A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending May 07, 2015

Iran backs Syrian Hizballah terror offensive on Golan

1 May. debkafile reports that in three days of talks, up until April 30, Syrian Defense Minister Gen. Fahad Jassim al-Freij procured from his Iranian counterpart Hussein Dehghan, approval for a stepped-up terror campaign against Israeli forces and civilians on the Golan, to be executed by terrorist surrogates. It is to be launched from a new “open area” in South Syria where terrorist militias willing to attack Israel will be given free rein.
It would stretch from Damascus to the Golan – a distance of 60 km by road – and take in the Syrian Hermon and Lebanese Chebaa Farms. Syrian and Hizballah military intelligence services will establish new militias for their campaign as well as deploying existing terrorist groups, coordinate their operations and provide them with arms and intelligence.

May 2, 2015 Briefs

  • Harper pledges Canadian support for Iraq in surprise visit to Baghdad
    Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a surprise visit Saturday to Baghdad and the Kurdish region and pledged to continue supporting their battle against the Islamic State. Canada has announced $139 million in additional aid to address the refugee crisis around the region, in addition to the $67 million already committed to Iraq.
  • Sisi flies to Riyadh for urgent discussions on Libyan and Yemeni conflicts
    The first foreign leader to visit Riyadh after Saudi King Salman’s government shakeup, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi is reported by DEBKAfle sources to be heading Saturday for urgent discussions with Saudi leaders to align the two countries strategically and tactically on the crises in Yemen and Libya. Sisi also needs assurance that the massive Saudi financial aid of up to $10bn per annum is maintained under the new lineup.
  • Nigerian army releases 234 more women and children from Islamists
    Another group of 234 women and children was rescued from the clutches of the Boko Haram terrorists, the Nigerian military reported Saturday, days after the first group of 300 women and children were freed in a separate offensive. It is not clear whether the hundreds of schoolgirls kidnapped from a school in Chibok last year were among them.

As Obama smiles at Israel, Biden reveals Iran can already make eight bombs

2 May. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have gone out of their way in the last fortnight to shower friendly gestures on Israel and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. debkafile: Instead of sparring with the Israeli leader, whose speech in Congress placed him at the forefront of international opposition to the nuclear deal, the White House has decided to try and convert him – and also Congress – by meeting him on certain points. That was the point of the Biden speech to the Washington Institute. He detailed tough conditions the Obama administration had laid down for a final accord with Iran, while also revealing that Iran had been allowed to stock “enough material if further enriched for as many as eight nuclear bombs. Already, right now, as I speak to you.”

May 3, 2015 Briefs

  • Attempted Palestinian stabbing foiled with no casualties
    Two Palestinians were detained Sunday night running with knives at a group of soldiers at the Yakir junction in the northern West Bank. No one was hurt.
  • Dozens injured in ex-Ethiopian immigrants protest
    After a violent demonstration in Jerusalem, thousands of Jews of Ethiopian origin, many second-generation immigrants, moved to Tel Aviv to continue their vociferous, at times violent, protests against alleged police brutality and racial discrimination. When they began throwing stones and bottles and ransacking shops, the police turned to using water hoses and stun grenades to disperse them. The eruption of outrage by the Ethiopian Jewish community – a rare sight in Tel Aviv – was first triggered by a clip aired on television showing two police officers beating up a soldier in uniform, a member of the community. Next day, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu received the soldier with an apology as well as leaders of the Ethiopian community to hear their grievances. He promised to head a government commission to address them with remedies.
    One of their leaders, Likud MK Dr. Avraham Nagosa, demanded a commission of inquiry to probe the treatment of immigrants from Ethiopia
  • US, Israel, Greece end joint sea-air maneuver
    The US Sixth Fleet and the Israeli and Greek air forces Sunday wound up a joint two-week war game. It focused on intensified military cooperation, on the one hand, and enhancing each force’s individual capabilities, on the other. Following Moscow’s promise of S-300 air defense missiles to Iran, Israeli air crews practiced maneuvers with F-16 warplanes. Also taking part in the exercise opposite Greece were Israeli Navy missile ships.
  • Body found of last missing Israeli trekker in Nepal
    After an intense search for nearly a week, the body of Or Asraf, 22, from Lahavim was found in the mountains of Nepal. All the other Israeli trekkers stranded on mountain trails by the Nepal earthquake were found and rescued.
  • Small number of Saudi-led ground troops enter Aden
    A “limited” number of Saudi-led ground troops deployed in Yemen’s second city Aden on Sunday to support loyalist militia fighting rebels, and another force is on the way, a government official and a militia commander said. This was the first ground deployment by the coalition, which has been conducting an air war in support of exiled President Abd Rabo Hadi. The few dozen ground troops, mostly Saudis and Emiratis of Yemeni origin, will focus on evicting rebel Houthis from Aden international airport.
  • Netanyahu: The Lausanne framework won’t stop a nuclear Iran
    Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Saturday night that the framework agreement taking shape at Lausanne falls short of meeting the challenge of a nuclear-armed Iran or make the world a safer place. This was his rapid-fire response to the points laid out by Vice President Joe Biden in favor of the agreement.
    Secretary of State John Kerry said, “There’s a lot of hysteria about this deal. People really need to look at the facts.” The final agreement provides indefinite access to Iranian nuclear facilities. “We will have inspectors in there every single day. That’s not a 10-year deal. That’s for ever,” he said.

May 4, 2015 Briefs

  • Avigdor Lieberman quits as foreign minister
    Avigdor Lieberman stepped down Monday as foreign minister. He also took his party, Yisrael Beitenu, out of ongoing coalition talks with Binyamin Netanyahu and opted for the opposition. He accused Netanyahu of “opportunism” and betraying the principles of the national camp. According to Lieberman, the prime minister is ready to invite Labor Party chairman Yitzhak Herzog to join the next cabinet.
  • Two UN peacekeepers injured by Syrian mortar fire on Golan
    Two members of the UN Demilitarized Force (UNDOF) posted on the Golan were injured Monday by two mortar shells fired from the Syrian Quneitra region. They exploded opposite the Israeli border fence. The IDF is investigating.
  • Jerusalem light train guards shoot Palestinian assailant
    A Palestinian was shot in the leg Monday by guards at the Jerusalem light train’s Givat Hamivtar station when he came at one of them from behind with a knife. He was taken to Hadassah hospital. The train’s regular service was resumed without however stopping over at this station.
  • ISIS-linked social media claim Texas shooting
    A Twitter account named Sharia is Light and linked to ISIS posted a message with the hashtag “texasattack” moments before two gunmen opened fire Sunday night outside an exhibit of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, northeast of Dallas. A guard was injured in the ankle before police officers shot and killed both gunmen.

Assad loses battles as US, Israel, Turkey, Jordan, Qatar and UAE arm Al Qaeda’s Syrian branches

4 May. For the first time in the Syrian war, opposition forces are receiving substantial quantities of heavy weapons including tanks and antitank missiles, from the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, debkafile reports. The opposition has begun winning battles in the north (Idlib) and the south (Quneitra region opposite Israeli border) as the balance of strength shifts away from the Syrian army.
At the same time, since most of these rebel groups are associated with al Qaeda, Assad’s fall if it is achieved may well consign Syria to radical Islamist rule.

May 5, 2015 Briefs

  • Hizballah leader denies Iran, Russia are about to dump Assad
    Hassan Nasrallah, Hizballah’s secretary general, denied Tuesday that Iran and Russia had decided to pull their backing from Syrian President Bashar Assad and stop supporting his army. In a televised speech, he dismissed rumors of Assad’s imminent downfall as psychological warfare against him. On Saudi intervention in the Yemen civil war, Nasrallah said that Riyadh is heading for a major defeat.
  • Hizballah takes Fatah delegation on Israeli border tour
    A delegation of 350 Fatah activists from refugee camps in North Lebanon were the guests of Hizballah on a tour of South Lebanon and the Israeli border on April 26. Fatah is the so-called moderate Palestinian group led by Mahmoud Abbas.
  • Israel tests new rocket-fired missile
    Israel tested a new rocket-fired missile early Tuesday from a central Israeli launching site.The Defense Ministry said the test was scheduled long in advance and took place according to plan. No details were offered.

The Texas ISIS attack was not averted owing to US “human intelligence” deficit

5 May. The two gunmen who Sunday, May 3, tried – and failed – to shoot up an exhibit of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, northeast of Dallas, sounded a wakeup call for US counter-terrorism agencies – even before the Islamic State warned that this first attack on US soil would not be its last. Both homegrown Islamist terrorists were shot dead. But the incident betrayed the “human intelligence” weakness of US and Western agencies – a shortage of undercover agents to mingle familiarly in communities which may produce terrorists. Digital detection, however extensive, is no substitute for human intelligence. It takes an undercover agent on the ground to pick up on terrorist threats in time to thwart attacks.

May 6, 2015 Briefs

  • Netanyahu meets deadline for forming a cabinet coalition
    Binyamin Netanyahu met his Wednesday midnight deadline for forming a coalition government based on 61 MKs out of 120 after winding up negotiations with Habayit Hayehud in the nick of time. Details remain to be discussed, after Naphtali Bennett won the Education and Diaspora portfolio, Ayelet Shaked her first cabinet post as Justice Minister and head of the Legislative Committee – but not chair of the committee for appointing judges. Uri Uriel keeps the agriculture portfolio. Bennett and Shaked will have seats on the security cabinet. The party also received the post of deputy defense minister still to be filled.
    Netanyahu must now share out the remaining 10 portfolios among his own Likud adherents, before presenting the complete lineup to the Knesset.
  • Saudis step up air strikes against Yemen Houthi rebels
    Coalition warplanes targeted more than 30 locations in the Yemeni provinces of Saada and Hajjah Wednesday after a cross-border Houthi attack on the Saudi border town of Najran Tuesday which left three people dead. Around 80 people have died in Yemen in the last 24 hours – 40 civilians hit by Houthi fighters while fleeing Aden in a boat, and a similar number, including a senior army officer and 30 Houthi fighters, in battles for Aden. After 22 aid agencies warned that food and fuel shortages had become acute, US Secretary of State John Kerry, on his way to Riyadh, appealed for a humanitarian pause in the fighting to allow deliveries of aid.
  • Sudan claims downing an Israeli drone
    A senior military source in Khartoum claimed that Sudan’s air defense system had downed an Israeli unmanned aerial vehicle Wednesday, after Arab sources had reported an air-missile strike before dawn on a facility near Khartoum, housing a weapons store or plant for the production of missiles. No such attack has been confirmed. It appears that the warplanes which carried out the attack were escorted by UAVs capable of long-distance flights and fitted with night vision and precision targeting instruments.
  • Khamenei: No negotiations under military threat
    "Holding nuclear talks (with major powers) under shadow of threat is unacceptable for Iran … Our nation will not accept it … Military threats will not help the talks," supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was quoted as saying by Iran's English language Press TV. "Recently two U.S. officials threatened to take military action against Iran.” He was responding to a statement last week by US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter that the military option had not been removed.

Obama’s payback for Israel’s right-wing government: Approval of Palestinian statehood

6 May. debkafile Exclusive from Washington: President Barack Obama is to give Europe a green light to file a UN Security Council motion proclaiming an independent Palestinian state. Without waiting for Binyamin Netanyahu to present his new government at midnight Wednesday, May 6, Obama decided to punish him for building a right-wing coalition, minus a moderate figure with authority to resume talks with the Palestinians. French President Francois Hollande and US Secretary of State John Kerry have already briefed Saudi and Gulf rulers on Obama’s new policy.

May 7, 2015 Briefs

  • Obama weighs giving Riyadh bunker buster bombs
    US Secretary of State John Kerry was set to offer Saudi Arabia GBU-28 bunker buster bombs during his visit Wednesday and Thursday to Riyadh. Washington has so far only been willing to provide Israel with those weapons. Kerry’s mission is to ease regional fears over the nuclear deal shaping up with Iran by the June 30 deadline – ahead of the Gulf summit convened by President Obama at Camp David on My 13.
  • Obama congratulates Netanyahu on new government
    "The president congratulates the Israeli people, Prime Minister Netanyahu and the new governing coalition on the formation of Israel’s new government and looks forward to working with Prime Minister Netanyahu and his new government,” press secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement.
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