A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending November 30 2006

Palestinians cease missile fire from Gaza 0600 Sunday, Nov. 26 – for real or a maneuver?


25 November: Israeli PMO has responded favorably. PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas was informed by Hamas of the decision and passed the word to PM Ehud Olmert who confirmed that all the Palestinian terrorist groups led by Hamas agreed to stop firing missile attacks and using suicide bombers.

debkafile‘s military sources report: Hamas and its allied terrorist groups have been feeling intense heat from successful pinpointed IDF operations in the last week.

Olmert agreed to halt Israeli military actions in Gaza in return for the cessation of Palestinian missile fire, but offered no commitment with regard to the West Bank.

Israel’s military intelligence-AMAN and the Shin Beit warn the prime minister to heed the underlying motives of Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal in initiating the ceasefire. Saturday, Nov. 25, Meshaal gave Israel an ultimatum: Pull back to the June 4, 1967 lines within six months to establish an independent Palestinian state – or else face a third intifada. Israeli intelligence chiefs calculate that six months is the period Hamas needs to wind up its preparations for waging another war. Since the deep Israel incursions into the Gaza Strip are upsetting these preparations, the hard-line, Damascus-based Hamas leader initiated the ceasefire to give his men a breather.


Russia sells Iran sophisticated missile systems capable of repelling US or Israeli air or missile assaults


25 November: The first of 29 Tor-M1 systems in the $700m deal have been delivered to Iran by Moscow despite US opposition to their sale of a weapon widely regarded as the most advanced of its kind in the world. Some Iranian and Russian air defense experts say its full deployment at Iran’s nuclear installations will make them virtually invulnerable to American or Israeli attack in the foreseeable future. Therefore, no more than six months remain, until the Russian Tor-M1 systems are in place, for any attempt to knock out Iran’s nuclear weapons industry.

debkafile‘s military sources disclose that Iran’s military and Revolutionary Guards units are on top war alert for the second month. Their fighters and bombers are parked on the runways ready for takeoff, their surface missiles including Shehab are a button’s push away from firing and their war ships and submarines cruise out at sea in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea. Tehran is determined not to be caught napping by any surprise attacks.

debkafile adds some information about this super-missile: The first batteries to be delivered come ready with Iranian crews trained at Russian air defense corps facilities. The advantages of the Tor-M1 system are principally its ability to simultaneously destroy two targets traveling at up to 700km/h in any weather by day or night; its powerful, jamming-resistant radar with electronic beam control, and its vertically-launched missiles’ ability to maintain high speed and maneuverability throughout their operation.

Last spring, the United States called on all countries to stop all arms exports to Iran.


Murdered Russian ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko passed documents to former Yukos CEO in Israel months before his death – report


25 November: Leonid Nevzlin, former CEO of the oil giant and current chairman of the Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv, says the Russian ex-spy came to Israel with classified documents on Yukos which may be damaging to Russian leaders. Nevzliln estimates that Litvinenko’s death was connected with this information, which he has handed to London police investigators of the murder.

debkafile‘s intelligence sources add that the Russian ex-spy is believed to have been a double agent, who sold trade secrets to different parties in and outside Russia, among them some of the Russian oligarchs living in exile in the West. Livinenko served as a colonel in a Russian Federal Security Services unit which investigated and carried out special operations against businessmen.

British police found traces of the radioactive Polonium 210 in Litvinenko’s urine. The London media accuse Vladimir Putin of being behind the murder which they claim was politically-motivated.

Nevzlin is wanted in Russia as a former partner in Yukos of Michael Khodorkovsky who is serving a prison sentence in Russia after the government forced the company into bankruptcy.


Maliki government teeters as 30 Sunnis die in Baghdad in revenge killings for Sadr City massacre


25 November: The radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, whose Mehdi Army is held responsible for much of the sectarian killings, threatens his party’s six ministers and 30 lawmakers will boycott the government if prime minister Nouri Maliki meets US president George W. Bush in Amman next week. At least 30 Sunnis were butchered – 6 burned alive – and four mosques torched in the Sunni Hurriyah district Friday by rampaging Shiites seeking vengeance for five massive bombings that left at least 240 dead in Sadr City Thursday, Nov. 23.

Washington is under heavy pressure for more active intervention in the Palestinian-Israeli issue before Arab rulers agree to cooperate on Iraq. After joining Bush in Amman, Rice will attend an annual Middle East conference in Jordan, where key Arab players may meet on the sidelines to discuss Arab-Israeli issues.

The administration's point people on Israeli-Palestinian issues, David Welch and Elliott Abrams, have been shuttling between Arab states and Israel to move the process along.


Palestinian ceasefire held exactly 57 minutes Sunday morning


26 November: Israeli troops were pulled out of Gaza Saturday night after the Israeli government accepted the PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ assurance that all the armed Palestinian factions had agreed to halt their missile fire. However, the Iran-funded Jihad Islami and Fatah-Abu Rish Brigades later announced they were not bound and would continue terrorist operations against Israeli civilians. Minutes before the purported 06:00 ceasefire, 4 Palestinian missiles exploded in Sderot, one smashing into a private living room. The seven household members were not hurt.


The Islamic Army of Gaza, a Palestinian al Qaeda affiliate, joins Jihad Islami and Fatah-Abu Rish Brigades in spurning ceasefire


27 November: The group took part in the Hamas-led abduction of the Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit in mid-June.


How Iraq and Palestinian Issues Came to Be Twinned in Revised Bush Strategy on Iraq


27 November: Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, loath to relinquish the high diplomatic ground to the Palestinians, promised Monday that after the kidnapped Israeli soldier is released, Israel will free many jailed Palestinians. As soon as a Palestinian unity government is formed, Olmert said, negotiations could start with Mahmoud Abbas on the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state. He allowed the evacuation of some West Bank settlements was possible in return for real peace and Palestinian renunciation of the return of 1948 Palestinian refugees.

Earlier, Ehud Olmert quickly accepted the Palestinian ceasefire – against the advice of the Israeli military. The ceasefire – like Olmert’s promises – is unlikely to survive long after Bush’s departure from the Middle East. Since Sunday, every Palestinian and Israeli verbal pronouncement has been attuned to the wavelengths of Bush and his secretary of state Condoleezza Rice. debkafile has been reporting since early August, that George Bush and his key advisers have diagnosed Israel as coming out of the Lebanon War weakened and with its strategic situation impaired.

The Olmert government, however forthcoming, must brace itself for a period of intensive American pressure to cede ever more assets to curry favor with the Arabs.


New Hamas Tactics Tried in Real Battle Conditions


27 November: Israel’s five-day anti-missile campaign, curtailed Sunday, Nov. 26 by a ceasefire, provided Israeli forces with a foretaste of a new kind of Palestinian fighting force. For the first time, Hamas and its affiliated armed groups employed correct tactics and avoided punishing frontal clashes with Israeli forces. The fingerprints were clearly apparent of the newly-arrived 120 Syrian and Hizballah officers. They came in through Cairo international airport without demur from Egyptian officials.

Israel tacticians fielded small special forces units to stop the Palestinian Qassam missile offensive from northern Gaza. Hamas countered by flooding the area with hundreds of surveillance pickets to stalk IDF movements, embedding them among civilians. They kept their rear command constantly briefed on Israeli positions.

Israeli troops also came up against the well-calculated, organized and extensive use by Hamas and PRC teams of anti-tank missiles of Iranian, Syrian and Russian manufacture, freshly delivered by Iran and Syria.

The Israeli commanders, for their part, had their hands tied. They were refused permission by the policy-makers to counter Palestinian tactics, first by severing the northern Gaza battlefield from its lifelines to the south, second by trying out new methods of combat for turning the tables on the enemy.

The last straw for the IDF was prime minister Ehud Olmert’s hasty acceptance of the abrupt ceasefire against military advice. Its timing was doubly damaging and dangerous in that it left the Hamas and PRC chiefs – and their outside sponsors – with the sense that their new tactics had proved successful in conditions of real combat and had forced the Israeli army to abandon its mission and withdraw.


Palestinian shoot 3 Qassam missiles at Sderot Tuesday night


28 November: Missile fire from Gaza has occurred on the four days after Mahmoud Abbas declared a ceasefire on behalf of all Palestinian armed groups, including Hamas. Israel’s army chief, Lt.-Gen Dan Halutz refuted the Palestinian claim that the Palestinian Authority had deployed 13,000 security officers in the N. Gaza Strip to prevent missile fire. Addressing the Knesset foreign affairs and security committee, Halutz said he doubted whether even 1,300 had been employed, aside from the handful of uniformed men manning checkpoints for the benefit of TV cameras.


Israel‘s army chief is critical of acquiescence to Hamas ceasefire


28 November: In a briefing to the Knesset foreign affairs and security committee Tuesday, Lt.-Gen Dan Halutz reported that the heads of government had scarcely consulted the IDF before accepting the Palestinian offer of a partial truce. The Palestinians tried to stretch the Gaza Strip ceasefire and apply it to the West Bank, but “we snapped this equation,” Halutz said. He also reported that the flow of war materiel from Syria to the Lebanese Hizballah continues full spate.


Rice meets met Olmert, Livni and Abbas Thursday


30 November: The US secretary of state responded to Arab and British pressure to tackle the Palestinian-Israeli issue as the key to staunching violence in Iraq, although few debkafile sources expected progress. Tuesday, the Palestinian leader said he had given up on unity talks with Hamas because of its exorbitant demands and would pursue other options.

debkafile reported earlier that Hamas’ hard-line leader Khaled Meshaal had laid down non-negotiable demands in his talks in Cairo. They included a mechanism for opening the Palestinian Liberation Organization umbrella to Hamas membership and appointing him permanent chairman in place of Mahmoud Abbas. Meshaal would have thus gained total control of the Palestinian movement and its resources worldwide. He demanded the treasury, interior and foreign affairs for his Hamas.

He also upped the price for returning the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit to more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, including convicted murderers such as Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti.


Israeli cancer expert Prof. Ben-Ami Sela: Polonium 210 is found in ordinary cigarettes


30 November: Heavy smokers inhale four times the level considered non-hazardous to health, according to the Prof. Sela, who is adviser to Israel’s National Society for the Prevention of Cancer and head of the Pathological Chemical Institute at the Shiba Hospital. High concentrations of Polonium 210 – found in the body of the ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko whose death is under investigation in Britain – are also found in the bloodstreams, livers and lymph glands of smokers. The Israeli expert called this radioactive substance a silent killer when contained in cigarette smoke.

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