Hamas is producing a new generation of extra-power extra-range missiles
Nov. 9. The Palestinian Islamist Hamas has tricked Israeli military intelligence into believing that the IDF forays behind the lines in Gaza had slowed down the Qassam missile offensive against Israeli towns and villages.
It was a ruse. DEBKAfile‘s military sources disclose stocks of the primitive Qassam missiles are low because Hamas has stopped making them and is fully engaged in setting up the production of a new generation of missiles upgraded to a range of up to 25 km, armed with 3-kilo warheads – one-and a half times the range of the types in current use and more than double their explosive power – and greater accuracy.
Production lines are also going up in several towns on the West Bank, the territory governed by Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority. The new missiles bring half a million Israelis within range of Hamas fire – a quarter of a million in the south and a similar number in Israel’s heartland north and south of Greater Tel Aviv. In the South, the new missiles can reach Kiryat Gat and the southern outskirts of the big port-town of Ashdod.
Neither the Palestinian Authority’s security services nor Israel is lifting a finger against the new missile industry mushrooming on the West Bank.
1. Israeli military intelligence has not had time to collect the specific addresses of the new missile production sites.
2. The foundries and workshops are embedded in densely populated Palestinian areas and can only be destroyed at the cost of civilian casualties.
In recent weeks, scores of Hamas operatives have returned to Gaza from special courses in missile production in Iran and Syria, under Syrian and Iranian Revolutionary Guards instructors. The returnees’ brought with them lathe components and metals for upgrading their machinery and product.
Six US troops, 3 Afghan soldiers killed in deadly ambush in eastern Afghanistan
10 Nov. Their deaths, the day before Veterans Day, brought the 2007 total to at least 101, making it the deadliest year for US troops in Afghanistan. debkafile adds: In Iraq too, 853 US troops have been killed this year, the highest annual toll since the Iraqi War began.
In Afghanistan, heavy RPG and small arms fire came from several directions as the troops were returning on foot from a meeting with village elders Friday afternoon in Nuristan. This province is known to be a stamping ground for al Qaeda’s Arab, Chechen and Uzbek fighters. Three Afghan soldiers were killed with the six NATO-affiliated US troops and eight Americans and 11 Afghans were wounded. This was the highest US casualty figure this year.
debkafile: The ambush was deliberately orchestrated to target US and NATO efforts to recruit local Afghan tribes for the war on terrorists.
Al Qaeda is pursuing the same strategy in Iraq to sabotage local tribal cooperation in the US war to drive its fighters out of the country. Friday, a suicide bomber blew himself at a meeting of Sunni Arab tribal leaders of the Diyala Salvation Council, a body set up to fight al Qaeda alongside American forces in the province. Among the five tribal leaders killed was the deputy head of the council, Sheikh Faeiz Lefta al-Obaidi.
Bush to Go Public on Iran’s Secret Nuclear Arms Activities
11 Nov. debkafile‘s Washington sources report that President George W. Bush is planning to put before the public new findings on Iran’s nuclear secrets gathered by the United States, Russia, France, Germany and Israel.
The White House hopes to show up the international nuclear watchdog and its director Mohammed ElBaradei as having fallen down in their tasks in Iran and Syria and so bring Russia and China on board for a third round of UN Security Council sanctions tough enough to place Iran under a progressively tightening economic siege.
The US is backing this tactic up by again massing naval, air and marine forces around Iran’s Gulf shores. Tehran has countered by threatening wave upon wave of suicide attacks.
Our sources stress that Bush was galvanized into developing a new initiative in Iran by the crisis in Pakistan. The fall of Pervez Musharraf’s regime could bring to power a leadership opting for close ties with Iran, forming a nuclear axis between Islamabad and Tehran.
debkafile‘s Iran sources report the rulers of Tehran are preparing counter-measures.
On Nov. 6, Muhammad Ali Hosseini, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, was asked about the threat from the Revolutionary Guards Navy chief Gen. Ali Fadwi to send suicide fighters if needed was the official Tehran line. He replied: “Martyrdom is a holy phenomenon that is affirmed by the Islamic religion which regards defense against aggression as a duty. Thus martyrdom is also a valuable tool for deterring attacks.”
Israeli leaders dismayed to learn Washington is secretly lifting its boycott of Syria. Palestinians step up demands
12 Nov. Although the US promised Israel that its renewed contacts with Syria would be confined to the Lebanon controversy, debkafile‘s sources report that a Washington-Damascus rapprochement is in full flight.
The favors the Bush administration is bestowing on Damascus, none of which were cleared with Israel, have encouraged the Palestinians to inflate their demands and harden their negotiating stance.
Mahmoud Abbas, as debkafile first revealed on Nov. 5, wants the Annapolis declaration to include the following points:
The Palestinian Authority will recognize Israel, but not as a Jewish state;
Palestinian sovereignty over Temple Mount including the Western Wall (last relic of the Jewish Temple) will be absolute;
There will be no Palestinian compromise on the 1948 refugees’ “right of return”;
The Palestinian state will enjoy full sovereignty over its land, skies, electro-magnetic space and underground resources, including water;
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks will be held to the deadline of August 2008.
Mahmoud Abbas has sent a delegation to Damascus to discuss cooperation to their mutual advantage in wheeling and dealing with Washington.
debkafile‘s Jerusalem sources add: By going along with the US-promoted peace conference, prime minister Olmert fell into a trap which has cornered Israel against a hostile lineup, restored the Syrian president Bashar Assad’s fortunes in Washington and encouraged the Palestinians to raise the ante.
US cuts aid to Egypt by $500 million over its failure to curb terrorist smuggling to Gaza
13 Nov. US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Robert Danin is reported by debkafile‘s Washington and Middle East sources to have visited Cairo over the last weekend for a showdown with the Egyptian government on its failure to block the Egyptian-Gaza border at the Philadelphi sector to smuggled terrorists, arms and explosives.
He notified President Hosni Mubarak that President Bush would recommend Congress cut a further $300 million from the annual aid bill to Egypt. This would come on top of the $200 million the House had already slashed.
This is the first time the Bush administration, under pressure from Congress, is wielding economic sanctions against a friendly Arab government in the interests of Israeli security.
The US government decided to take a firm hand because Cairo’s failure to crack down on arms smugglers and terrorists in Sinai – not only jeopardizes US regional interests and harms Israel but rebounds on Egypt’s national security as well.
debkafile‘s Washington sources add that the White House is furious with Mubarak over his contemptuous dismissal of the Annapolis peace conference and advice to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to boycott it.
Rice: Israelis must be prepared for difficult and painful sacrifices
Nov. 14: In an address to the United Jewish Communities meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, Tuesday, Nov. 13, the U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Israelis must sacrifice some of their “longest held aspirations” in talks with Palestinian leaders. A strong Palestinian state was more urgent than ever, she insisted, as a bulwark against threats from violent extremists, Hamas, Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas and Iran.
debkafile‘s sources reveal: Rice confirmed what Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert and foreign minister Tzipi Livni are holding back from the Israeli public: Their acceptance of deep withdrawals from the West Bank in favor of a Palestinian state, the uprooting of 100,000 Israelis living there, and additional broad concessions ahead of the Annapolis peace conference.
The concessions exacted from Israel, debkafile has learned, include the ceding of West Bank natural resources to Palestinian control, including shared sources of water and negotiations with Syria on Israel’s withdrawal from the Golan. That was the bait offered the Syrian president to draw him away from Tehran.
At some point, the Israeli prime minister and foreign minister will have to explain why they relinquished the fundamental demand for secure and defensible borders enshrined in UN resolutions and overrode the country’s majority objections to the sweeping concessions to the Palestinians, which he is laying at the Bush administration’s feet.
Tehran secretly deploys air defense batteries around Damascus in wake of Israel’s Sept. 6 attack on Syrian nuclear reactor
15 Nov. Tehran is providing the Syrian capital with an air defense shield at a time when Washington is avidly bidding to win president Bashar Assad away from his alliance with Iran. In return for sending a delegation to the international conference at Annapolis on Nov. 26, he is being offered an opening for talks with Israel toward recovering the Golan.
The Syrian president has seized the moment by laying down conditions.
Syrian representatives will not be part of the Arab League delegation but awarded the status of an Arab nation in dispute with Israel as equals of the Palestinians.
Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert has been warned that Assad is going ahead to mend his fences with fellow Arab rulers who have snubbed him for months – without showing any sign of severing his military and political partnership with Iran.
Olmert’s instruction to prepare for a nuclear-armed Iran is leaked to Reuters
15 Nov. The agency indicates that the Israeli prime minister ordered cabinet officials in a secret memorandum to present proposals for “the day after” Iran owned atomic warheads, meaning the day after Israel loses the military edge of its monopoly as the only nuclear-armed nation in the Middle East.
debkafile‘s political analysts report: Olmert has decided that diplomacy and sanctions for halting Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon have reached a dead end, and the only option left to the US or Israel is a pre-emptive military strike.
Our sources note the proximity of the prime minister’s presumed leak to the US-promoted peace conference in Annapolis on Nov. 26. It says that if the Bush administration cannot prevent Iran acquiring a nuclear bomb how can it be trusted to deal effectively with an Israel-Palestinian settlement? He may have acted to derail the conference by drawing a red line which Israel refuses to cross in the interests of its security.
Condoleezza Rice’s “painful sacrifices” speech showed strikingly that “Palestinian statehood” has been substituted for “Middle East peace” as a central US policy objective. Peace and peacemaking have therefore been exed out as a prerequisite for the Palestinians.