews for “trespassing” on Temple Mt and IDF attacks on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The damage to the gas lines was discovered in time to prevent explosions.
- Cameron to Knesset: Together we’ll defeat delegitimizers of Israel
In a speech to the Knesset Wednesday, British premier David Cameron said, ”Britain opposes boycotts” whether by trade unions or universities. He said peace dividends would entail a better quality of life for both nations and lead to "an end to the outrageous lectures on human rights that Israel receives at the United Nations from the likes of Iran and North Korea; an end to the ridiculous situation where last year the United Nations general assembly passed three times as many resolutions on Israel as on Syria, Iran and North Korea put together. No more excuses for the 32 countries in the United Nations who refuse to recognize Israel."
Cameron said that his belief in Israel is “unbreakable and his commitment to Israel’s security rock solid. I will always stand up for the right of Israel to defend its citizens.”
March 13, 2014 Briefs
- Another six rockets fired from Gaza after Jihad claims ceasefire
In the early evening hours of Thursday, half a dozen Qassam missiles were fired against Israel from the Gaza Strip, shortly after Jihad Islami announced that a ceasefire had been brokered by Egypt.
This was the second round of the day. In the morning, at least three rockets targeted Ashkelon and Ashdod and the Israeli Air Force struck seven terrorist targets in southern Gaza. No casualties were reported during the day.
- Kerry: Serious steps if Crimean referendum goes ahead
US Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday that contingencies are in place in case Russian forces move further east into Ukraine. He said if the Crimean referendum goes ahead, there will be serious steps taken Monday by the US and Europe. Kerry spoke ahead of his meeting Friday, March 14, with Russian Foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.
This round of the undeclared Iranian-Israeli war – the Jihad missile offensive – continues
13 March. A fresh volley of rockets was fired against Ashkelon, Ashdod, Yavneh, and Gedera Thursday, March 13, as Israel’s inner security cabinet met to determine how the IDF should handle Jihad Islami’s massive assault against Israel Wednesday. After Israel retaliated with 29 air strikes against its positions, the Palestinian Jihad decided to follow up on its first round of 70 missiles Wednesday, that were fired on orders from its boss, Al Qods Brigades chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani, to punish Israel for capturing the Iranian missile ship last week.