A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending March 15, 2012

March 9, 2012 Briefs

  • Palestinian missile offensive sparked by targeted killing
    Zuheir al-Qaisi, Chief of the Popular Resistances Committees and mastermind of the August 2011 Eilat Highway ambush which killed eight Israelis, was killed Friday, March 9 in Tel al-Hawa, Gaza City. An Israeli air attack targeted his car, sparking a missile barrage from Gaza by fellow-terrorists Jihad Islami.
  • Two injured in Palestinian missile hail
    One of the two people injured by Qassam missiles in the Eshkol district is in serious condition as three Grad missiles hit Ashdod and others exploded outside Beersheba Friday night. Iron Dome intercepted two rockets and two launches averted by Israeli air strikes over Gaza.
  • Netanyahu: Popular fears of a post-attack Iranian backlash are exaggerated
    In a TV Channel 1 interview after his Washington visit, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said an Israeli attack on Iran would undoubtedly have consequences, but they should not be exaggerated.
  • US military plans strikes against Iran and Syria
    A mix of conventional and cyber weapons will be used, according to US Air Force Lt. Gen. Herbert Carlisle, deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and requirements.
  • Saudi Crown Prince in the US for medical tests
    No further information about Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Nayef, 78, was offered.

March 10, 2012 Briefs

  • Prime Minister’s spokesman: IAF destroyed Fajr launching pits in Gaza
    The spokesman said the air force had destroyed “launching pits of Fajr long-range rockets that can hit Tel Aviv.” He did not specify whether the pits belonged to Hamas or Jihad Islami, the pro-Iranian terrorist group firing the rockets.
  • Barak: Current round of violence is not over
    Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned the danger of terrorist attack from Egyptian Sinai is not over either. The Iron Dome anti-missile system worked well but it would take years to provide the necessary number to protect Israel’s southwest.
  • Israeli air strikes killed 15 Palestinian combatants in two days
  • Syrian forces shell Idlib and Homs as Anan meets Assad in Damascus
  • US Sen. Carl Levin urges naval blockade on Iran, predicts Israeli strike in months
    Democratic Senator Carl Levin has urged consideration of an international naval blockade of Iranian oil exports before resort to air strikes against its nuclear program. He would not be surprised if Israel, which regards a nuclear-armed Iran as a threat to its existence, took action within “months.”
    debkafile: Tehran has warned it would deem a blockade casus belli.

Libyan multiple-rocket launchers and SA-7 anti-air missiles fired from Gaza

10 March. The Palestinian Jihad Islami escalated its attacks on a dozen Israel towns and villages Saturday, firing up to 100 rockets which included Grad multiple rocket launchers mounted on vehicles and SA-7 (MANPAD) anti-air rockets, the Russian version of the American Stinger, smuggled from Libya starting five months ago.
Anticipating further escalation, an Iron Dome anti-missile battery was posted in Ashdod Saturday night joining the two in Beersheba and Ashdod which were outperforming expectations. Schools in Beersheba (Israel’s seventh largest city of 200,000), Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gan Yavneh, Netivot, Kiryat Gat and Ofakim were closed Sunday until further notice, keeping quarter of a million schoolchildren at home and close to bomb shelters.
Israel’s military kept its counter-strikes low key. Caution partly accounted for by the large quantities of shoulder-launched SA-7 anti-air missiles (Man Portable Air Defense Systems or MANPADS) procured by all the Palestinian terrorist groups from Libya. This menace had already halted flights by non-jet commercial planes over southern Israel.

March 11, 2012 Briefs

  • Ahmadinejad: Iran does not fear war
    “The Iranian nation doesn’t fear your bombs and warships and planes,” said Iranian president on a visit to Karaj west of Tehran. “You say all options are on the table. Leave them there until they rot.”
    debkafile: the Islamic regime is striking a pose of contemptuous superiority over the United States in readiness for nuclear talks with the six powers next month in Istanbul.
  • Half of 40 rockets fired by Sunday evening intercepted
    Beersheba took two direct hits: One hit a Beersheba shopping center. There were dozens of shock victims, although miraculously no fatalities, and extensive damage to 15 buildings as well as vehicles. The other missile hit a school building in the town which was empty because schoolchildren were kept home Sunday.
  • Palestinian missiles pound Beersheba, Ofakim, Ashkelon, Gan Yavneh
    As four Israeli cities came under a fresh barrage, the Israeli Air force carried out its second bombardment of the day on terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians report 18 dead in three days of clashes.
  • US soldier detained in Kandahar after killing 16 Afghan civilians
    The soldier, a staff sergeant, is said by the NATO spokesman to have walked out of his base to a neighboring village near Kandahar City, entered five houses and shot dead 16 civilians, including 9 children. He then returned to his base where he was detained. ISAF and the Afghan authorities have begun a joint investigation.

Israel warns Jihad Islami of dire punishment if Fajrs fired

11 March: Israel has passed a stern warning to the Palestinian Jihad Islami shooting missiles from Gaza for the third day to expect Israel to escalate its punishment if they fire Fajr surface missiles against the Tel Aviv area, debkafile reports. The warning was relayed Sunday, March 11, through Egyptian Intelligence Chief Gen. Murad Muwafi.
The Iran-backed Jihad has in its arsenal Fajr 5 missiles whose range is 110 kilometers and Fajr 3 which has a 60-kilometer reach. They bring into range Israel’s urban, commercial and population hub cities between Tel Aviv and Rehovoth, which are outside the range of the Grads and Qassams, more 110 of which were fired from Gaza since Friday.

March 12, 2012 Briefs

  • Egypt reports Gaza ceasefire: Israel: Quiet will be met with quiet
    A high-ranking Egyptian reported before dawn Tuesday, March 13, the consent of Israel and the Palestinian organizations in Gaza to a ceasefire which went into effect at one o’clock a.m. Neither Israel nor Jihad Islami released statements. And shortly after 0400 missile warnings sounded in Ashkelon. The Egyptian statement claimed Israel agreed to halt targeted killings of high-profile terrorists. This was denied by Israel.

Iron Dome picks off more incoming missiles

12 March. The Iranian and Hizballah missile experts attached to the Palestinian terrorist commands have clearly not managed to find an electronic gap in the Israeli missile defense weapon through which to sneak their rockets to target in Israeli cities.

Gaza truce delayed. Egypt has demands. Tehran fuels violence

12 March. The combined Egyptian-Israeli-Hamas effort to negotiate an early ceasefire in the current round of Palestinian-Israeli violence ran into an impasse Monday, March 12. The Egyptian mediator tried unsuccessfully to introduce a clause obliging Palestinian terrorists to withdraw from Sinai and stop using the peninsula as a launching-pad for attacks on Israel.
Acceding to Cairo’s demand would oblige the Palestinian terrorist organizations to bring back to the Gaza Strip the logistic, operational and military infrastructure they have move to Sinai and place them again within range of Israeli bombardment.

March 13, 2012 Briefs

  • Unanimous Egyptian parliamentary call for Israeli ambassador’ expulsion
    While Egyptian military rulers in Cairo were crafting a truce in Gaza Strip violence, the Islamist-dominated legislature Monday, March 12, unanimously carried a motion calling for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador and break-off of relations with “the enemy.” It also urged the recall of the Egyptian ambassador from Tel Aviv, the stoppage of gas supply to Israel and a revision of all “Egypt’s relations and agreements with that enemy.”
  • Syrian army captures Idlib: Last rebel stronghold
    Bashar Assad’s forces have captured the last rebel stronghold of Idlib. The last holdouts retreated or fled into Turkey. debkafile: The Syrian ruler has crushed the opposition’s military strength without however completely suppressing the revolt against his rule although that rule no longer faces an immediate threat.

Israel develops its own bunker buster

13 March. Israel has developed an improved precision, bunker-burrowing weapon which Israeli Military Industries (IMI) unveiled on March 6 amid US-Israel friction over a strike against Iran. The 500-pound MPR-500 is an electro-optical (laser-guided) bomb that can penetrate double-reinforced concrete walls or floors without breaking apart. “The lethality, precision… and relatively low weight of the new weapon,” say its manufacturers, “enable its use against multiple targets in a single pass.” The MPR-500 bridges al gap between the US 250-pound US GBU-39 and the 5,000-pound GBU-28 super-bunker buster.
debkafile notes: The IMI’s presentation of the MPR-500 took place at the height of Israel’s argument with the Obama administration over the need for a near-term strike on Iran’s nuclear sites – especially those Tehran is busy transferring to fortified underground bunkers.
The Israeli Air Force is also reported to be planning to enlarge its Boeing-707 based aerial refueling tanker fleet, another key component in Israel’s ability to carry out an aerial strike against a target as distant as Iran.

Palestinians slows Gaza offensive confident Israeli will let it go

13 March. Six mortar rounds exploded on empty ground in the Eshkol farm district abutting on the Gaza Strip shortly before Tuesday March 13 noon, less than 12 hours after Cairo announced a ceasefire. debkafile reports that the Palestinian organizations are keeping up the fire on Israeli civilian locations at a reduced level so as to establish their prerogative to shoot at will regardless of any ceasefire deals.
Israel’s leaders are apt to accept this fragile arrangement to avoid opening an all-out military front on their southwestern border. Moreover, fire on the small towns and villages close to the Gaza border is much less troublesome than the heavy Grad assaults on major towns.
The Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz admitted Tuesday Israel’s military response to terrorist attacks would be compatible with the level of aggression against Israel. “Peace for peace, and fire for fire,” he declared.

March 14, 2012 Briefs

  • Netanyahu: We will strike Iran even if our American friends object
    The Israeli prime minister also told the Knesset: Israel will not stand for an Iranian terrorist base in the Gaza Strip: Sooner or later it will be uprooted.
  • Azerbaijan arrests 22 suspected spies for Iran
    AFP reports the 22 detainees were plotting attacks on the US and Israeli embassies in Baku in cooperation with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. debkafile: The Azerbaijani national security ministry announced the undated detentions the day after Azeri Defense Minister Safar Abiyev visited Tehran and pledged his country would never be used for Israeli attacks on the Islamic Republic.
  • Hizballah and Hamas chiefs meet for Iran coordination
    Hassan Nasrallah and Mousa Abu Marzouk met to discuss Syria, the Palestinian Gaza offensive and coordinating their responses to an Israeli or American attack on Iran.

Iran threatens northern Israel with bombardment from Lebanon

14 March. Tehran is capitalizing on its allies’ two perceived victories: Bashar Assad’s success in seizing Idlib from rebel hands and the Palestinian Jihad Islami’s triumphal missile assault from Gaza on southern Israel. The Iranians are moving forward with plans to match that assault with a Hizballah offensive on northern Israel from Lebanon. This was the object of a rendezvous opposite Metulah Wednesday, March 14, between a high-ranking Iranian delegation headed by Ahmadinejad’s spokesman Ali Akbar Javanfekr and Hizballah intelligence officers.
After examining Israeli work to convert the border fence into a military barrier, he was overheard commenting: “The Zionists can build any wall they like, whether of concrete, iron or plastic, but we and Hizballah will knock it down, like Israel itself.”

March 15, 2012 Briefs

  • More missiles from Gaza Thursday night. Still no Israeli military response
    A Grad fired at Ashdod was intercepted by Iron Dome. It was the third today after one exploded near a school in Netivot and another was shot down over Beersheba. The Eshkol district was targeted Thursday night for Qassam rockets. After parents took their children out of school in Netivot, other towns within range of Gaza decided to keep schools closed Friday.
  • Two French soldiers killed, third wounded in apparent terror attack in France
    A man dressed in black with a motorcycle helmet approached three members of the 17th parachute regiment stationed in Montauban in southwest France at a commercial center. He pulled out a gun and shot the three soldiers, killing two. The police are hunting the shooter.
  • Terrorist attacks Israeli soldier on Jerusalem light train
  • An Israeli woman soldier, aged 19, suffered serious multiple injuries from a stabbing attack by a Palestinian on Jerusalem’s light train Thursday. The attack which occurred at the Pisgat Zeev neighborhood was the first on the new rail system. Police have detailed the attacker.
  • Israel and French warships transit Suez to Red Sea
    The Israeli Navy’s Lahav and Yaffo Saar-5 missile corvettes accompanied by the French supply ship Imidisi passed through the Suez Canal to the Red Sea Tuesday March 13 on their way an undisclosed destination. Egyptian security authorities reported only that the warships made a short stop at Port Said “where they joined a fleet” without identifying which fleet.
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