A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending November 29, 2012

Russian warships opposite Israel

23 Nov. The Black Sea Fleet's naval task force has been ordered to remain in the eastern Mediterranean ready to evacuate Russian citizens from the Gaza Strip. debkafile: Moscow used the same pretext as Washington, readiness to evacuate nationals in an emergency, to account for the presence last week of the US Iwo Jima and two other warships in the east Mediterranean. Both flotillas are in fact on standby for developments in the Syrian crisis. The Iwo Jima has since moved quietly into waters off Syria.

Obama’s pledge of US troops to Sinai next week won Israel’s nod for ceasefire

23 Nov. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu agreed to a ceasefire for halting the eight-day Israeli Gaza operation Wednesday night, Nov. 21, after President Barack Obama personally pledged to start deploying US troops in Egyptian Sinai next week. President Morsi consented to the incoming troops going into immediate action against the Iranian smuggling networks before Hamas and Jihad Islami had a chance to replenish their arsenals. This means that the Gaza blockade is extended and the focus of combat moves from Gaza to Sinai.
US security and civilian units will need to be deployed in Egyptian Sinai to man the fence system planned for Suez and operate it as an active counter-measure for obstructing the smuggling of Iranian weapons supplies.
This development is strategically significant. President Morsi, by opening the Sinai door to an American troop deployment for Israel’s defense, recognizes that the US force also insures Israel against Cairo revoking or failing to honor the peace treaty Egypt signed with Israel in 1979.

November 24, 2012 Briefs

  • Israel eases restrictions on Gaza
    Gaza residents said Saturday that Israel has eased some border restrictions as part of its truce with the Palestinian territory's Hamas rulers, allowing Palestinian farmers to visit land near its security fence and letting fishermen head further out to sea. Before the Pillar of Cloud operation, Palestinians were restricted to 300 meters from the border. Fishermen can now fish up to a 6 sea mile radius from the shore instead of three.
  • Iranian Speaker Larijani in Damascus, next to Beirut, Ankara
    Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani met Bashar Assad upon landing in Damascus Friday. He travels next to Beirut for a conference with Hizballah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah, then on to the Turkish capital. debkafile: Larijani ranks as the second most powerful man in Tehran today after Supreme Leader Khamenei and frontrunner as Iran’s next president.
  • Egyptian judges and prosecutors suspend work
    Egypt’s most senior judges condemn President Mohamed Morsi for granting himself sweeping new powers calling them an unprecedented assault on the independence of the judiciary. The supreme judicial council said work would be suspended in all courts and prosecution offices until the decree passed by the president earlier this week was reversed.
    Leftist, Liberal, socialist parties and others call on their followers to march to Tahrir Square Tuesday with the aim of "toppling the fascist, despotic constitutional declaration" issued by President Morsi on Thursday.
  • Army group backs anti-Morsi protest
    A group calling itself “Officers of the Egyptian Army” scattered leaflets among the protesters against President Mohamed Morsi’s assumption of sweeping powers, saying: "We are not seeking positions or a revolt against legitimacy. We swore to protect the homeland with our lives. Now the legitimacy is on your side." debkafile: This sort of language recalls modern Egypt’s proclivity to military putsch.

November 25, 2012 Briefs

  • Second round of Golan fire from Syria
    Gunshots whizzed past by an IDF vehicle Sunday night on the Golan, without causing damage or casualties after heavy machine gun fire was earlier reported near the fence of Alonei Bashan. Israel did not return the fire.
  • Nasrallah: Our first priority is combating the US-Zionist threat
    Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah warned Sunday: “A battle with Lebanon will reach the whole of Israel.” He added: “Anyone in the Arab world presenting Israel as a friend and Iran as an enemy is serving Israel.
  • Gen. Gantz expects Gaza ceasefire to hold up
    Israel’s chief of staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz said he expected calm on the Gaza border to hold up -”and if not, we’ll resume operations at any level needed.” Speaking to new IDF armored corps recruits Sunday, the general was confident that Israel’s deterrent strength would stand the test of time.
  • Salafists blow up Egyptian Rafah intelligence HQ
    The explosion destroyed part of the Egyptian intelligence building overnight in the Rafah which is divided between Egypt and the Gaza Strip in northern Sinai. A news blackout has been imposed on information about the incident including casualties. debkafile: Egyptian forces have been unable to protect their own facilities in Sinai, much less control arms smuggling in to the Gaza Strip.

Middle East at peak tension after Gaza operation

25 Nov. Even before the Gaza conflict was over, the next major steps were in motion: The deployment of US-manned Patriots and Awacs in Turkey on the Syrian border was approved; Moscow moved its Black Sea Fleet’s naval task force opposite Gaza/Israeli shores, joining Tehran’s concern that the US-led coalition which wrecked Iran’s “southern front” in Gaza would turn against Syria and Hizballah. The US and Israel are braced for violent Iranian retribution; while Egyptian President Morsi’s troubles could undo the fragile Gaza ceasefire.

November 26, 2012 Briefs

  • Likud primary draws up slate for general election
    Education Minister Gideon Saar and Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan top the Likud Knesset list after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
    Next came cabinet member Silvan Shalom and the settlement leader Danny Danon followed by Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, Deputy PM Moshe Yaalon and MKs, Ze'ev Elkin, Yariv Levin, Yuli Edelstein and Haim Katz.
    Two women lawmakers Tzipi Hotovely and Miri Regev, made it to the second ten followed by the far-right Moshe Feiglin, who won his first Knesset seat.
    Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz came further down with Tzachi Hanegbi and Sports Minister Limor Livnat.
    Party veterans, Benny Begin and Dan Meridor fell off the list as did Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter.
    The Likud Knesset slate will be diluted by the joint ticket pact signed with Israeli Beitenu, whose leader Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is placed number two after the prime minister. Other members will be slotted further down the Likud list. Israel holds a general election on Jan. 22, 2013.
  • Palestinian breaches Gaza fence, attacks Israeli woman
    The woman was alone with her four children at home in Moshav Sdeh Avraham close to the Gaza border, when a Palestinian cut through the border fence and tried to knife her. She fought back and put him to flight.
    debkafile reports the Palestinian was enabled to cut through the fence by the easing of Israeli restrictions on Palestinian movements up to the Gaza-Israel border in the wake of the Nov. 21 ceasefire. Military sources say that the new rules are a recipe for more terrorist attacks and attempts to kidnap Israeli soldiers.

Three Iranian missile experts in Gaza after ceasefire

26 Nov. debkafile intelligence sources learn that Saturday, Nov. 24, just three days after the Gaza ceasefire, three Iranian missile engineers managed to steal into the Gaza Strip. They reached Gaza from their Lebanese base on false passports through Sinai and one of the smuggling tunnels blasted in the Israeli operation and repaired by Hamas. Three more are on the way.
They are the first Iranian military personnel to land in the Gaza Strip, to assess the performance of the Fajr-3 and Fajr-5 supplied by Tehran which Hamas fired against Israeli targets up to and during the Israeli operation. They came to assess their accuracy and their weaknesses against Israel’s Iron Dome anti-rocket system.

Ehud Barak quits politics but stays in defense

26 Nov. Monday, Nov. 26, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said he was quitting political life after 47 years but stay in defense until the January 22, 2013 general election. debkafile: His action ties in closely with President Barack Obama’s decision for direct US-Iranian nuclear talks and plans to bring Tehran to the table in a more amenable frame of mind. The Gaza operation was part of those plans. Should a major war erupt meanwhile with Iran and force a delay in voting, Barak would still be at his post.

Syrian rebels destroy Assad’s anti-Israel radar

26 Nov. In a resounding blow to Bashar Assad’s army’s combat capabilities against external enemies, Syrian rebels destroyed his key electronic warning radar station facing Israel – M-1 – Monday, Nov. 26, debkafile reports exclusively. This has blinded the two eyes which Syrian air, air defense and missile forces had trained on Israel and crippled, though not completely dismantled, their ability to go to war against Israel, Jordan or Saudi Arabia. Hizballah has lost its primary source of intelligence for an offensive against Israel.

November 27, 2012 Briefs

  • Two Iranian warships to dock in Sudan Friday
    The Sudanese Army announced Tuesday that two Iranian warships are scheduled to dock at Port Sudan on Nov. 30 and stay there fore three days “with military maritime cooperation.” The vessels will receive “fuel and other logistic materials” during their visit, said the Sudanese army spokesman.
    Israel general: Gaza ceasefire holds six days
    Southern Command OC Maj. Gen. Tal Rousso told reporters Tuesday: The ceasefire is holding surprisingly well. There is absolute quiet in the Gaza sector except for disorderly incidents – unlike anything we have seen after past operations. The change from before to after the operation is extreme and the deterrence level very high.
    Israel is now working on more understandings with Hamas through Egyptian mediation, he said. Rousso referred to Palestinian attempts to breach the fence as disorders that will be dealt with. Our forces are under orders to keep them away from the fence and prevent trespassing, said the general. If necessary they may shoot low at the legs of offenders.
  • Police clash with Cairo protesters around US embassy
    Protest against Morsi’s sweeping, autocratic decrees is gaining momentum in Cairo. Police clashed with hundreds of protesters in the streets around Tahrir Square and outside the US embassy, firing tear gas after being pelted with rocks. Ten opposition parties have scheduled a mass protest for Tuesday.

US-led NATO intervention begins in Syria war. Patriots in Turkey

27 Nov. Tuesday, Nov. 27, the Middle East military spotlight swung around from Gaza to Syria with the start of US and NATO intervention. Without spelling this out, a game changer began unfolding with the site survey begun by a joint Turkish-NATO team for the deployment of Patriot Air and Missile Defense Systems, manned by American military teams, within days. debkafile: Although billed for “defensive purposes,” the Patriots will in fact impede Syrian air bombardments over all of northern Syria, including the embattled towns of Aleppo and Homs.

November 28, 2012 Briefs

  • Iran will continue enriching uranium
    Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, declared uranium enrichment would continue “with intensity” and the number of centrifuges increase substantially this year.
  • Twin blasts kill 34 in Damascus
    At least 34 people were killed and many injured by two car bomb explosions in the southeastern Damascus district of Jaramana Wednesday. The district is populated mainly by Druzes and Christians. The Syrian opposition coalition begins talks in Cairo for a transitional government.
  • Iran runs simulations of bomb triple the force of Hiroshima blast
    Associated Press published a diagram showing part of a computer simulation series run by Iran which shows a bell curve peaking at just above 50 kilotons, reflecting the full force of the weapon modeled. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima at the end of WWII had the force of about 15 kilotons.

The Gaza Operation: Less a War than an Anti-Iran Coup

28 Nov. Israel’s eight-day Gaza operation was in fact a combined intelligence coup to snap the Iranian connection to Hamas and shut off its gateway to Cairo. It was masterminded by the Israeli, Turkish and Qatari heads of intelligence. The CIA was in close touch. The operation was Part One of US President Barack Obama’s overall plan, which is to harness the Arab Spring to key US objectives and also transform Hamas into the legitimate voice of the Palestinian people for which they still need grooming. His next stop after Gaza is Syria where matters are coming to a head.

November 29, 2012 Briefs

  • Netanyahu: No Palestinian state without recognizing Israeli
    Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu repeated Thursday that the UN resolution [approving Palestinian nonmember status] changes nothing in practice. “No Palestinian state will come into being without recognizing Israel as the state of the Jewish people.
  • Israeli security alert for Palestinian disturbances
    Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah activists plan to stir up Palestinian disturbances Friday in Jerusalem, on Temple Mount and along the West Bank-Israel demarcation lines in token of UN recognition of Palestinian nonmember status.

As Fatah fades, UN recognition of Palestine may eventually benefit Hamas

29 Nov. Thursday night, Nov. 29, the UN General Assembly grants Palestine non-member observer status within the 1967 borders by majority vote. But to which Palestinian rule does it apply? Abbas’s Fatah is fading, whereas the extremist Hamas in the Gaza Strip is a rising force. If it qualifies for a place in the Sunni Middle East grouping Egypt, Turkey and Qatar are building with US and Israeli approval, Hamas may become the beneficiary of the upgraded Palestinian status won by Abbas. Meanwhile that status and those borders are on the books.

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