A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending May 30, 2013
Kerry harps on the Palestinian issue while terrorist forces build up in Syria
24 May. After spending 48 hours in Jerusalem and Ramallah, trying to talk Israeli and Palestinian leaders into returning to peace diplomacy, US Secretary of State John Kerry’s exit line, May 24, called for “hard decisions.” debkafile: As he spoke, two rival terrorist groups, Al Qaeda and Hizballah, continued pouring fighting strength into Syria – both of them, enemies of Israel, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. The most conspicuous feature of Kerry’s current Middle East tour is the strong dichotomy between his public statements and the events taking place in the real world around him.
Israel’s leaders may decide to ignore Kerry’s message and focus their “hard decisions” on warding off the perils looming from Syria.
May 25, 2013 Briefs
- French soldier stabbed in the neck by man of North African origin
The soldier was injured but will survive. He was patrolling the business area of western Paris when a bearded man, about 30, stabbed him in the neck. The assailant who fled the scene was later caught and proved to be a Muslim who attacked the soldier from “religious motives.”
- Hizballah leader: Assad is serious about an anti-Israel Golan front
Hizballah Dep. Secy Sheikh Naim Qassem says President Bashar Assad is serious about opening a front against Israel from the Golan. It only remains to be done. “Syria has the capabilities for carrying this out, but if necessary, we’ll help.” Qassem also warned Europe against some members plans to list Hizballah’s military arm as a terrorist organization.
- MI5 approached London attack terrorist six months earlier
A friend of Michael Adebolajo, one of the two terrorists who slaughtered a British soldier in Woolwich last week, told BBC Newsnight that Adebolajo had rejected an attempt by the MI5 security service’s to recruit him about half a year before the attack. After the interview, the friend, Abu Nusaybah, was arrested by the London Metropolitan police Counter-Terrorism Branch.
Nasrallah pledges tens of thousands of volunteers to Assad
25 May. Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah vowed Saturday night, May 25, to expand his movement’s military role in the Syrian civil war and muster tens of thousands of volunteers. Al Qaeda fighters were streaming into Syria and Israel planned more attacks, he said. debkafile: This amounts to a pledge to fight for Assad to the finish.
The Hizballah leader said if Sunni Islamists took over in Syria, they would pose a threat to the entire Lebanese population. If Assad falls, so too will the “resistance front” against Israel as well as the Palestinian people of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. “Hizballah will not let that happen!” Nasrallah declared.
Khamenei heads for dynastic rule – his repression and Syrian role unopposed by the West
26 May. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei aims for the whole pot in the June 14 presidential election. He is running a dark horse who is both tame – unlike the outgoing president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – and also family. debkafile names him as former Majlis Speaker Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel, 68, whose daughter is married to the ayatollah’s son, Mojtaba Khamenei. This candidate would fit into his boss’s plan to keep the presidential seat warm for Khamenei Junior, Mojtaba, to take over in the next election in 2017.
May 27, 2013 Briefs
- Iran: Stop flow of Syrian rebels and arms – or second Assad front against… Israel
Iran’s Deputy Foreign Ministry Hossein Amir-Abdollahian warned Monday that unless the flow of fighting strength and arms to the Syrian rebels is halted, Syrian ruler Bashar Assad would launch a second front from the Golan against… Israel. debkafile: Tehran, Damascus and Hizballah have turned to the tactic of dumping on Israel’s head any untoward development in Assad’s war in Syria.
- Russia raises Strategic Air Force combat readiness
Monday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said he had raised the readiness level of the Aerospace Defense (ASD), Strategic Air Force, and military transport aviation to test the combat readiness of the Russian army. Practical missile launches on Ashuluk range in the Astrakhan Region will be discussed in the process, including flight tests of the Angara space rocket complex.
- Egypt impounds SA-18 rockets for new Hamas anti-air unit
debkafile’s military sources report that Egyptian police seized large consignments of weapons destined for the Gaza Strip as part of their campaign to halt the flow of contraband Libyan weapons to the Palestinian enclave. The shipments included a large number of the advanced SA-18 IGLA bound for the new Hamas anti-air unit, as well as improved Qassam rockets and 100 military vehicles. They were seized in several raids in Sinai and the Western Desert on the Libyan border.
- Large-scale Israeli home defense drill starts Monday
The two-day “Turning Point 7”exercise practices war scenarios in Israeli towns including a surface missile attack on Natzrat Ilit, a terrorist raid on the Yavne district, unconventional arms attacks, such as chemical weapon assaults on Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Safed.
Hizballah rocket fired from Lebanon toward Israeli Metula
27 May. A Hizballah rocket fired from Lebanese Marjayoun landed harmlessly on open ground in Metula, the northernmost Israeli town, 48 hours after Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s war speech.
Metula was attacked the day after three Grad missiles were fired from a point east of Mt Lebanon to explode in the Hizballah-controlled Dahiya district of Beirut, injuring five people and causing some damage. It was fired by local Sunni elements sympathetic to the Syrian rebels in protest against Hizballah’s participation in Bashar Assad’s war. Sunday and early Monday, another 2,000 elite Hizballah combatants poured into Syria from Lebanon to augment the 5,000-6,000 already fighting there.
The new arrivals were transferred straight to the battlefront in south Damascus. Sunday overnight, Hizballah secretly ordered the call-up of reserves.
May 28, 2013 Briefs
- Erdan: Iron Dome couldn’t stop a barrage of hundreds of missiles
Home Front Minister Gilead Erdan warned Tuesday that the Iron Dome anti-missile system is not designed to intercept a large barrage of hundreds of missiles in the event of Israel’s northern neighbors declaring war.
- Russia: S-300 anti-air missiles will deter “hotheads” from Syria
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said deliveries of the S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to the Assad regime would go ahead because hey were a "stabilizing factor" that could dissuade "some hotheads" from entering the conflict. He also condemned the EU’s decision to end its arms ban for Syrian rebels as damaging the prospects for convening the international conference for a political solution of the Syrian conflict.
Kerry: Israel must grant Palestinians North Dead Sea coast
28 May. US Secretary of State John Kerry put a package of proposals for reviving the moribund Israel-Palestinian peace process before Israeli leaders Monday, May 27. He is keeping the package firmly under his hat. However, debkafile’s exclusive sources reveal that Kerry wants Israel to make strategic and national concessions for buying Palestinian consent to sit down and talk – such as a Palestinian international airport in Jericho and withdrawal from the Dead Sea’s northern coast. Mahmoud Abbas need make no real contribution. The Palestinians will also be awarded a $4 billion investment in an Economic Reconstruction Program.
May 29, 2013 Briefs
- Defense Minister in charge of action for ultra-religious draft dodgers
The ministerial committee for determining the procedures for the conscription of ultra-religious (haredi) yeshiva seminarists to the armed forces settled a major controversy Wednesday. Defense minister Moshe Ya’alon won a year’s extension from three to four years for the interim period for applying criminal sanctions against haredi youths who fail to report for military duty. The authority to apply those sanctions was vested in the defense minister.
Compulsory conscription for that community will be introduced gradually over a five-year period.
- Home front drills chemical attack on Jerusalem
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu attending a home front rehearsal of a chemical-tipped missile attack on a Jerusalem suburb said: “Israel’s home front is the best protected in the world but also the most threatened“ by the perils mounting around us.
- US drone kills Pakistani Taliban deputy chief
The US drone attack on Waziristan Wednesday is reported to have killed Wali Ur Rehman, the second-in- command of the PakistanTaliban and six others.
- Le Monde attests to chemicals used in Damascus. Kerry: No evidence
Two Le Monde reporters who spent two months concealed in the Damascus district of Jobar attest first hand to the effects of chemical weapon against Syrian rebels: “The men cough violently. Their eyes burn, their pupils shrink, their vision blurs. Soon they experience difficulty breathing… the worst affected need to be evacuated before they suffocate.”
US Secretary of State John Kerry in Addis Baba denied Wednesday concrete evidence of the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
Widening Russian-Hizballah intervention in Syria troubles Israel
29 May. The widening military intervention by Russia, Iran, Hizballah and latterly Iraq has turned Syria’s civil war into a Russian-West contest and is propelling Iran into top regional power status. All four are winning by default against an unresisting US-led West and an Israel still not recovered from its disastrous miscalculation that Bashar Assad was doomed. A senior Israeli military officer told debkafile: "A military and strategic catastrophe for the West and Israel is in full flight in Syria, yet no one is lifting a finger.”
At a time that the US and Israel should be using their heaviest military guns to slow Iran’s race for a nuclear bomb, Iran with Russian backing has brought its military assets up close to Israel’s borders in Syria and Lebanon and openly threatens to use them.
Unlike Syria and Iran, Israel can’t count on supportive big powers against an aggressor. No part of the Obama administration favors military action in Syria. Even the direct evidence of chemical warfare falls on deaf US ears.
May 30, 2013 Briefs
- Letters threatening Mayor Bloomberg test positive for ricin
Two letters that contained threats to New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg — one addressed to him, the other to Mark Glaze, the director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group Mr. Bloomberg helps run and finances, have tested positive for the deadly poison ricin.
Israeli intelligence denies first Russian S-300s arrive in Syria – contrary to Assad’s claim
30 May. Senior Israeli intelligence sources insist that Syria had still not received the first consignment of Russian S-300 anti-missile batteries – contrary to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s claim that the first batch had arrived and a second was on the way. In an interview prerecorded for broadcast Thursday night, Assad taunted Israel about the missiles in response to a quote from National Security Adviser Yakov Amidror that the batteries had not arrived and when they did, Israel would destroy them before they were operational.
Wednesday, May 29, debkafile reported the landing at Latakia airport of a large Russian transport carrying 60 tons of unidentified freight. Labeled by Moscow “humanitarian aid,” it may in fact have contained the first S-300 delivery to which Assad referred.
Continuing in the same vein, Assad said that not only would the Syrian army react to any further Israeli attacks, he “would not stand in the way of Syrian groups that want to fight for the liberation of the Golan.”
Israel and Syria cross verbal swords over S-300s as Hizballah pushes south
30 May: Fresh Hizballah forces entered Syria early Thursday, May 30, hours after the United States called the presence of the Hizballah fighters from Lebanon in Syria “unacceptable” and “dangerous” and demanded their immediate withdrawal. Already fighting on three fronts – Damascus, Homs and al Qusayr – debkafile’s military sources report the new Hizballah increment was assigned to a fourth: the rebels’ southern stronghold of Deraa, 30 kilometers from Israel’s Golan border.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem has meanwhile pitched in to warn that another Israeli strike against Syria would elicit an immediate Syrian response proportional to the Israeli attack. In Helsinki, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reacted to the European Union’s to lift its arms embargo on the Syrian rebels by intimating that Moscow’s hands were no untied for supplying Bashar Assad with weapons banned by international treaties.