A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending October 19, 2006
Israeli airborne missile hits vehicle in N. Gaza killing three Hamas missile operators Friday
13 October: The three men fired four rounds of Qassam missiles at Sderot Thursday night, knocking out Sderot’s electrical current. They were on their way to a fresh launching. Friday, Israeli ground forces continued an ongoing operation against terrorist strongholds in southern Gaza near Khan Younes. Three Hamas gunmen were killed in clashes, dozens detained for interrogation. The operation in its third day is aimed at stemming the inflow of Iranian long-range anti-tank weapons and Grad missiles through the tunnels of the Philadelphi border strip with Egypt. The IDF estimates that since its withdrawal last year, two tons of TNT are smuggled into Gaza Strip per month.
Tehran Arms Hamas for a Double-Barreled War Option and Gaza as Second Lebanon
13 October: The military pacts Palestinian Hamas interior minister Said Siyam signed with his Iranian counterpart Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi in Tehran on Oct. 12 are designed to transform Hamas’ military wing, the Ezz e-Din al Qassam, into a crack operational arm of the Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, and Gaza into a second Lebanon.
debkafile‘s Iranian sources report Tehran has committed to training Hamas’ rapid deployment force of 6,500 men in Hizballah combat tactics, with the accent on missiles, especially the anti-tank variety which were used with devastating effect against Israeli tanks in the Lebanon War. The force will be sent over in batches for six-week courses at Revolutionary Guards installations in southern Iran.
Iran will foot the $60 million bill for the training as well as for the top-notch weaponry.
The Hamas military delegation flew from Cairo to Dubai and on to Tehran. Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and intelligence chief, Gen. Omar Suleiman, were apprised of the Hamas leaders’ trip and the military accords they were to sign, but did nothing to detain the travelers.
This was taken by Hamas and the Iranian government as signaling Cairo’s assent to the Hamas-Iranian transaction.
Instead of resistance, they encounter inertia on the part of Israel’s political and military leaders. Prime minister Ehud Olmert has eyes for nothing but broadening the base of his government coalition.
Khamenei Brandishes a Kalashnikov at US and Israel
15 October: The powerful image of Iran’s be-turbaned supreme ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei clutching an automatic rifle, displayed exclusively by debkafile, drew on the belligerent imagery of Yasser Arafat and Saddam Hussein. debkafile‘s Tehran sources reveal that the Iran’s leaders took three fateful steps ahead of Khamenei’s performance:
1. They pointed up the tradition initiated by the father of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of marking the last Friday of Ramadan as International al Qods Day – “Jerusalem Liberation Day.”
2. Khamenei’s aides leaked word that his decision to hold the sermon of Oct. 13 was prompted by his discovery that the USS Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group was heading for the Persian Gulf and would be deployed in operational mode opposite Iran’s shores by Oct. 21.
3. In Beirut, Iran’s surrogate Hizballah announced the cancellation of its annual military parade on al Qods day, i.e. Oct. 20.
Military circles in the United States and Israel interpret these steps as meaning that Iran will be standing by in battle positions the day before the Eisenhower reaches its destination.
Khamenei devoted much of his sermon to the Lebanon war waged between Israel and Hizballah in July and August. “The war isn’t finished,” he said. “And the losers will certainly not remain idle. These evil forces are already hard at work to remedy their defeat and Islamic nations need to remain vigilant and ready to react with determination against any other potential attack.”
Syria Is Stirring Up Lebanese Civil Strife, Stoking Two Anti-Israel Warfronts
October 16: Maj.-Gen Amos Yadlin and head of AMAN’s research division Brig.-Gen Yossi Baidatz reported deepening Syrian involvement in aggressive moves on three fronts: Damascus is pushing Iranian arms for Hizballah into Lebanon in blatant violation of Security Council resolution 1701 (as first revealed by debkafile on Oct. 4), the first Syrian military instructors have arrived in the Gaza Strip to impart Hizballah’s combat tactics to Hamas and the Syrian army remains on a high state of preparedness.
A major step aimed at inflaming the Lebanese-Israel border region was taken by the pro-Syrian Lebanese chief of staff General Michel Suleiman last Friday, Oct. 13. He authorized Lebanese officers and men deployed on the border to summon Hizballah forces to fight in any border clash.
This order restored Hizballah to the flashpoint border zone just two months after it was supposedly evicted by the UN-brokered ceasefire of August 14. By getting Hizballah reinstated in its old frontline strongholds, Syria and Iran have put the finishing touches on one of the Lebanese front, one of their three war edifices against Israel after Gaza and Golan. These fronts are primed to squeeze Israel hard any time Iran comes under threat of military attack.
This encroaching multiple hazard catches the Israeli government and its armed forces without a remedy. The aftershocks of the Lebanon war are still not fully digested; neither are its mistakes admitted in Jerusalem.
Moscow welcomes Olmert, but sticks to its nuclear ties with Iran and its lucrative arms sales to Syria and other rogue entities
17 October: Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert arrived in Moscow Tuesday, Oct. 17, for talks with president Vladimir Putin and other Russian leaders.
Before his departure, the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem hailed two welcoming gestures by Moscow:
1. A promise to fire the official in charge of arms exports, in response to Israel’s complaint that Russian anti-tank rockets sold to Syria had reached Hizballah and caused Israeli losses in the Lebanon war.
2. An order signed by Putin to tighten control over Russia’s arms exports. Henceforth, it was said, all sales contracts would contain a clause empowering a Russian monitoring team to carry out on-the-spot inspections in the recipient-countries to ascertain the weapons were not passed on.
debkafile‘s Moscow sources confirm that there was nothing in either promise.
Russian military hardware exports are handled by a firm called RosohoroneExport, no member of which has been fired.
And instead of tightening controls over arms exports, Moscow is expanding sales to the Middle East to countries hostile to Israel, such as Iran and Syria, as well as Kuwait, Qatar and the Muslim nations of Asia. None of these governments would have any qualms about passing their Russian purchases on to the Hizballah or Hamas terrorist organizations.
Still on the table are Moscow’s offers, including armored vehicles and artillery, to the Palestinian Authority and Hamas security forces.
Italy to sell Lebanon sophisticated ground-to-air Aster 15 missiles to stop Israel’s aerial surveillance of hostile movements
17 October: Prime minister Romano Prodi has ordered negotiations to begin with Lebanon for the quick sale of an Aster 15 battery, the only Western surface-to-air missile with an active guidance system capable of last-minute corrections of targeting at the moment of interception.
As a joint Franco-Italian product, the sale also needed – and obtained – approval from French president Jacques Chirac.
Our sources report the Aster 15 will be accompanied by Italian instructors to guide Lebanese troops in their use. Since 50% of those officers are Shiites loyal to Hizballah or Amal, the Shiite terrorists are looking forward to gaining access for the first time to top-of-the-line Western anti-air missile technology.
Israel has so far refrained from protesting to Rome against the Aster 15 sale – any more than it has to Washington, the UN Security Council or UNIFIL over illegal Hizballah movements and arms-smuggling – although the new weapon will directly jeopardize Israel’s aerial surveillance of Hizballah and other hostile movements in Lebanon.
Israel has obtained the names of five Palestinian al Qaeda confederates of the Hamas-led kidnap of Gideon Shalit
19 October: They were identified in the course of an investigation into the murder on Sept 16 of Mahmoud Abbas’ top security officer Col. Jad Tayeh for which they were also responsible.
debkafile reveals their names for the first time: The Al Qaeda cell commander is Muataz Durmush, cousin of Zakariah Durmush of the Popular Resistance Committees of Gaza. The others are Mahmoud Bastal; Taher Atawa; Ahmed Azzam and Ibrahim Kahil. They sign The Muslim Army on all their bulletins on the kidnapped Israeli soldier. Senior Israeli officers complain that the al Qaeda cell is operating unscathed by Israel, Egypt or the Palestinian Authority’s security services, a sign that affairs in the Gaza Strip have slipped out of control.
Most Palestinian arms smuggling tunnels are in the west outside the range of IDF’s Philadelphi operation
19 October: Senior IDF officers told debkafile Thursday, Oct. 19, that the 13 Palestinian smuggling tunnels unearthed this week by Israeli units in the Philadelphi-Rafah sector were small change
Israeli tunnel-hunters led by IDF Bedouin scout units are confined to the 5 km between Philadelphi and Rafah, while most of the tunnels are dug under a 17 km-strip to the West, used by Palestinian terrorist organizations for moving contraband arms into the Gaza Strip by sea and land, despite the efforts of Israeli warships to intercept the flock of small vessels carrying weapons and explosives to the Gazan shore.
To destroy them all would necessitate Israel’s permanent military reoccupation of the entire network of smuggling routes.
The general assessment of these Israeli officers is that the Philadelphi operation is another of the government’s half-measures to impress on the public that a tough crackdown is afoot to stem the flow of dangerous weaponry to Palestinian terrorists. Similar half-hearted resolve in Jerusalem is letting the security situation on the Lebanese border deteriorate out of hand.
In these circumstances, the talks Israel’s infrastructure minister Binyamin Eliezer held with President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo Thursday, Oct. 19, could not be expected to do much good. Mubarak has lost any clout he once had with the leaders of extremist Hamas, Jihad Islami, the Popular Resistance Committees and elements of Fatah-al Aqsa Brigades. The fate of Gilead Shalit is out of his hands.