A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending March 27, 2014
March 21, 2014 Briefs
- The largest Gazan terrorist tunnel to Israel found to date
The IDF Friday revealed that the newly-discovered tunnel, snaking hundreds of meters from Gaza into Israel, was longer than the 1.7km tunnel discovered last October. It was sunk 20 meters under ground, lined with quality reinforced cement, fitted with power and an emergency generator and designed by professional engineers. The soldiers investigating the tunnel concluded that, like similar structures uncovered in the past, this tunnel could accommodate a large band of terrorists creeping into Israel under the heavily secured Gaza-Israeli border for a surprise attack or hostage taking. They also found the construction elements to have been made in Israel.
- Mastercard, Visa cut service to sanctioned Russian bank clients
Master Card and Visa Friday stopped service to clients of Russian banks under US sanctions.
- Khamenei: Not clear what happened in Holocaust
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Friday that “if the Shoah did indeed take place, there is no certainty about what happened there.”
- EU and Ukraine sign association accord “elements”
European and interim Ukrainian leaders Friday signed the “political elements of an association accord” in Brussels.
March 22, 2014 Briefs
- Russian special forces take Ukrainian air force base in Crimea
Russian APCs entered the big Ukrainian air base of Belbek near Sevastopol in Crimea Saturday. Their commander was taken away. The peninsula is now under full control of Russian and allied forces.
- Three Palestinians killed in firefight with Israeli troops in Jenin
A joint counter-terror operation by the Israeli police special unit, Shin Bet and IDF encountered armed Palestinian resistance at the West Bank Jenin refugee camp Saturday. A 22-year old Hamas operative was killed after opening fire on the arresting force. There was more shooting when a group of armed Palestinians opened fire of the Israeli troops. Two more Palestinians were killed, one a member of the pro-Iranian Jihad Islami, and 10 injured. Three Israeli police officers were slightly hurt and 3 Palestinians detained as suspected terrorists.
Why doesn’t Netanyahu back Ya’alon? He is not the only Mid East leader to fault Obama’s policies
22 March. Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon found little backing at home for his outspoken remarks on US policies. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu let him face the music alone when John Kerry demanded an apology – and even when State Dept. spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the clarifications Ya’alon gave Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel were not enough. He must say he’s sorry for terming US policy weak and wavering – not just on Ukraine, but on Iran – in a way that impinged on Israel’s security. His ultimate sin was to urge that his country stop waiting for America to pull the Iranian chestnut out of the fire and take matters in its own hands.
But Ya’alon is in good company: US policy is faulted even more vigorously by top people in the region like Saudi King Abdullah and Egyptian ruler Gen. Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi.
March 23, 2014 Briefs
- Bashar Assad’s cousin in killed in area of Syrian plane downing
Hilal Assad, the president’s cousin and civil defense commander of the Latakia district, was killed in fighting with rebels near the Kasab border crossing where Turkey earlier shot down a Syrian warplane.
Iran’s mock-up of a USS Nimitz-class nuclear carrier
23 March. When President Obama sent New Year greetings to the Iranian people on March 20, US satellites were recording a mockup of an aircraft carrier under construction at the Revolutionary Guards naval base of Bandar Abbas. It was modeled on a US Nimitz-class super-carrier. These vessels are nuclear powered, 330 meters long and carry 3,000 naval and air crew and 85-90 fighter craft and helicopters each. The Iranian mockup is still crude. But, says debkafile, Iran has surprised the world before by copying, developing and operating advanced surveillance drones and cyber war capabilities.
March 24, 2014 Briefs
- Some aviation sources skeptical about final word on MH370
Some aviation sources especially in the US and China were not satisfied with the Malaysian prime minister and airline’s conclusion that the missing airliner had ended its flight in the Indian Ocean and all 239 people aboard must be considered lost. They maintained that neither the Malaysian prime minister nor the British Inmarsat which provided the data suggesting the location of the lost Boeing 777 offered a single piece of information to explain how the plane came to veer so far off course or describe the situation on board after seven hours in the air.
- Two Palestinian terrorist cells nabbed for shooting attacks
The Shin Bet and IDF rounded up two Palestinian groups suspected of systematic shooting attacks on Israel vehicles on northern West Bank roads. They were captured in January.
- Kiev orders Ukrainian troops to evacuate all Crimean bases
The defense ministry in Kiev Monday ordered Ukrainian troops to pull out of all their Crimean bases. No word on the logistics of the evacuation of 20,000 soldiers and their transfer to Ukraine.
- Israeli patrol under gunfire from Egyptian border.
Unidentified gunmen shot at an Israeli patrol in southern Israel from the Egyptian side of the border Monday. There were no casualties. The army is investigating the source of the attack.
- Egyptian court sentences 529 Brotherhood members to death
Most of the 529 Muslim Brotherhood activists sentenced to death by an Egyptian court Monday were detained in clashes with the police in the southern province of Minya when Brotherhood protest camps were forcibly dispersed in Cairo in mid-August. The condemned men may appeal.
March 25, 2014 Briefs
- Obama concerned about “further encroachment” by Russia
The US president Barack Obama called the Russian annexation of Crimea “a done deal in the sense that the international community” has accepted it. Talking to reporters Tuesday after a nuclear security summit in The Hague, the US president insisted that Crimea is part of Ukraine even after Kiev pulled its troops back from the peninsula. But, he said, “We also are concerned about further encroachment by Russia into Ukraine.”’
- Turkey: Mavi Marmara compensation deal with Israel this month
Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said Tuesday that the deal for Israel to compensate the families of Mavi Marmara pro-Palestinian activists killed in an Israeli commando raid should be approved after Turkey’s local elections on March 30. The Turkish minister said that once the deal is signed, relations can be restored to the diplomatic level of ambassadors.
- Canadian judge turns over Iranian assets to Hizballah victims
In a landmark ruling, Ontario Superior Court Judge David M. Brown Tuesday ordered $7 million worth of Iranian bank assets and two properties operating as “cultural centers” liquidated and the proceeds handed to two victims of Hizballah terror. The recipients are Joseph Cicippio of the American University of Beirut, who was abducted by Iran’s Lebanese proxy Hizballah in 1986 and held for five years; and Edward Tracy, then a bookseller living in Beirut, who was kidnapped the month after Cicippio.
- US officials: Iranian missile ship was bound for Sinai – as DEBKA first reported
US officials Tuesday questioned the official Israeli claim that the Iranian cargo of M302 missiles aboard the Klos C apprehended by Israeli commandos on March 3 was destined for Gaza. They now believe that the freight was meant for terrorists in Sinai. debkafile reported this two days after the event. Some Middle East military sources now conclude that the weapons were destined for Muslim Brotherhood operatives fighting the Egyptian army from bases in the Gaza Strip or, alternatively, for al Qaeda affiliates in Sinai. Iran has more than once collaborated with al Qaeda in operations suiting its agenda.
- US Naval Station Norfolk shut down after 2 killed in shooting incident
A sailor and a civilian believed to be the gunman were killed in a shooting incident Tuesday at a US Navy base in Norfolk Virginia, naval officials said. The base was shut down briefly. Navy officials are investigating the incident.
Arab League summit has it in for Obama and Kerry, will carry hard-line demands to derail Israeli-Palestinian peace talks
25 March. The Arab League summit opening in Kuwait Tuesday, March 25, is set to carry hard-line ultimatums as a means of derailing US-sponsored Palestinian-Israeli talks and as a red flag for President Barack Obama warning him to expect a hard time when he visits Riyadh in three days. debkafile: They propose a veto on recognizing Israel as the Jewish national state, mandating all parts of East Jerusalem, including Al Quds al Sharif (Temple Mount) and the entire Old City of Jerusalem, as the capital of a Palestinian state; and the immediate, unconditional release of all Palestinians in Israeli jails.
March 26, 2014 Briefs
- Obama proposes extra NATO forces for E. Europe
US President Barack Obama plans to discuss with the NATO Sec. Gen. the deployment of additional military forces in Eastern Europe against Russian aggression as reassurance for Poland and the Baltic states. He announced this at a news conference Wednesday in Brussels. debkafile’s military sources: Neither the US nor NATO has the military assets of funds to spare for extra forces.
- US jury convicts Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law
A Manhattan Federal Court jury found Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, 48, Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law guilty Wednesday of providing support to terrorists and conspiring to kill Americans as an Al Qaeda spokesman around the time of the 9/11 attacks. Abu Ghaith spewed hateful speeches alongside Bin Laden in several Al Qaeda propaganda videos films, including one made outside a mountain cave in Afghanistan on Sept. 12, 2001, the day after the Twin Towers fell. The defendant faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
- Arab summit vetoes Israel’s acceptance as Jewish State
Arab League leaders meeting in Kuwait carried a resolution Wednesday barring the recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people. This effectively marks the end of US-sponsored diplomacy for ending the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.
World leaders play nuclear terror game. Obama more worried about nuke in Manhattan than Russia
26 March. World leaders meeting inThe Hague Tuesday, March 26 played a computer game simulating an imminent threat of terrorists assembling a dirty bomb from stolen nuclear materials for unleashing against a Western City. President Barack Obama, China’s Xi Jinping, British premier David Cameron and Chancellor Angela Merkel, among others, could choose one of four buttons on their tablets to test their response, after a short film showed a mock terrorist announcing the bomb was ready and able to bring sudden death to hundreds of thousands of victims.
On March 10, Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu referred to a possible Iranian consignment of Ahead of the summit, Denis Flory, deputy director of the IAEA said 140 cases of nuclear and radioactive materials were reported missing or in unauthorized use in 2013.
March 27, 2014 Briefs
- Saudi anti-US step before Obama lands in Riyadh
Just hours before US President Barack Obama landed in Riyadh on Friday Saudi King Abdullah caught him off-balance with the unexpected appointment of former intelligence chief, Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, as second in the line to the throne, directly after the incumbent Crown Prince Salman. By this step, the king pointedly blocked the claim of the Obama administration’s favorite, Interior Minister Prince Mohammad Bin Nayef, to this position.
- Shooting against Israeli position in north Jerusalem
The IDF position in North Jerusalem outside the Kalandia refugee camp came under small arms fire early Thursday. No one was hurt. A search turned up an M16 automatic rifle. In the Jerusalem suburb of Pisgat Zeev, three Palestinians tried to stab an Israeli soldier. He was slightly injured.
El-Sisi creates 10,000-strong force to buttress his future presidency
27 March. Egypt’s Abdul-Fattah El-Sisi, 59, announced Wednesday, March 26, he had resigned from the army to run for president in an election no later than July. His popularity as a strong leader in a country that craves stability is such that he can count on winning. debkafile: El-Sisi took time off in recent weeks to create a new rapid intervention force to buttress his future presidency. Maj. Gen. Tawfik Abdel-Samei, head of the Egyptian army’s central command, was chosen to head the force. He and El-Sisi handpicked 10,000 of the most able commando fighters from the various army units and consolidated them through intense courses into a special airborne force. Equipped with air transport and helicopters, it is capable of flying to the ends of the country in a crisis, along with tanks, self-propelled artillery and counter-terror measures.
His announcement came two days before US President Barack Obama’s visit to Riyadh. It was a message that the Egyptian strongman was there to stay.