A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending November 10, 2005

The Six Syrian Suspects Wanted by Mehlis for Quizzing – Named


5 November: debkafile Exclusive discloses the names of the six Syrian officers UN Hariri investigator Detlev Mehlis wants for interrogation in his Hariri inquiry. One is Brig-Gen. Abdul Karim Abbas, head of the Syrian intelligence Palestinian department. He is in charge of Damascus’ relations with the Palestinian terrorist organizations, Ahmed Jibril’s PFLP-General Command, Hamas and Jihad Islami.

Mehlis has evidence of Abbas’ presence at the time of Hariri’s murder on Feb. 14, at one of the two flats in the Hamra district of Beirut used as headquarters for the assassination. From there, he directed the Palestinians involved in the crime in various functions on the ground including as lookouts.

Another high Syrian officer debkafile reveals here as wanted for questioning by the UN team in Beirut is Brig-Gen. Zaafar al Yousuf, head of communications and Internet at Syrian intelligence. He too was present in one of the two apartments. Soon after the assassination, debkafile disclosed the existence of the two apartments. They were equipped with equipment for eavesdropping on Rafiq Hariri’s phone calls as well as disarming two of the jamming devices installed in the vehicles of his convoy as safeguards against assassination. Mehlis did not mention the two apartments in the report he submitted to the UN Security Council on Oct. 20.

The UN investigation’s list of suspects for interrogation is headed by Gen. Assef Shawqat, head of Syrian military intelligence who is married to the president’s sister, Gen. Bajhat Suleiman, head of the supreme council of Syrian intelligence agencies, Gen. Rustoum Ghazalah, former chief of Syrian intelligence in Lebanon who officiates now as head of Syrian external intelligence, and Col. Jam’a Jam’a, Ghazalah’s senior lieutenant.

After interviewing the Syrian officers, Mehlis will demand a group of Lebanese officers, one or two of whom are hiding under Syrian intelligence protection in Syria. They are Col. Wasaf Sirhan, of the Lebanese presidential guard, Brig-Gen Faisal Rashid, Col. Elias Sasson, and Col. Mohammad al-Mohsein.


Shoulder-launched anti-air missiles in Gaza


8 November: Israel’s chief of staff Lt.-Gen Dan Halutz finally admitted that Palestinians had smuggled shoulder-launched anti-air Strela missiles from Sinai to Gaza – confirming debkafile‘s reporting from mid-September.

debkafile‘s military sources add that Palestinian terrorists were recently sighted trying to position these missiles to target Israeli aircraft.

According to our counter-terror sources, the al Qaeda cells barricaded in the caves of central Sinai mountain peaks have managed to shoot down more than one Egyptian helicopter trying to chase them out of their hideouts. They used missiles from their substantial supply of Strelas. In one of these attacks, 30 Egyptian commandos lost their lives.

Today, Palestinian and al Qaeda terrorists are jointly capable of downing both Israeli air force planes flying over Gaza and Egyptian helicopters supposed to police the Philadelphi border route.

Monday, Nov. 7, AMAN’s research chief Big.-Gen Yossi Kupwasser again affirmed a massive Al Qaeda’s presence in Sinai when he briefed a Knesset committee.


Agreements Soon on Palestinian-Egyptian and Palestinian-Israel Crossings


8 November: debkafile reports: Palestinian objections to CCTV cameras’ transmitting live data to Israel are the last sticking point for the reopening of the Rafah border terminal between Egypt and Gaza

The Palestinians will only accept a 48-delay in transmission -which makes the device pretty useless for monitoring the arrival of terrorists and keeping them out. Yet the Palestinian position is backed solidly by the Middle East Quartet’s coordinator and the European Union.

Israel agreed to European inspectors taking over its 38-year old security presence at the terminal – provided long-distance monitoring of traffic was possible via a computer hookup to CCTV cameras. This was necessary because the Palestinians deny the European inspectors the authority to bar entry or make arrests. At their meeting in Brussels, Monday, Nov. 7, EU foreign ministers accepted this and agreed to deploy border inspectors for three years, solely “to instruct the Palestinians” on their functions.

No one will therefore guard the Palestinian gate to Egypt against terrorists incoming from anywhere to converge on the Gaza.

However, the Quartet’s document on the Rafah terminal focuses heavily on Palestinian economic development and demands for sovereignty, neglecting (a sieve with very large holes) questions of security and terrorist infiltration.

All this was made clear to defense minister Shaul Mofaz at his Tuesday Nov. 8 meeting with Middle East Quartet coordinator James Wolfensohn. He promised to put the document before the cabinet Wednesday. Israel is being pushed hard by the Quartet’s coordinator to get it signed Thursday when EU external relations executive Javier Solana is due. It will then be ready for the arrival of US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice next week.


Abu Musab al-Zarqawi diverts fighting strength from Iraq to Jordan, Syria, Sinai and the Gaza Strip


9 November: debkafile‘s counter-terror sources report the cells buried in those terror arenas have been reinforced in recent weeks for a fresh wave of attacks in these places and Israel. The new deployment is in line with Zarqawi’s own relocation from Anbar in western Iraq to Baghdad (as first reported in the DEBKA-Net-Weekly)

The suicide attacks on three five-star hotels popular with Westerners in Amman Wednesday night, Nov. 9, points to four disturbing manifestations:

1. The constant US offensives on al Qaeda sanctuaries in Iraq have not been able to restrict the movements of its activists inside Iraq and across its borders.

2. The fact that Zarqawi is able to redirect elements of his Iraqi strength to other points in the Middle East means he is not short of manpower.

3. The ablest Western intelligence agencies are employed in the Middle East to combat al Qaeda, as well as the Jordanian and Israeli services. Yet none have achieved any penetrations capable of forecasting al Qaeda’s next moves.

4. There is no evidence to bear out President George W. Bush’s assertion that al Qaeda’s operational capabilities have been damaged. Since its July 7 transport offensive in London, the group has been on the offensive around the world, in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

5. Israel’s evacuation of the Gaza Strip opened the door to al Qaeda and brought the international jihadists right up to its borders.


Al Qaeda in Iraq claimed the triple suicide blasts that ripped through three Amman hotels Wednesday, Nov. 9


10 November: The triple suicide blasts that ripped through three Western-owned Amman hotels Wednesday, Nov. 9 were claimed by al Qaeda in Iraq’s Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, himself a Jordanian of Palestinian origin.

An Israeli businessman was among the 67 dead. He is Hussam Fathi Mahajneh, 35, a businessman from Umm al Fahm. Two Palestinian Authority officials were killed, Bashir Nafa, West Bank military intelligence chief and Abed A-Lun of the interior ministry. Some 300 were injured. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas declared the terrorists “are not Arabs, they are not human beings.”

Jordan closed its borders, government offices and schools in a high security alert after the serial strikes minutes apart against the Radisson, Grand Hyatt and Days Inn, the first suicide bombings al Qaeda brought off in Amman.


In upset win, trade Union leader Amir Peretz, 53, beats vice premier Shimon Peres, 82, in race for the Labor leadership


10 November: His first pledge was to take the party out of the Sharon coalition government, after being elected Labor chairman and candidate for prime minister

by 42.4% to 39.9% for Peres (64% turnout), portending an early national election. The new leader has no background in national government or experience in foreign affairs. His first task will be to hold the veteran party together. The third contender, Binyamin Bin Eliezer (13%) congratulated the new leader – but not Peres who has refused to concede the election accusing the winner of rigging the vote.

Peretz, a dove, campaigned for a return to Labor’s old socialist values and a challenge to Ariel Sharon’s ruling Likud from the opposition. Peres took Labor into government last year as a junior partner in lieu of the Likud rebels to back the Sharon government’s decision to quit the Gaza Strip. Peres in order to stay in government may well treat his defeat as a Labor revolt and split the party. He could be followed by the eight Labor ministers. Sharon, 77, who is also on the brink of a decision about his future with the divided Likud, may join him to form a new centrist party. This would shake up Israel’s political party structure and force an early election in early spring.

Much depends on Sharon deciding to continue their alliance after Peres’ loss of the Labor leadership. The new leader will have to persuade Labor party institutions and ministers to go along with his demand to quit government and fight Likud in a general election from the opposition.

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