A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending March April 27, 2006

Jack Straw lowers price for “normal relations” with Hamas


20 April: Speaking in Riyadh, the UK foreign secretary significantly watered down US-European provisions for acceptance of a Hamas government and the de-freeze of funding.

debkafile‘s sources disclose: Britain and France are competing for large-scale arms deals with Saudi Arabia and multi-billon dollar contracts to build a new electronic fence enclosing the border between the oil kingdom and Iraq.


First photos of weapons Jordanian security seized in raids of Hamas hideouts in Amman


20 April: debkafile‘s counter-terror sources report Hamas spies were caught in observations of Jordanian government buildings, power stations and Jordanian oil pipes and fuel depots, preparatory to attacks. Some 15 Hamas activists were taken into custody. Raids of their hideouts turned up a quantity of missiles, explosives and automatic weapons smuggled into the kingdom in the last two weeks.

The discovery of the Hamas plot sparked the last-minute cancellation of the Palestinian FM Mahoud a-Zahar’s visit to Amman Wednesday, April 19.

Since those Hamas operatives and the contraband hardware were smuggled into the kingdom from Syria, the conspiracy against the Hashemite Kingdom is laid at the door of Hamas Damascus-based leaders.

Amman officials also take it for granted that Syrian intelligence was in on the Hamas smuggling operation.


All 35,000 Palestinians expelled from Baghdad


21 April: The last evictions were carried out by the Shiite Wolves Brigade Thursday, April 20. According to debkafile‘s sources most of the Palestinians fled to Sunni Muslim sanctuaries in northern Iraq including Samarra and Falujja. For some weeks, 2,000-3,000 Palestinians have been stranded in tents set up in the desert on the Iraqi side of the Jordanian border. Jordan refuses to let them enter.

debkafile adds: The Wolves Brigade is regarded as the most effective and savage of Iraqi militias. Formally it is part of the interior ministry’s security forces, but in actual fact it is an armed branch of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq -SCIRI, one of the two major Shiite parties which is led by Abdel Aziz al Hakim. Its commander goes under the nom de guerre of Abu Walid.

Our Iraqi sources add that the expulsion of the Palestinians is part of the Shiite campaign to purge Baghdad of Sunni Muslims. It is going forward without official Iraqi or American interference.


Jordan is replacing all passports to sift out security risks


22 April: Passport-holders have been called by Jordanian interior ministry in Amman to report at local population registry branches for new electronic documents. debkafile adds: The regulation is being used to cleanse the kingdom of potential threats to the throne. Some 300,000 expatriate Iraqis live in Jordan. They cover a wide spectrum – from asylum-seekers from the Saddam Hussein regime, former prominent Baathists, including the deposed dictator’s daughters, and insurgent leaders of different stripes. Many West Bank Palestinians bear Jordanian passports as well.

The old passports will be valid only until the end of May. After that, holders of the old papers will not be eligible to enter or leave the kingdom. The official announcement does not promise all passports will be replaced.


Shoot to kill orders given by Jamal Semhadana


23 April: New Palestinian security forces commissioner, Jamal Abu Semhadana, Sunday night, April 23, ordered his Gaza forces to shoot to kill disorderly persons, after two days of violent clashes in Gaza City left 40 injured.

debkafile adds: The security units under Semhadana’s orders are in fact gunmen of his own Popular Resistance Committees and Hamas’s Ezz-e-Din al-Qassam, while the Fatah force with which they clashed is commanded by Samir Mashrawi, deputy chief of the Gaza Preventive Security Service. The clashes between them Sunday were in fact more in the nature of a military contest than street fighting. It was the first time the Hamas had deployed its military arm as a special security unit in support of its government.


Former Shin Bet director Avi Dichter to get internal security ministry


23 April: The attorney general has disqualified Israel Beitenu’s Avigdor Lieberman for the post because of investigations pending against him.


Lebanese sectarian militias mushroom amid returning Syrian influence


23 April: When he visited the White House on April 18, Lebanese prime minister Fouad Siniora was shocked to discover that president George W. Bush had cooled to the campaign he launched with France against the Assad regime in February 2005, after the assassination of the Lebanese politician Rafiq Hariri.

He saw that Bashar Assad and his clique were getting away scot-free from being brought to account as suspects in the crime.

Siniora also learned, according to debkafile‘s Washington and Middle East sources, that the Americans had abandoned their drive to oust Lahoud, disarm the Hizballah, disband Palestinian militias in Lebanon, and impose on them the implementation of a key UN Security Council resolution.

As he left the White House, the Lebanese prime minister remarked: “Lebanon is back to square one. We are left with the ruins of the American-French initiative.”

The vacuum left by the withdrawal of the United States and France has sent Lebanon’s Sunnis, Shiites and Christians, running back to their armed militias for protection, while Damascus returns to asserting mastery over its small neighbor.

All the Lebanese militias, including those linked to al Qaeda, are re-arming and rebuilding their strength.

The Maronite Christian Lebanese Forces are training new recruits at a new base in Wadi Qudban, on Mount Lebanon.

Saad Hariri, the son of the slain politician has begun converting his 250-man bodyguard unit into an armed Sunni force. “Hariri’s Fedayeen” has set up base in southern Lebanon east of Sidon.

Hizballah’s Shiite rival, Amal, is re-mobilizing and training.


Hamas Hires Gang Chief to Muscle in on Palestinian Security Forces and Strip Abu Mazen of Real Power


23 April: Four developments underline the changes Hamas has already wrought in the structure and direction of Palestinian government since its takeover in February:

1. Abu Mazen’s authority at home has shrunk to the four walls of his executive office.

2. The Palestinian Authority is no longer a functioning government – either in the Gaza Strip or the West Bank.

3. The ministers whom prime minister Ismail Haniya appointed in February have not taken up their jobs, except for interior minister Siyam. He, too, rather than tackling the mundane tasks of bringing law and order to the chaotic, crime-ridden streets, is busy consolidating Hamas in the key positions grabbed from the PA’s Fatah-dominated security, intelligence and civil services, which Abbas claims to be under his authority.

4. This is where the notorious crime and terrorist chief Jamal Semhadana comes in.

He is the founder of the Palestinian Resistance Committees commander; his clan owns a Middle East smuggling network that runs contraband arms from the Gulf to Sunni insurgent and al Qaeda fighters in Iraq; as terror-master, he is credited with masterminding the assassination of three American security agents escorting a US embassy convoy in Gaza on Oct. 15, 2003, and responsibility for suicide attacks that have claimed many Israeli lives.

Hamas has decided that Jemal Semhadana is just the asset they need to build a security force loyal to Hamas by merging the various terrorist factions and transferring the security services’ loyalties to the new regime.

This is not a Hamas innovation. In 2000, when the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat launched his war against Israel, he concluded an alliance with the very same Semhadana clan in Gaza.


debkafile: Iraq’s political crisis is far from over


24 April: Iraqi PM-designate Jawas al-Maliki has a fight on his hands over the defense and interior posts – with the US and Iran pulling the wires. The Shiite SCIRI party’s head, Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, is using his acceptance of al-Maliki as prime minister as a concession that entitles him to the two key portfolios for his Badr Organization’s commanders, notably Hadi al-Ameri. Since Sunni Arab and Kurdish leaders regard the Badr chiefs as totally under Tehran’s thumb and recipients of its orders through Iranian intelligence agents in Baghdad, this demand will meet even sterner resistance than did Ibrahim Jaafari’s bid to stay on as prime minister.


Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in rare videotape threatens: “We will liberate Jerusalem by jihad!”


25 April: debkafile‘s counter-terror sources: Zarqawi showed his face for the first time in more than a decade the day after three explosions killed 24 people, injured 70, at Dahab in Egyptian Sinai and 48 hours after Osama bin Laden’s audiotaped threat to the Crusader-Zionist enemy was aired by Arabic Al Jazeera TV.

The combination may herald a fresh al Qaeda cycle of terrorist attacks.

Our sources reported Monday that the Egyptian authorities are investigating whether a 10-man cell reportedly held ready by Zarqawi in N. Sinai or Gaza for a large-scale attack was responsible for the third Sinai bombing attack in two years.

In the new tape, Zarqawi declared: The crusader enemy entered Iraq to extend Zionist rule from the Euphrates to the Nile. He said “the Americans led by Bush, the Jews, the Crusaders and the ‘Muslim traitors’ will not know a moment’s peace as long as our eyes are open.”

This year, Israelis joined the stream of foreign tourists to Sinai after an Egyptian assurance that thousands of its security forces had finally cleared out the Qaeda strongholds in the central Sinai Hilal mountain range. A special operation had been conducted among their Bedouin collaborators and the peninsula resorts must now be considered safe.


US troops injured in twin suicide bombing at the Multinational Sinai base


26 April: The MFO and Egypt have drawn a blackout over this and the other suspected al Qaeda suicide bombings in and near Sinai on April 26, two days after a triple al Qaeda bombing attack devastated the Dahab coastal resort in eastern Sinai, killing at least 34 people and injuring 70.

The first incident began when Palestinian police stopped two cars, one carrying 10 barrels – each containing 50 kilos explosives, before they crashed into the Gaza-Israeli Karni goods crossing. The police shoot-out with the five terrorists prevented half a ton of explosives destroying the wall dividing the Palestinian and Israeli sides of the terminal where some 200 Palestinian and Israeli border personnel are employed. This scale of this foiled attack suggests al Qaeda’s hand.

Next came the bombing at the MFO Gura base in northern Sinai. One suicide killer hit a car carrying peacekeepers to their base. The second rode a motorcycle which blew up as Egyptian security and aid units arrived on the scene. Two peacekeepers were officially reported injured – a New Zealander and a Norwegian. According to debkafile, the casualty figure was higher and included US soldiers.

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