A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending November 3, 2005

A car carrying a Qassam missile crew was bombed, one Fatah-al Aqsa Brigades operative killed


28 October: The air force struck after another 5 Qassam missiles were shot into Israel. One exploded in an empty space near Netiv Ha’Aasara, and another near the Erez crossing to the north. No casualties. A second Israeli artillery battery was posted opposite S. Gaza Strip as Palestinian Qassams kept coming. It was deployed near Nir Yitzhak opposite the S. Gaza town of Khan Younes..


Lebanese army besieges seven Palestinian bases near Syrian border in response to the US and UN demand to disarm them


29 October: debkafile reports: The two Lebanese battalions backed by 50 armored cars are deployed around the camps in the foothills of the counter-Lebanon range that marks the border. Two are operated by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestinian-General Command, under Ahmed Jibril and five by Abu Mussa’s breakaway Fatah-Intifada. A Lebanese officer added his troops are also posted on eight dirt tracks used by the Palestinians to bring in men and materiel from Syria.

debkafile‘s military sources add: Two of the Palestinian bases are in Halwa near Sultan Yakub, where the PFLP-GC is dug in in caves which Syrian military engineers have fortified as bunkers; the Abu Mussa outfit is deployed in the Rashaya district, to the west.

They are under orders from the high command in Damascus to stay put.

This is because they control the Lebanese Beqaa-Damascus highway, which the Syrians have always been jealous to protect because in a war it would be an easy route for the Israeli army to cut through to reach Damascus.

When the Syrians were forced by the Security Council to pull their army out of Lebanon, they left armed Palestinian forces as watchdogs over the strategic route under Syrian command. By laying the Palestinians to siege, Beirut has delivered a nasty setback to the regime and high command in Damascus.


Fat Iranian Cash Contracts for Terrorists to Hit American Troops and Israeli Civilians


29 October: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s outrageous statements were not just the empty rhetoric of an inexperienced politician. Tehran may claim piously that it has never threatened or used force against a fellow UN member, but debkafile‘s counter-terror sources reveal a somewhat more sinister picture. American and British intelligence in Iraq have turned up Iran’s fingerprints deep inside the terrorist campaign against US and British forces in Iraq ever since mid-September.

In the same period, Israeli intelligence too has uncovered growing Iranian involvement in Palestinian terrorist attacks inside Israel, notably the Hadera suicide bombing by a Jihad Islami suicide bomber Wednesday Oct. 26 in which 5 Israelis died. As in Iraq, Iran often operates through surrogates.

According to debkafile‘s counter-terror sources, Iranian intelligence shells out a fee of $50,000 and 80,000 to Sunni hit squads in central and western Iraq for every attack on American troops.

The rate for Palestinian terrorist groups setting up strikes against Israelis is around $50,000 for each “successful” suicide killing.

The rate is lowest in southern Iraq, where there are plenty of pro-Iranian Shiite gangs. They can earn $2,000 to $30,000 from Iranian intelligence for murdering or injuring British soldiers. debkafile‘s counter-terror sources add that in recent weeks, the British have got wind of Iranian agents making contact with extremist Muslim groups especially in the Manchester region of northern England. They are recruiting terrorists for strikes inside the UK. Observers noted that in the Jerusalem Day hate demonstrations in Tehran Friday, Oct. 28, the number of placards calling “Death to America” and “Death to Britain” outnumbered those demanding “Death to Israel.”


The free Palestinian Gaza-West Bank link will ease the movement of terrorists and their weapons of war between the two territories. Hence the hold-up


31 October: International coordinator James Wolfensohn and Israeli vice premier Shimon Peres are pushing hard for a Palestinian link between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. They argue that without this link, Gaza will be a Palestinian prison. Wolfensohn prefers an overland road link – and has recruited US president George W. Bush and secretary of state Condoleezza Rice to his plan, while Peres likes the idea of a railway.

Both look away from three facts:

1. Either one would cut Israel in two.

2. The Gaza Strip is no prison without this link; it is wide open to the neighboring Sinai region and Egypt to the south. But the Palestinians, including the Palestinian Authority, have made no productive use of their unrestricted access. Aside from a few family visits, this opening is used for nothing but the accumulation of a mountain of war materiel and the passage of terrorists.

3. According to debkafile‘s counter-terror sources, while Israel defense minister Shaul Mofaz was discussing arrangements for the border terminals with Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak last week, Palestinian arms smugglers began digging dozens of fresh tunnels under the Philadelphi border which Egyptian troops were supposed to police. The Egyptian special police did not interfere.

An Israeli officer told debkafile that the Palestinian stockpile of weapons and explosives is far bigger than Palestinian security forces’ entire arsenal and in excess of their own terrorist requirements in the Gaza Strip.


Fatah Is Deeply Implicated in the Palestinian Terrorist Coalition. Egyptian Military Collaboration Is Also Present


31 October: The al Aqsa Brigades, a wing of Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ ruling Fatah, either led or took active part in all the terrorist strikes of late. Yet the Israeli army has not been sent into action against Fatah.

It suits the Hamas to feign non-participation in the Fatah-Jihad Islami pact. However, the capture on Oct. 5 of three Qassam missile engineers on their way to set up a missile factory in Jenin gave the game away. The Hamas was exposed as a senior partner in the Palestinian terrorist coalition, although it tried to hide behind the Popular Committees.

This coalition is not working in a vacuum. Egyptian troops, deployed as a pre-condition for Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, can be bought for the trifling sum of NIS200 (less than $50) – and have been from Day One of their deployment last month.

With Egyptian connivance, the three Palestinian weapons pros used one of the forbidden arms smuggling tunnels to cross into Sinai from Gaza, picked up a Hizballah disk containing instructions on how to construct a missile workshop in Jenin, and then infiltrated southern Israel through the Egyptian border. They were helped across by an Egyptian “guide,” familiar enough with the southern Israeli Negev region to shepherd them to Mitzpe Ramon, where they were intercepted by Israeli security police.

Those police were appalled to find an Egyptian terrorist cell supporting al Qaeda and Palestinians operations in Sinai had planted a tentacle deep inside Israel’s southern and central Negev regions, as a branch of the Sinai organization.

At Sunday’s cabinet session, prime minister Ariel Sharon woke up belatedly and declared: “We must not allow Qassam missiles to be fired from the West Bank at coastal Israel.” His rationale? “We can’t put them all in bomb-shelters.”


Israeli forces at last strike a nerve center of the joint Fatah-Hamas-Hizballah terror offensive


1 November: debkafile‘s Military Analysts report that on Tuesday, Nov. 1, Israeli armed forces finally focused their formerly patchy counter-terror operations for a coherent, effective offensive against a key hub connecting the Fatah-al Aqsa Brigades, the Hamas and the Lebanese Hizballah for joint terrorist operations.

debkafile‘s counter-terror sources reveal that the targeted airborne missile attack that killed two top terrorist operatives in Jebalya Tuesday night compares in importance to the January 2001 liquidation of Masoud Iyad, Yasser Arafat’s first contact-man with the Hizballah, who also commanded the first mortar shelling of an Israeli location.

Hassan Madhun who died Tuesday night was the commander of the Masoud Iyad Platoons of the al Aqsa Brigades. He was also the senior Fatah link with Hizballah and his agents were scattered across the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Madhun operated in the guise of a Palestinian security officer, while ordering the special terrorist unit under his command to execute a string of deadly attacks. His last operation was the drive-by shooting that left three Israeli hitch-hikers dead at the Gush Etzion junction east of Jerusalem on Oct. 16.

His companion in the vehicle hit by the Israeli rocket, Fawzi Abu Kara of Hamas, was Madhun’s superior in the Palestinian terrorist hierarchy. He was in fact the top Hamas weapons expert who ran the Qassam missile production lines, while managing the missile bombardment of Sderot and other points in the western Negev. He also designed the Gaza Strip tunnel network known to branch east towards – and possibly under – Israeli territory. Hizballah was the matchmaker that forged the Madhun-Abu Kara partnership-for-terror that was finally destroyed Tuesday.


Syrian Bigwigs and Capital Flee under Implied Threat of Military Action


1 November: The threat of military action was embedded in the UN Security Council resolution. It was reinforced by US Secretary of state Condoleezza Rice when she spoke of “serious’ consequences” – diplomatic parlance for military action – should Syria fail to cooperate with the final and conclusive part of UN investigator Dehlev Mehlis’ inquiry into the murder of Lebanese leader Rafiq Hariri last February.

The motion was adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which permits the use of armed force.

The second tough clause states: suspects may be subject to a travel ban and a freeze on their assets.

Faced with this torrent of menacing language, Bashar Assad’s close associates are on the move. debkafile‘s intelligence sources reveal large cash withdrawals from Syrian banks, currency conversions and transfers to banks outside the country, accompanied by an exodus of some of the leading families of Damascus. The largest capital transfer – estimated at $6-7bn – was made by the tycoon Rami Makhlouf, whose defection is a mortal blow for Assad and his shrinking circle of supporters. He is not only the manager of the Assad clans’ finances, his is also a close kinsman; Bashar’s mother is his aunt, sister of his father General Adnan Makhlouf, who served the late president Hafez Assad in a top position of trust as commander of the presidential guard.

His huge capital transfer and removal of his business center from the Syrian capital are capable of bringing the national economy down about Assad’s ears.

UN investigator Mehlis and his team were back at work in Beirut soon after the Security Council resolution was passed Monday night, Oct. 31. Bashar Assad is confronted head-on now with a dilemma: which of his close relatives should he surrender as a scapegoat? His young brother Maher Assad, or his sister’s husband, Assed Shawqat?

Both top the Mehlis list of Syrian suspects in the Hariri murder plot.


debkafile‘s security sources: Plan for European inspectors at Rafah crossing – a sieve with very large holes


2 November: Israeli defense minister Shaul Mofaz holds talks in Washington with Condoleezza Rice Wednesday, then goes on to meet Rumsfeld Friday.

He took with him Israel’s approval of a plan to deploy European inspectors at the Gaza-Egyptian border terminal of Rafah in lieu of an Israel security monitoring presence of four decades. The World Bank director for the West Bank and Gaza Strip commended this concession “as a very big step, a major departure in Israeli policy.” But the Palestinians are stalling.

They object to handing the European monitors any authority but that of passive observers and will not hear of CCTV cameras for screening entrants to be linked to Israel. Ahead of Israel’s pullout from the Gaza Strip, Mahmoud Abbas agreed the Rafah border would be reopened only with Israel’s agreement.

debkafile adds: Because of Palestinian non-cooperation, the European monitors will be about as effective as the Egyptian border police in blocking out access to terrorists and smuggled goods. In any case, the Europeans are only offering technical equipment for operating the terminal and will function only in conjunction with the Egyptians and the Palestinians. They have agreed to take possession of an Israeli list of undesirable terrorists or suspects but without commitment – or authority – to bar them from entering.

Israel security sources have described the plan to debkafile as a sieve with very large holes.

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