A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending May 18, 2006

Olmert Seeks Bush Nod as Heir to Sharon Legacy


17 May:. Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert himself laid the ground for his talks with American leaders through a group of well-heeled Jewish power-broker friends, mostly from Texas, with an inside track to the Bush family and the Republican Party.

That group was asked to pass on to White House officials what the prime minister expects from his first meeting with President Bush.

1. Public acknowledgement of his status as heir to the Ariel Sharon legacy.

2. Endorsement for his policy to shun Mahmoud Abbas as negotiating partner.

This will be complicated by President Bush’s insistence on his statement after the meeting stressing the need for dialogue with the Palestinians to precede every Israeli step.

3. Olmert would like some form of support for his convergence program on the West Bank but Bush will prefer to warn Israel against unilaterally establishing facts with regard to permanent frontiers.

On Iran, US officials do not buy the timeline estimated by Israeli intelligence for Iran to be within reach of weapons-grade uranium for a bomb and nuclear-capable missiles. They are certain they have three or four years to play with, and have made it clear that Jerusalem will not be allowed to force the pace

On the whole, Olmert may find his first White House talks disappointing.

According to debkafile‘s Washington sources, the prime minister’s friends were told that the administration prefers a low profile for future contacts with the Olmert government. From now on, Washington and Jerusalem are to meet on issues in the US capital.

The to-ings and fro-ings between Jerusalem and Washington were closely watched by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his visitor Mahmoud Abbas. debkafile‘s Moscow sources report the two put their heads together on a joint Russian-Palestinian diplomatic-economic-military initiative, whose launch would be aimed at whipping international media and Middle East headlines away from the Bush-Olmert talks.

The subject also came up in Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov’s conversations with his Chinese opposition number, Li Zhaoxing, in Beijing on the Iranian nuclear issue. Lavrov tested the ground for China to join such an initiative. A reply is awaited.


A Fresh Supply of Iranian Weapons for New Batch of Iraqi Shiite Terrorists


15 May: In the past two weeks, Iran has been pumping into Iraq two types of extra-lethal weapons in very large quantities. They have already taken their toll in the shooting down of two military helicopters – one American and one British – and an estimated 19 deaths of US military personnel.

debkafile‘s military and intelligence sources estimate the delivery to Iraqi insurgents as consisting of around 1,000 SA-7 Strela ground-air missiles made in Iran, and a very large quantity of a newly-developed roadside bomb, loaded with compressed gas instead of ball bearings and cartridges, to magnify their blast and explosive power.

The supplies have been distributed across Iraq – Basra and Amara in the south, Baghdad and its environs, Haditha in the west, and Mosul in the north.

The new bombs, developed jointly by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and the Lebanese Hizballah, have already gone into service with the Shiite terrorists on the Lebanese border with Israel. Israeli military sources say it is only a matter of time before the deadly roadside bombs, already used in Iraq, will also reach Palestinian areas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

In Iraq, the new weaponry has had three major effects:

1. The guerrilla-terrorist groups which received the shoulder-carried, highly mobile Strela missiles have scored three hits in fourteen days. On May 6, they fired a missile from one of Basra’s crowded alleys and downed a British military helicopter, killing all four military personnel aboard. Sunday, May 14, Iraqi insurgents shot down an American helicopter, killing its two crewmen over Yussifiya, inside the Triangle of Death south of Baghdad.

2. The number of roadside bomb attacks, their precision and lethality is going up all the time. Sunday, May 14, four US soldiers died in these blasts in the western Anbar province and Baghdad, while 2 British soldiers were killed and another injured at the same time near Basra. In seven days, the British force stationed in southern Iraq lost seven men, a record for that space of time in the three-year war. In the first half of May, US troop losses spiraled to 19, most of them the victims of the new roadside bombs.


Uriel Massad, director of Red Cross in Israel, denies a humanitarian crisis exists in the Palestinian Authority


13 May: There are shortages, but no starvation, says Massad. However, he warned that a breakdown of essential state services, including hospitals, would lead to chaos and civic disorder.

Last week, Israel agreed to free a portion of frozen Palestinian funds for humanitarian needs if it is transferred directly to Palestinian citizens – not the government


A Hamas Ideologue Bares His Movement’s Designs and Dilemmas


12 May: Since elected to rule the Palestinians, the leaders of Hamas sound sometimes as though they are talking in different voices – depending on the place and occasion.

But in their internal discourse, Hamas’ policy-makers are unwaveringly consistent in their aims.

Prof. Abdel al Sather Qassam, university lecturer at Nablus a-Najah University, is rated by Israeli intelligence as Hamas’ senior strategic ideologue and an influential voice in the Palestinian terror movement.

Last week, he gave a group of leaders of the umbrella terrorist coalition in Gaza, the Popular Resistance Committees leader, by video broadcast from Nablus.

Prof. Qassam makes no distinction between Palestinian organizations, which he maintains in the war on Israel is a single entity operating in unison.

Al Qassam puts his finger on the Palestinian terror movement’s primary predicament, the inability to make the transition from terror attacks to guerilla warfare and shifting its challenge to Israel to the West Bank.

“See what happened in 1996,” he says. “The 50 kilos of explosives Hamas managed to bring into and blow up in Tel Aviv sent all the world’s leaders running to Sharm el-Sheikh.”

The Nablus academic makes three suggestions to overcome this difficulty:

1. Disband all the Palestinian security organs.

2. Leave only the police to enforce law and order and no other security service.

3. Send all the armed Palestinian organizations (terrorist groups) underground.

No resistance movement can survive if it is not under cover.

Professor Qassam diagnoses the changes overtaking the Middle East at present as inimical to Israel and the United States. “America deployed its most superior military force in Iraq – and finds itself on the defensive across a broad region from Pakistan to Palestine. Iran stands at the center, wielding its nuclear program as an instrument for defying the world order America seeks to dictate.”


Palestinian missile which struck Kibbutz Netiv Ha’asara hen-run and greenhouses from Gaza Tuesday was a Grad rocket


16 May: It landed shortly before Amir Peretz’s first visit to the IDF Southern Command as defense minister to inspect the military campaign to curb the Palestinian Qassam offensive against Israeli civilians


Sunday, 7 Palestinians were killed in two West Bank shoot-outs with Israeli forces in Kabatya and Jenin


16 May: Among them was Elias Askar, senior Jihad Islami terrorist mastermind who organized the Passover suicide bombing in Tel Aviv and several lethal Palestinian attacks on civilians in the past.

The eleventh victim of the Tel Aviv bombing died in hospital Sunday.

The Palestinians killed in Israeli counter-terror action included Jihad Islami and Fatah-Al Aqsa Brigades operatives in Kabatya and a member of the Palestinian security service in Jenin. Four Jihad Islami terrorist suspects were arrested in the two engagements Sunday.

Opposite the Gaza Strip, an Israeli Dabur missile ship captured another Palestinian fishing boat loaded with 400-500 kilos of smuggled explosives and mines. Two smugglers held for interrogation.


An al Qaeda tsunami of terror threatens the Middle East including Israel, says former Israeli military intelligence chief


16 May: Maj.-Gen. Aharon Zeevi, recently retired as AMAN head, said he was issuing a wakeup call to the perils still extant to this country, including in his view war with Syria. At a lecture Monday, May 15, in Tel Aviv University’s Center for Strategic Studies, the retired intelligence chief said al Qaeda had begun linking up with Palestinian terrorists. This was the first authoritative Israeli reference to debkafile‘s reporting on the entry of al Qaeda cells to the Gaza Strip and their preparations for strikes against Israel in the wake of its pullout last year.


Syrian intelligence agents reach Ramallah for first get-together with Palestinian Hamas ministers Tuesday


18 May: Because of a serious Israeli security oversight – now under scrutiny – Syrian military intelligence has obtained its first foothold in the Palestinian administration through agents, pro-Syrian Druze tribesmen from the Golan Heights, who reached Ramallah. Their meeting with Hamas, according to our counter-terror sources, produced a joint body to coordinate Syrian-backed Druze operations against Israel’s Golan presence. This was the first link ever established for overt cooperation between Israeli citizens loyal to Damascus and a Palestinian Authority department on the West Bank.


Thousands of Abu Mazen’s Palestinian police fail to face up to Hamas challenge


18 May: Our intelligence sources report 8,000 armed men paraded Wednesday, in the streets and squares of Gaza – more than double the 3,000 reported by the news agencies – in an effort to provoke the rival Fatah into a showdown, in the absence of PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

The next day, he ordered his cohorts to demonstratively march through Gaza. Hamas militiamen did not interfere and the police made no attempt to break the militia’s grip on the Gaza Strip’s key streets, highways and squares.

Our intelligence sources reported the Hamas Implementation Force parade numbered 8,000 men armed with heavy machine guns, RPGs, mortars and explosives – 6,000 Hamas operatives and 2,000 Popular Resistance Committees members.

Sources familiar with the Gaza Strip disclose control of Gaza’s 40 squares and intersections is the key to a grip on the entire territory. Hamas militiamen spent Wednesday seizing all these strategic points. By evening Hamas’s grip was complete. When Wednesday night, Abu Mazen finally woke up and ordered the PA security force to spread out across the Gaza Strip, very few obeyed him.

The slightest spark now could cause the standoff to veer out of control between the warring Palestinian factions. The situation is already heavily charged. In the last 24 hours, 20 exclusive devices have caused 7 Hamas deaths in the Gaza Strip.

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