A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending March 28, 2013

March 22, 2013 Briefs

  • Lebanon’s PM Mikati resigns
    Prime Minister Najib Mikati stepped down Friday after the Shiite Hizballah prevented the creation of a body to supervise parliamentary elections and blocked the extension of Internal Security Forces chief Ashraf Rifi’s term. debkafile: His resignation takes Lebanon another step toward the resurgence of civil war as the country is increasingly polarized between Hizballah and other pro- Assad factions and some Sunni and Christian factions who support Syrian rebels. The army is equally divided against itself.

March 23, 2013 Briefs

  • US Secretary Kerry briefs Israel leaders on Palestinian issue
    US Secretary of State John Kerry held a one-on-one conversation with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the King David Hotel, Jerusalem Saturday night, after which they were joined by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, National Security Adviser Yakov Amidror and the PM’s personal adviser Isaac Molcho. Kerry reported on President Obama’s talks with Jordan’s King Abdullah and the subsequent meetings with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.
  • Top British court holds first ever closed hearing for Iran case
    Britain’s Supreme Court held the first secret session in its history last week to consider evidence about the Iranian Bank Mellat’s alleged links with the country’s nuclear program, which the British government asked to be kept confidential. The court president David Neuberger asked the media, the public and the Iran bank’s lawyers to leave the court for 45 minutes when the government submitted this evidence.

Turkey badly needed to end row with Israel

23 March. The Turkish-Israeli reconciliation, effected by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s apology was urged strongly by US President Barack Obama, because Ankara urgently needed to revive the military cooperation it cut off with Israel in 2010. debkafile: Without access to Israeli military technology, Turkey’s armed forces are hamstrung. And without full Israeli, Turkish and Jordanian coordination, Obama’s plan for a joint US-led command center against a Syrian chemical warfare contingency can’t take off. But, the apology also went down as a gratuitous affront to Israeli military pride.
The crowing comment by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu – “Turkey’s basic demands have been met; we got what we wanted” – was out of place, spiteful and ill-mannered.
He knows perfectly well that for the past year, amid a constant stream of ranting abuse from Ankara, Israel has been quietly responding to Turkey’s desperate need for cooperation in such essential fields as military technology and the redirection of its exports from their transit routes through Syria to Israeli ports.

March 24, 2013 Briefs

  • West Bank borders shut from Sunday midnight for Passover Eve
    Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon has ordered the closure of the West Bank Sunday midnight for 48 hours until Tuesday midnight.
  • Gantz’s support for PM’s apology to Turkey criticized
    DEBKAfile’s military sources fault Chief of staff Lt. Gen., Benny Gantz for trying Sunday to have it both ways instead of solidly backing his own troops. On the one hand, the general said the prime minister did well to apologize to Turkey for the sake of promoting the revival of strategic ties after three years, while, on the other, he praised as moral and resolute the 2010 Israeli IDF commandos who raided the Turkish flotilla to prevent it violating the Israel blockade on Gaza. Gantz said the elite unit kept casualties down to the minimum – 9 Turkish activists – whereas any other army would have left scores of dead.
  • Kerry fails to persuade Iraq’s Maliki to stop Iranian airlift to Assad
    US Secretary of State John Kerry, on an unannounced visit to Baghdad Sunday, was unable to persuade Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki cut short the Iranian airlift and land route through his country to Bashar Assad of weapons, fighters and cash. debkafile: Iranian supplies are what keep Assad’s army functioning and his regime in Damascus and other Syrian towns able to survive the rebellion.
  • Gantz: Syrian gunfire put Israeli soldiers at risk
    Israeli troops conducted a surgical strike by a Tamuz missile to destroy the firing position in the Syrian sector of Golan after they were placed in danger by the gunfire from the Syrian sector of Golan Saturday night and Sunday morning, said Chief of Staff Lt. Gen/ Benny Gantz. The incident is a harsh reminder of the explosive situation along our border with Syria. Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said the incident was serious and Israel holds the Syrian regime is responsible for all violations.
  • New defense cabinet holds first session
    Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu heads the defense cabinet’s first session in its new format which has been pared down from 15 to 7 members. An intelligence briefing is on its agenda.

March 25, 2013 Briefs

  • Netanyahu unfreezes transfers to Palestinian Authority
    Five months ago, Israel suspended the transfer of allocations from customs duty due to the Palestinian Authority after Mahmoud Abbas’s unilateral application for UN membership as an observer state. They were renewed after US President Barack Obama’s visit last week.
  • Mixed Hamas-Al Qaeda terror team caught in Sinai
    Egyptian security forces Monday caught 25 heavily armed men, members of al Qaeda and the Palestinian Hamas, on their way from Sinai to the Delta region of Egypt. In addition to arms and ammo, they were equipped with satellite communications equipment. debkafile: This was the first time Hamas and al Qaeda have been caught collaborating in Sinai for terrorist activities against an Egyptian target. In El Arish, N. Sinai, Egyptian security police discovered a large cache of arms and explosives including anti-air and anti tank rockets. In a number of Delta towns, they discovered clandestine workshops trning out Egyptian army uniforms, thought to have been commissioned by al Qaeda to disguise terrorists plotting a coup.

Al Qaeda seizes Syrian-Israeli-Jordanian border junction

25 March. The Al Musanna Brigade of al Qaeda’s Syrian arm, Jabhat al-Nusra, captured the highly strategic intersection of the Syrian, Israeli and Jordan borders, just east of the Golan on Passover Eve, Monday, March 25, debkafile reports exclusively. The jihadists have also seized Wadi ar-Raqqad which marks the Golan’s eastern boundary and is one of Israel’s water sources. This put the jihadists directly opposite 14 Israeli southern Golan villages and a distance of 5-6 kilometers from one of Israel’s earliest kibbutzim, Ein Gev, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
Next door, Iraqi Al Qaeda is preparing to push trucks loaded with Chlorine gas-CI trucks into Syria for the jihadists to use against Assad’s forces.

March 26, 2013 Briefs

  • UN Secy names Swedish scientist to probe Syrian CW allegations
    Ban Ki-moon Tuesday named Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom to head the UN team probing allegations of the use of chemical weapons last week in an attack on Aleppo.
  • Palestinian arrested with four explosive devices
    A Palestinian was stopped at a Jordan Valley IDF checkpost with four homemade explosives devices. He was detained for questioning and the devices detonated in controlled explosions.
  • North Korea again threatens the US
    Pyongyang has placed its long-range artillery and strategic rocket units on “combat duty posture No. 1” ready to strike US military targets in Guam and Hawaii in response to the US adding bombers carrying nuclear weapons to its joint military exercise with South Korea.
  • Jordan shuts border as Syrian-al Qaeda fighting nears crossing
    The main Jordanian border post was closed for the first time in the two-year Syrian revolt after al Qaeda fighters captured villages along the nearby Syrian-Israeli border.
  • Arab League summit on Syria and Palestinian issue
    The Arab rulers meeting in Doha, Qatar will pick a delegation to go to Washington and discuss with President Barack Obama the terms for their approval of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’s return to negotiations with Israel after stalling the process for two years.
  • The Israeli kidnapped in Sinai is set free
    Amir Omar Hassan of Nazareth and his Norwegian girlfriend, kidnapped a week ago in Sinai, were released by their Sinai Bedouin captors Tuesday after negotiations with Cairo led to the release of fellow Bedouin jailed on drugs offenses.

March 27, 2013 Briefs

  • Assad appeals to African Summit for help
    Syria’s president has sent a desperate appeal to the five-nation economic forum (Russia, China, India, Brazil and South Africa) meeting in South Africa for help end his country’s two-year conflict. He said Syria is being subjected to “acts of terrorism backed by Arab, regional and Western nations.”
  • Bahrain brands Hizballah a terrorist organization
    Parliament in Manama unanimously approved an urgent proposal submitted by 30 MPs for immediate ratification by the Cabinet branding the Lebanese Hizballah a terrorist organization.
  • Arab League summit approves $1bn fund for “Arab East Jerusalem”
    The summit approves a fund to maintain the Arab and Islamic character of the city versus its “judaisation.” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman: “Objecting to the Judaization of Jerusalem is absurd, like objecting to the Catholic nature of the Vatican or the Islamisation of Mecca.”

The empty Arab leadership chair in Doha

27 March. After patching up the feud between Israel and Turkey, US President Barack Obama faces a much tougher exercise: brokering ties between Turkey and Saudi Arabia. To address the looming Syrian chemical arms crisis, President Obama needs a united anti-Assad Arab-Islamic front. He faces a choice between two blocs for the lead role: Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Abu Dhabi, or Turkey and Qatar. Most Arab rulers want no truck with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, which is why he vents his frustration on Israel. On top of his antipathy for the Turkish leader, the Saudi monarch still harbors a deep grudge for the way Qatar’s secret service and special forces, in the 2011 Libyan war, took charge with Obama’s blessing of running the Arab support-and-arms pipeline to the various Libyan opposition militias.

March 28, 2013 Briefs

  • Israel beefs up military medical teams on Syrian border
    More and more Syrian war wounded are reaching the Golan frontier asking for medical aid in Israel Eleven were recently taken and treated at Israeli hospitals and returned home. One died of his wounds Wednesday.
  • Putin orders large-scale military exercise in Black Sea region
    Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the maneuver without prior warning on his way back from an international summit in South Africa. His spokesman said 36 warships and an unspecified number of warplanes would take part in Black Sea regional exercise “to check the readiness and cohesion of the various units.” DEBKA: The maneuver sends a hands-off warning for Syria from Moscow to the US and NATO.

Saudi heavy weapons supply to Syrian rebels breaks up Arab summit in uproar

28 March. Syrian rebels in Aleppo have begun receiving their first heavy weapons – 220-mm MLRS rocket launchers – from a large-scale supply operation headed by Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan, debkafile reports exclusively. In Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo, his agents snapped up Russian-made MLRS (Smerch) and Hurricane 9K57 launchers capable of firing scores of 220-mm rockets to a distance of 70 kilometers. Bandar hopes that with these weapons the rebels will soon capture the big Syrian air base of Nairab near Aleppo, key landing site for Iranian and Russian arms airlifts to the Syrian army.
This news brought the Arab League summit taking place in Doha, Qatar this week to a clamorous end. The conference proceedings were abruptly halted as Arab delegation members pitched in to separate Saudi and Qatar delegates who came to blows in a side room of the assembly hall.

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