A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending Oct. 11, 2007

As Abbas Fiddles with Dead-End Diplomacy, Hamas Builds an Integrated War Machine


5 Oct. Hamas applied the finishing touches to a single integrated armed force by merging its armed branches with the former Palestinian Authority security and intelligence factions which ruled the Gaza Strip until the Hamas takeover in June.

From this week, either Hamas members or Fatah defectors man all the command positions and departments of a 40,000-strong armed militia which is provided with military bases, large arsenals, armored personnel carriers, sophisticated communications and intelligence networks – most made in the US – and a logistic infrastructure befitting a regular army.

Gen. Tawfiq Jabar, late of Fatah and now a card-carrying Hamas member, has been named commander of the Gaza Strip’s integrated Palestinian force.

High-ranking IDF officers told DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources that, on the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority has failed to establish a comparable unified security force. Fatah’s al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades were never brought into the official fold. Abbas’ forces are in a state of disintegration, tempting Hamas’ to move in on the West Bank too.

debkafile‘s military sources note that the feat Hamas pulled off in Gaza three months, Abbas has failed to accomplish in two years. US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, US security coordinator Gen. Keith Dayton and British intelligence operatives posted there have produced endless plans and forked out huge sums to provide Mahmoud Abbas with an efficient military machine – to no avail.

While Hamas has strengthened its military grip on the Gaza Strip, Abbas’ control of the West Bank grows progressively weaker. Israeli military and Shin Bet tireless operations in the West Bank provide the sole obstruction to a Hamas takeover. However, the restrictions Israeli prime minister has imposed for fear of spoiling his diplomatic maneuvers have prevented the IDF and Shin Bet cutting down Hamas strength or halting its missile blitz.


First extended-range Palestinian missiles to hit Negev town of Netivot early Sunday identified as Russian-made Grad 20-km range surface missile


7 Oct. No one was hurt by the four-missile salvo, one of which exploded 90 meters from the town’s western houses. Also attacked Sunday were Sderot and a number of kibbutzim bordering on Gaza by four Qassam missiles and 12 mortar shells, which damaged a house in Kerem Shalom.

debkafile‘s military sources say that whereas until now, the Palestinian organizations hit their Israeli neighbors from Gaza with Qassam missiles whose maximum range is 10 km, Sunday, Oct. 7 they extended their radius by firing 20-km Grad missiles able to reach towns farther afield and more substantial than Sderot: Netivot (pop. 23,000), first but also Ofakim the center of Ashkelon and the southern fringes of the big port town of Ashdod.

Last week, Hamas tested Israel’s military reflexes by experimenting with extended-range missiles against Kibbutz Yad Mordecai, coupled with the influx of 85 freshly-trained Hamas commandos from Iran and Syria, whose entry to the Gaza Strip was approved by Egypt. When Israel failed to respond, Hamas escalated its missile offensive against southwestern Israel.


US stages its first national security and air maneuvers simulating responses to terrorist and radiological “dirty bomb” attacks


8 Oct. TOPOFF 4 taking place between 15 and 20 October will set off fake radiological dispersal devices (RDD) or “dirty bombs” in Oregon and Arizona as well as Guam.

Vigilant Shield conducted by the Northern American Aerospace Defense Command will exercise its ability to mobilize resources for aerospace defense and control, maritime warning and coordination of air operations in a disaster area over North America.

debkafile‘s US sources add that some critics of President George W. Bush’s Iraq and Iran policies are interpreting the two exercises as a dress rehearsal for possible retaliation against an American military strike against Iran. In other words, the US is preparing for Iran or Syria to respond by using radiological dispersal devices against American or allied targets, including Israel.


Olmert’s ministers float unachievable fantasies as facade for his non-progress in his dialogue with Palestinian leader Abbas


8 Oct. Dep. Prime minister Haim Ramon proposed Monday, Oct. 8 that Israel reject the Palestinian principle of the “right of return” (of the 1948 refugees) and offer instead the yardsticks of “compassion and mercy.”

Last week Ramon floated another plan: to hand control of Jerusalem’s Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy places, including Temple Mount, to an international commission representing the UN, Egypt, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinians.

He proposed transferring the Arab neighborhoods to the Palestinians; 90,000 Jerusalem residents should be given Jordanian passports.

Minister for strategic threats Avigdor Lieberman proposed trading Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhoods for West Bank Jewish settlement blocs.

None of these plans has been endorsed by the government or the Knesset – certainly not by the Palestinians. The Ramon fantasy for repartitioning Jerusalem is irrelevant because, debkafile‘s Palestinian and counter-terror sources stress, Temple Mount and parts of the Muslim Quarter are falling into the hands of Hamas and the violent fundamentalist Hazib al-Tahrir. Abbas would therefore never lay his hands on Arab Jerusalem even if Israel did withdraw. It would share the same radicalized fate as the Gaza Strip.


The US plans new military bases in Lebanon including big air installation close by Syrian border


9 Oct. The air base, according to debkafile‘s military sources, will be located at Kleiat in northern Lebanon roughly 75 air miles from Damascus, which these days doubles as a shared Syrian-Iranian military hub and Tehran’s eastern Mediterranean forward base. The American air installation will also lie 22 air miles from Tartous, Syria’s main naval base and the Russian Mediterranean fleet’s command center. And the aircraft posted there will be minutes away from the joint Syrian-Iranian arms and missiles industries at Homs and Hamma.

debkafile‘s source report the Bush administration’s drastic change of policy on Lebanon was settled in consultations at the Pentagon and National Security Council after the talks the chief of the US Central Command Adm. William Fallon held with Lebanese government heads on July 29. This new direction was confirmed after the Israeli air raid over Syria of Sept. 6.


Abbas demands Palestinian state includes all parts of West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem, else conflict with Israel continues


10 Oct. In an interview with Palestinian TV Oct. 10, Abbas demanded all of the Gaza Strip and West Bank, plus an area inside the “no man’s land” for a future Palestinian state. “We have 6,205 square kilometers on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. We want it as it is,” he said, declaring his claim was supported by UN Security Council resolutions.

“This is our vision for the Palestinian independent state with full sovereignty on its borders, water and resources.” If it is denied, we shall continue our armed resistance to Israel, he said.

Israeli government spokeswoman Miri Eisin declined to comment, saying she did not want to prejudice negotiations. But the Palestinian demands appear to exceed anything that Israel would be willing to offer.


Washington asks Jerusalem to clarify the Israeli dossier on North Korean-aided Syrian nuclear and missile activity presented by Turkish foreign minister to Assad


10 Oct. debkafile‘s sources report: Turkish foreign minister Ali Babacan, who presented the Israeli dossier to president Bashar Assad, also delivered his reply to Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert in a one-on-one conversation in Jerusalem Oct. 7. Washington is now demanding Israel’s response to Assad’s claim. The purpose of relaying the “Israeli dossier” to Ankara in the first place was to demonstrate that Syrian nuclear activity aided by North Korea potentially menaced neighboring Turkey as well as US regional interests and Israel.

A former intelligence official said Syria is trying to develop an airburst capability for its ballistic missiles which would allow warheads to detonate in the air to disperse its contents more widely. debkafile‘s military sources report this type of warhead is capable of damaging much broader areas than the conventional warhead. In particular, any radioactive materials it contained would scatter and contaminate wide, densely populated urban areas. Of late, US sources have voiced strong suspicions that Syria and Iran have acquired “dirty bombs.”


Undercover border police kill Palestinian Fatah suicide bomber on his way to central Israel from West Bank town of Jenin


11 Oct. Shin Bet director Yuval Diskin reported to the cabinet Sunday that seven Palestinian suicide missions inside Israel had been foiled in the past month.

debkafile‘s defense sources say this is a worrying escalation. It signals the across-the-board determination of all the Palestinians groups, including Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah and his rival Hamas, Jihad Islami and the “Fronts,” to revive mass killings in Israel’s cities by West Bank suiciders as the international conference in Annapolis approaches.

Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas has responded by hardening the line he takes with him to the conference. This is a replay of Yasser Arafat’s tactics in the years 2000-2004 – talking “peace” while ordering his terrorist bombers to redouble their suicide offensive to squeeze Israel. Hamas and Jihad Islami do not need to be told to step up violence. However, no branch of the Palestinian government in Ramallah is lifting a preventative finger.

debkafile‘s Jerusalem sources report: Whereas Abbas has assembled a top team for the conference, the Israeli side appears unready and short of firm positions, well-chosen arguments and effective rhetoric. Israel will find itself standing practically alone, with the scales weighted against its team by participants who are predominantly hostile and sympathetic to radical Palestinian positions.

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