A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending Nov. 1, 2007
Bush and Rice at odds on Annapolis peace meet, Rice disparaged for her North Korean nuclear diplomacy
26 Oct. Our Washington sources report US president George W. Bush is skeptical of the international Middle East conference his secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice is trying to convene achieving anything much. He therefore sees little point in the event taking place. Rice, for her part, led the opposition to Israel’s attack on the North Korean nuclear project in Syria on Sept. 6, which the president approved. Its exposure of North Korea’s proliferation activities has as she feared stirred resistance to her bid to bring the diplomatic efforts on Pyongyang’s nuclear program to a successful conclusion with signed US-North Korean contracts for its dismantling.
debkafile‘s Washington sources disclose that this week Bush questioned Rice on the prospects of the Annapolis meeting. “Can you do it?” he asked. “I’m trying,” she replied, thereby acknowledging it was far from being in the bag.
US and Israeli intelligence acquire proof of Assad’s personal involvement in North Korean nuclear deal
27 Oct. Documents signed by Syrian president Bashar Assad contain directions for the transaction. On some, Assad added in his handwriting that 100,000 tons of Durham wheat should be shipped to North Korea every year for five years. The total value of $120 million is equivalent to the price of the plutonium reactor for producing radioactive fissile materials promised by North Korea to Syria. The evidence stacked up against Assad is closer to the smoking gun still absent in the case of Iran’s quest for nuclear weapon capability and never exhibited for Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.
Nuclear watchdog chief Mohammed ElBaradei asks Washington and Israel for satellite images of nuclear activity in Syria
28 Oct. Dr. ElBaradei’s made his request before his outburst Sunday, Oct. 28, against the US and Israel “for taking the law into their own hands” by the bombing of Syria’s nuclear compound.
debkafile reports Dr. ElBaradei requested any imagery, data or other evidence of such activity in Syria. He also turned to Russia and China for information garnered by their military satellites and to Sweden where private firms maintain high-quality satellites in orbit over the Middle East. He asked them all for any pictures attesting to a nuclear project in Syria. But when none acceded to his request, he lost his temper and lashed out.
debkafile‘s sources in Vienna add: The US and Israel will not hand over to ElBaradei the evidence collected attesting to Syria’s nuclear activities as long as he refuses to say how he means to use it.
Iranian-Syrian nuclear issues heat up amid growing mistrust of IAEA director in Washington, Paris and Jerusalem
29 Oct. French defense minister Herve Morin said Monday, Oct. 29, he has information that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, publicly contradicting remarks by IAEA director Mohammed ElBaradai that there is no such evidence.
debkafile‘s sources report that president Nicolas Sarkozy plans a state visit to Jerusalem in a few weeks, during which he will the address the Knesset on the Iranian nuclear threat and his commitment to Israel’s security.
Washington and Jerusalem are of one mind about the need to refute ElBaradei’s assertion that there are no grounds for nuclear allegations against Iran and Syria.
The Wall Street Journal quoted a senior American official who has worked extensively on nuclear issues: “I would say there's no doubt now that Syria was in an early phase of a program. The Israelis decided to take care of this early on,” he remarked. “We don't want to involve an agency that thinks it's in control, but isn't.”
Palestinian negotiator: no talks with Israel without a Palestinian state deadline
30 Oct. The condition laid down by Ahmed Qureia, chief Palestinian negotiator, Tuesday Oct. 30 – Israel must first accept a deadline for establishing a Palestinian state – has brought the US-sponsored peace conference close to a mission impossible. debkafile reports that Qureia was reacting to President George W. Bush’s decision not to impose timetables for the discussion of core issues. Mahmoud Abbas lost his trump card: Washington’s backing for a timeline to push Israel into a corner under combined US-Arab-Palestinian pressure.
Hamas conducts big guerilla exercise in Gaza’s Al Burej camp focusing on maximum Israeli troop casualties and abduction
30 Oct. debkafile‘s military sources report: Heavily armed, masked Hamas operatives performed field exercises Tues. Oct. 30 in anti-aircraft tactics, assaults on buildings occupied by Israeli troops, and methods of identifying and targeting Israeli undercover and special forces units. A special sniper unit also took part in the drill. The tactics Hamas demonstrated reflected lessons drawn from Hizballah’s experiences in battles with Israeli forces during the 2006 Lebanon War and techniques imparted in special training courses they attended in Iran and Syria.
All Hamas tactics are geared ultimately to maximizing Israeli troop casualties and abducting hostages.
Three Palestinian al Qaeda operatives are intercepted in Sinai on way to suicide bombings in Israel
30 Oct. They were armed with hand grenades and explosives. One wore a bomb belt.
On interrogation, they told Egyptian police who captured them that they belonged to The Army of Islam, the al-Qaeda-Palestinian cell which took part in the abduction of Israeli corporal Gilad Shalit 16 months ago and BBC reporter Alan Johnston, who was later freed.
Four of them reached Sinai through a tunnel from the Gaza Strip and were driven by an Egyptian driver who was to have dropped them along the Egyptian-Israeli border. Three were captured; one escaped back into Gaza.
Al Qaeda declares Cyber Jihad on the West
30 Oct. In a special Internet announcement in Arabic, picked up debkafile‘s counter-terror sources, Osama bin Laden’s followers announced Monday, Oct. 29, the launching of Electronic Jihad. On Sunday, Nov. 11, al Qaeda’s electronic experts will start attacking Western, Jewish, Israeli, Muslim apostate and Shiite Web sites.
debkafile‘s counter-terror sources report that, shortly after the first announcement, some of al Qaeda’s own Web sites went blank, apparently crashed by the American intelligence computer experts tracking them. The next day, Oct. 30, they were up again, claiming their Islamic fire walls were proof against infidel assault.
They also boasted an impenetrable e-mail network for volunteers wishing to join up with the cyber jihad to contact and receive instructions undetected by the security agencies in their respective countries. These armchair martyrs are assured of the same thrill and sense of elation as a jihadi on the “battlefield.”
A group of Muslim, Christian and Jewish clerics based in Jerusalem invited for week-end trip to Washington to meet Bush
31 Oct. Our Middle East sources report the scheme was initiated by the State Department ahead of the forthcoming Annapolis peace conference in an effort to impart spiritual weight to the conference and so offset the empty chairs. US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice will back in the Middle East Saturday, Nov. 3, for a last-ditch effort to finalize a date and an agenda capable of drawing participants from the region, including the very reluctant Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.
Israel’s Chief Rabbis Yonah Metzger and Bakshi Doron were also invited, but they have decided not to go because the trip aims at promoting a conference to discuss evacuating parts of the Land of Israel.
Gaza-Israel front escalates with heavy mortar attack on Israeli village
31 Oct. Defense minister Ehud Barak reiterated: Every passing day brings a major IDF operation nearer. debkafile‘s military sources report that Tuesday night, Oct. 30, Gazan Palestinians pounded Netiv Ha’asara to the north with a barrage of 10 mortar shells. Two Qassam missiles were fired at Kibbutz Saad, damaging a home after two landed earlier near Sderot.
Monday, Paratroop Reserve St. Sgt. Ehud Efrati, 34, from Beit Yehoshua, was killed, in counter-terror operations in Gaza. The unit continued fighting, killing one of the gunmen and injuring others, in an operation to stop mortar fire on Israeli locations.
Further north, a soldier of the Golani Brigade was seriously injured in a battle outside Beit Hanoun in which Palestinians fired anti-tank weapons. The brigade was backed by tanks and helicopters. From this area, Qassam missiles are fired daily. The entire length of Gaza’s border fence is constantly buffeted by terrorists attempting to cross into Israel, only to be fended off in daily engagements with Israeli forces. Last week, 20 Palestinian would-be intruders were killed in these attempts.
Palestinians fire 12 Qassam missiles Thursday to launch new “Gaza Offensive” and further escalate violence against their Israeli neighbors
1 Nov. The Israeli air force went into action against the missile sites forthwith.
The Palestinian missiles were directed at Sderot, Shear Hanegev, Nir Am and Gavim, causing heavy damage but no casualties. debkafile‘s military sources report that all the Palestinian terrorist groups, including Fatah al Aqsa under Hamas command, claim the barrage and vow to follow up with “hundreds of missiles a day.” Officers in the IDF Southern Command maintain that, whereas Israel should be liquidating Palestinian terrorist bases inside the Gaza Strip, it has let the Palestinians grab the initiative and carry their the war across the border to threaten what they call “Israeli settlements.”
Yet the Olmert government is still holding Israeli forces back from taking substantial action to root out Palestinian violence at source and break up their mushrooming war machine.
Estimate of Hizballah’s stock of missiles that can reach Tel Aviv was correct in May 2007. It has since increased
1 Nov. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s report to the UN Security Council confirms that Hizballah has tripled its arsenal of the C-802 anti-ship missiles which struck the Israeli missile destroyer in the 2006 Lebanon War, and “has since rearmed to a level higher than prior to last year’s conflict.”
The stationing of its rocket force, including hundreds of Zilzal and Fajr rockets, north of the Litani River is immaterial because their range is 250km and can reach Tel Aviv.
Augmenting the UN Secretary’s report, debkafile‘s military sources reveal: Hizballah has since May boosted its fighting strength by 20 percent, including anti-air units freshly-trained in Iran and armed with Iranian anti-air missiles and guns. Iranian engineers are also paving 1,000 km of strategic highways across Lebanon to speed up military convoy movements.