A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending Nov. 8, 2007

Palestinians repeatedly shell Israeli Kissufim, Mefalsmi, Karni and Netiv Ha’asara from Gaza Saturday


3 Nov. The Israeli air force struck back at Hamas’s Khan Younes police station. Thursday, Palestinians fired a dozen Qassam missiles at Sderot, Shear Hanegev, Nir Am and Gavim to launch their new Gaza Offensive. They caused 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 until after the Annapolis Middle East conference.


White House demand for Musharraf to reverse emergency measures is counter-productive for the US-NATO war on al Qaeda, Taliban


3 Nov. debkafile‘s counter-terror sources: Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s declaration of a state of emergency, suspension of the Pakistani constitution and expulsion of the chief justice on Nov. 3, is likely to distance Islamabad from cooperation with the US-NATO war on al Qaeda and Taliban. Both terrorist groups have spread their wings to Pakistan’s borders with Afghanistan, Kashmir and China.

President Musharraf’s move has in fact scuttled the Bush administration’s Pakistan policy. The holes were first apparent two weeks ago when ex-prime minister Benazir Bhutto returned home from eight years of exile. Washington forced Musharraf to accept her and open the way for her to re-enter politics in Islamabad.

Her conduct after her homecoming alarmed some circles in Washington, especially in the National Security Council. They began to fear that the Bhutto experiment had misfired.

The Bush administration’s first reaction to Musharraf’s emergency measures was to condemn him and put its trust in international pressure to force him to reverse them. debkafile‘s Pakistan sources report that Musharraf can keep going because he holds a trump card: his cooperation with the US in the battle against al Qaeda and Taliban. Western attempts to twist his arm may well lead him to distance himself from this cooperation and eventually seek an understanding with Taliban elements and through them with al Qaeda.

The Pakistan president will furthermore gradually ease the military pressure on the Taliban-al Qaeda sanctuaries because he needs the army close at hand to prop up his regime, rather than taking casualties against Muslim extremists.


Three Jerusalemite Arab villagers indicted for plot to assassinate Jerusalem mayor


4 Nov. The Shin Bet security service detained the cell three weeks ago on charges of conspiring to murder Mayor Uri Lopliansky, carry out bombing attacks in Jerusalem and Beersheba and gunfire at Western Wall’s Mughrabi Gate.

Sderot was without electricity several hours Sunday after two Qassam missiles from Gaza hit the Negev town, one smashing into a home. Jihad Islami claimed responsibility Two Israeli air strikes against missile sites and a Hamas police station killed four Palestinians.


Rice notifies Israeli leaders of reduced remit for Middle East conference at Annapolis


4 Nov. The US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice informed prime minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem Sunday, Nov. 4, that the US will not submit its own proposals to the coming Middle East peace conference at Annapolis. Olmert had already known for a week that President George W. Bush had come down against her broad conception of the event, as DEBKA-Net-Weekly 324 first revealed on Nov. 1. (Annapolis Devalued)

The emissary the White House chose to deliver the presidential decision to the Israelis and the Palestinians was Stephen Hadley, head of the National Security Council, DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Washington sources report, who carried Bush’s decisions to shrink the content, format and expectations of the coming international peace conference:

1. No working papers or American bridging proposals would be presented before or during the Annapolis conference on core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, i.e. borders, Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees and the war on terror.

2. Washington had no intention of imposing solutions or formulae either on Israel or the Palestinians.

3. The two sides must negotiate on their own without preset deadlines.

4.  The Americans would be there to assist them both in the course of conference debates, but would not be an active participant.

Affirming that the Israelis and Palestinians had not reached agreement on any issues at dispute between them, Palestinian Authority Chairman, whom Rice meets in Ramallah Monday, said that his delegation would bring its own proposals to Annapolis.


The Golan Heights is attached to the Annapolis peace conference agenda – over Israel’s head


6 Nov. The invitation US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice handed to Syrian foreign minister Walid Mualem on Nov. 3 came from President George W. Bush, after he accepted Damascus’ condition that future negotiations on the Golan be mentioned in the conference’s final paper, as well as the Palestinian issue. Israel was not consulted but presented with a fait accompli.

Tuesday, after winning this point, Damascus raised the ante.

Syrian deputy prime minister Abdullah Dardari announced that if the restoration of the Golan to Syrian hands is not laid out at the peace conference, Syria will not attend. The Syrians are demanding furthermore that their delegate, possibly vice president Farouk a-Shara, or Moualem, be given the floor for a speech calling for the handover of the Golan which Israel has controlled since Syria was defeated in the 1967 War.


Olmert and Barak thrash out differences in private


6 Nov. The two Israeli leaders, prime minister Ehud Olmert and defense minister Ehud Barak, talked for several hours Mon. Nov. 5, to clear the air after a number of bumpy incidents in recent months. They discussed the hostile build-ups on two of Israel’s borders, Lebanon and Gaza, and Hamas threats to derail the Annapolis peace conference later this month with a fresh surge of terrorist attacks in Israel and assassinations of Palestinian leaders.

debkafile sources report that while both the prime minister and defense minister speak highly in public of the historical importance of the peace conference, neither really believes it holds out much hope of a breakthrough in the stalemated Israel-Palestinian negotiations.

Barak complained about their current four-track format: Olmert-Abbas, Livni-Qureia, Israel-Palestinian subcommittees and US-Israel. This multiplicity, said the defense minister, gives the Palestinians a chance to squeeze concessions from Israel in four separate forums.


Interpol assembly votes Wednesday to “red” tag five Iranians and Hizballah operative as wanted for 1994 bombing of Argentine Jewish center


7 Nov. Interpol’s executive panel recommended the general assembly meeting in Marrakech, Morocco tag all six as wanted for extradition. Argentine prosecutors accuse the Iranian officials of sending Hizballah to blow up the explosives-laden van which leveled the seven-story Jewish center in Buenos Aires, leaving 85 people dead and shocking the 200,000-strong Jewish community of Argentina. They say they have enough evidence to issue “red” notices for their extradition 13 years after the attack, during which there has not been a single conviction. The men wanted by Interpol are former Iranian intelligence chief Ali Fallahian, former Revolutionary Guards chief Mohsen Rezai and Hizballah’s military chief Imad Mughniyeh. Iran claims the charge is political and has no intention of extraditing the wanted men.


Washington clamps sanctions on four close Assad aides including his contact-man with North Korea


7 Nov. The Bush administration is applying the stick-and-carrot treatment to Syrian president Bashar Assad. Three days after secretary of state Condoleezza Rice invited Syrian foreign minister Walid Mualem to send a delegation to the Annapolis peace conference, the US Treasury imposed its first stiff sanctions on and froze the assets of four close Assad allies.

The true functions of the four officials blacklisted by the US Treasury are disclosed here by debkafile‘s sources:

Col. Hafiz Makhluf, a senior official in the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate and a cousin of Syrian President Bashar al Assad, is also the Assad clan’s senior contact-man with the Syrian tycoon Rami Makhluf and controller of the sale and transfers of Syrian weapons to terrorists in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority.

Muhammad Nasif Khayrbik, Syria's deputy vice president for security affairs, is the handler of Assad’s exchanges with North Korea and a key player in Syria’s nascent nuclear projects which Israel attacked on Sept. 6

Assaad Halim Hardan, a pro-Syrian Lebanese lawmaker and a senior official in the Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party of Lebanon, which is an ultra-violent militia controlled by Syrian military intelligence, dedicated to attacking American targets. Last month the group attached itself to Hizballah.

Wi'am Wahhab, a former Lebanese minister, acts as Syria’s agent of influence in Lebanese politics.


Israel‘s inner cabinet meets after Iran’s nuclear bomb timeline is put forward to 2009


7 Nov. The inner cabinet met Wed. Nov. 7, to discuss the shortened timeline estimate for Iran to attain a nuclear weapons capacity. IDF intelligence chief Brig. Yossi Baidatz told the Knesset foreign affairs and security committee Tuesday that Iran would have this capacity by late 2009, whereas the previous estimate was 2010 or 2011.

debkafile‘s Washington sources report that American nuclear and intelligence experts agree on the timetable after poring over new intelligence input, which includes materials gathered in the Israel attack on Syria’s nuclear installation on Sept. 6. They have reached three key conclusions:

1. That Iran is engaged in the secret production of plutonium for nuclear weapons as well as radioactive materials for a dirty bomb, in parallel to its uranium enrichment projects.

If the nuclear watchdog chief Mohammed ElBaradei accepts the new evidence, he will be admitting that his vast inspection apparatus in Vienna missed out twice – in Iran and then in Syria. Dr. ElBaradei might then face the suspicion that his work is governed by political rather than professional motivations.

Up until now, the nuclear watchdog’s chief has not sent inspectors to examine Israel’s findings at the two Syrian sites targeted. He evidently fears they will come back with evidence of plutonium-related nuclear activity.

2. The working premise pursued by American and Israeli intelligence is that if Syria was on the road to manufacturing plutonium, Iran must be far more advanced on this course and must be presumed to have begun manufacturing enough waste for dirty bombs and very likely also the materials for a nuclear bomb.


Mahmoud Abbas differs from Yasser Arafat only in tactics, says Abbas senior adviser


8 Nov. Ahead of the Middle East peace conference this month, Rafiq al Hussaini revealed Thursday Nov. 8, that the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’ views do not differ from those of the late Yasser Arafat except in tactics, not strategy. Both entered into peace talks in order to gain as much as they could and give away nothing. Abbas’ senior adviser added: Had we managed to keep Jerusalem, the Jewish state would not have risen in Tel Aviv.

debkafile Exclusive revealed earlier that Abbas rejects Israel as Jewish state and demands undivided Palestinian control of Temple Mount, among a host of other concessions.

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