A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending October 26, 2006

The IDF is beginning to accept that reoccupation of the Gaza-Egyptian border strip is unavoidable


20 October: This is the view of the new (Res.) Dep. OC S. Command Maj.-Gen Yom-Tov Samiya. Speaking Friday after his emergency appointment, Samiya said Israel would have to seize the entire border strip from the Israeli border post at Kerem Shalom in the east up to the Mediterranean coast in the west to a depth of 400 meters. In the last four days, Israeli units have exposed 15 Palestinian arms smuggling tunnels between the Philadelphi enclave and Rafah in S. Gaza. debkafile‘s military sources have criticized the operation as not going far enough. The full length of the border strip needs to be policed in order to curb the unprecedented volume of illegal weapons pouring into Gaza, including sophisticated anti-air and anti-tank missiles.


Radical Shiite Mehdi Army militia captures S. Iraq town of Amarah


20 October: The militia founded by radical anti-American cleric Moqtada Sadr stormed and flattened three police stations in the capital of Maysan province which was under British military control till August. Fifteen people were reported killed.

debkafile adds: This is the first major Iraqi city to be captured by a Shiite militia.

Hundreds of militiamen armed with Kalashnikov rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers are patrolling the city Friday in commandeered police vehicles. Roadblocks have been set up.

PM Nouri Maliki has sent an emergency delegation to the town.


The American Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group joins US build-up opposite Iran


20 October: Tuesday, Oct. 17, the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group steamed into the Persian Gulf to join the US naval, air and marine concentration piling up opposite Iran’s shores. It consists of the amphibious transport dock USS Nashville, the guided-missile destroyers USS Cole and USS Bulkeley, the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea, the attack submarine USS Albuquerque, and the dock landing ship USS Whidbey Island.

The Iwo Jima group is now cruising 60 km from Kuwait off Iran’s coast.


Iranian president says there is no reason for Israel to exist and it would soon disappear


20 October: Another of his outrageous speeches was delivered Friday to a pro-Palestinian rally marking the Islami Republic’s “al Qods Day” (Jerusalem Liberation Day). In further inflammatory remarks, Ahmadinejad said “the world knows the US and Britain are enemies of the Iranian nation.” He warned European nations not to harm Iran, saying that if anger in the region boiled over, Europe would get hurt because of its support for Israel. “Europe must distance itself from Israel at once. That is Iran’s ultimatum. “He went on to brand the UN Security Council and its decisions “illegitimate.”

debkafile adds: These words amounted to an Iranian threat of harm to the European UN forces deployed in Lebanon unless they left forthwith.

His harsh words followed two events: one, the Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert’s statement in Moscow this week after he met with Russian leaders: “They need to fear that something that they do not want to happen will happen. In no case, Olmert stressed, “Will we reconcile with nuclear arms in Iranian hands. There is no margin for error here.”

The other event was the arrival in the Persian Gulf of the giant US carrier Iwo Jima with its Expeditionary Strike Group to join the American naval, air and marine might piling up opposite Iran’s shores.

Next week too, the Security Council convenes to discuss a form of sanctions against Iran for refusing to desist from enriching uranium.


debkafile reports spreading Shiite infighting in S. Iraq


21 October: In the last two days, at least 33 people were killed in clashes between warring Shiite militias in Amarah and Suwayra. Moqtada Sadr, head of the Shiite Mehdi Army militia and SCIRI’s Badr force are fighting it out in both towns.

debkafile‘s military sources report that internal Shiite warfare is a fresh complication for the White House conference on new tactics in Iraq to consider amid Sunni-Shiite sectarian violence. It is another sign that the handover to local forces is not working.


Foreign-based Palestinian, Syrian, Iranian, Lebanese and Hizballah fighters arrive to help Hamas’ internecine showdown


22 October: Senior IDF officers told debkafile the foreign fighters are slipping into Gaza through large gaps on the Gazan-Egyptian border. Among them are scores of bomb experts and commando combat instructors, coming to augment and upgrade Hamas’ “Rapid Deployment” force and its ally, the Popular Resistance Committees terrorist coalition. Mingled among them are al Qaeda operatives from Sinai.

The influx aims to 1. Assure Hamas of a quick victory over Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah some time after the Eid festival ends Wednesday, Oct.25. 2. Position Hizballah-style ambush squads armed with missiles for waylaying Israeli ground units, in the event of a large-scale ground offensive to stem Palestinian attacks and the smuggling of upgraded weaponry through the Gaza Strip tunnels.

debkafile‘s military sources add: Because of the vacillations of the Olmert government, the IDF may have missed the boat for an offensive surgical enough to avoid large-scale casualties.

The rival Palestinian factions are in the midst of a feverish arms-and-recruitment race. In Gaza, Hamas backed by the PRC, the Popular Front and al Qaeda followers has raised an estimated 15,000 recruits. Hamas’ first ever-enlistment campaign on the West Bank, the traditional Fatah stronghold, has yielded several hundred recruits in its first stage, many of them defectors from Abbas’ Presidential Force 17, tempted by large handouts of thousands of dollars.

To stem the rate of defections, Abbas has recalled the retired former commander of Palestinian forces on the West Bank General Hajj Ismail. debkafile‘s military sources report that some Israeli military planners are beginning to think it would be folly for Israel to launch a large-scale ground attack on the Gaza Strip on the eve of a Palestinian civil war, because A. the troops would be walking into a prepared Iranian-Syrian trap; B. They would be caught in the same predicament as US and British forces in Iraq. C. The warring Palestinian factions would come together to fight the Israeli army.


Hizballah reconstitutes its pre-war fortified lines and missile positions opposite Israel, equipped with the latest Iranian surveillance systems


23 October: Upon taking over the IDF’s northern command from the Lebanon war chief Monday, Oct. 23, the incoming OC, Maj-Gen. Gad Eisenkott, said tersely: We are keeping close watch on Hizballah’s rearmament.

Because Hizballah is not yet ready to openly challenge UNIFIL, its refurbished fortifications are under cover. According to debkafile‘s military sources, their lookout points together with fresh supplies of rockets, ammo and electronic spying gear are hidden in village houses facing Israel.

The UN peacekeeping and Lebanese army presence has not stopped Hizballah from systematically retaking and re-manning its old tunnel and fortified bunker locations in South Lebanon. They are designated “nature preserves” by the IDF. Nor, say our military sources, did they prevent Syria last weekend smuggling across a first consignment of medium-range Fajr-3 (45km range) and Fajr-5 (up to 100 km range) rockets – the ones Hizballah used in the Lebanon War to blast in-depth Israeli targets: Haifa, Tiberias, Afula and the Hadera-Caesaria district.


Ata Shinbari, a senior Palestinian terrorist chief, was one of the 9 Palestinians killed in a shootout with Israeli forces in N. Gaza Monday


23 October: After 10 Qassam missiles were fired into Israel in 48 hours, Israeli troops went hunting for the Palestinian launchers and their crews in northern Gaza Monday when they were confronted with a large group of gunmen. Both parties opened fire. Nine armed Palestinians were killed and 20 injured.

Shinbari was a senior commander of the Popular Resistance Committees, which is active in the missile offensive, and was Hamas’ partner in kidnapping Gideon Shalit in June. Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of a massacre on the first day of Eid el Fitr.


Israel‘s Gen. Dan Halutz warns Palestinians are building an “underground city” under the Gaza Strip


24 October: Sections of this warren of well-built smuggling tunnels and bunkers are booby- trapped with mines. In briefing the Knesset foreign affairs and security committee, the chief of staff disclosed that anti-tank rockets in service with the Syrian army, which had been used against Israeli forces in Lebanon, have turned up in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli forces left the Philadelphi border route Tuesday morning after locating 15 tunnel openings in a three-day operation.


Israel denies German charge that two of its F-16 warplanes fired two missions at a German naval vessel


25 October: debkafile‘s military and intelligence sources have investigated the incident. They confirm that it did occur and involved six Israel F-16 warplanes and the German navy command ship, the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern F 218 frigate, which leads the UN naval force opposite Lebanon.

Tuesday evening, Oct. 24, Israeli warplanes were flying low over Damour 20 km south of Beirut on their way to gather intelligence of arms smuggling to Hizballah through the Lebanese coast. The European fleet deployed to monitor the coast for arms smuggling cannot get close enough because the ships are not allowed by the Lebanese government to access coastal waters. On their way from west to east, the Israeli F-16s passed low over the German command vessel, releasing infra-red decoys to ward off any rocket attack. This triggered an alert on the German frigate and its crew jumped to battle positions.

At this point, the Israeli and German versions diverge.

The frigate’s officers flashed Berlin a signal that Israeli air force planes had fired two missiles near the ship. Israel denies this. The Israeli defense minister Amir Peretz, who talked by telephone to the German defense minister Franz Josef Jung Wednesday night, insisted the ship’s officers were wrong. He agreed to send over films taken by Israel’s warplanes in the course of the episode to convince the Germans that no missiles were fired and expected Berlin to release a notice of clarification on this point.

debkafile‘s military experts say that a clash between Israeli air force and UN naval units was bound to happen. The original fault rested with the Israeli government’s acceptance of the clause in UN Security Council Resolution 1701 which denies UNIFIL authority to intercept arms smuggling into Lebanon or armed entry to the south without formal Lebanese government permission.

Such permission is routinely vetoed by Hizballah ministers.


Shock in Jerusalem over crude insult to Israel’s leaders from Russia’s Vladimir Putin


25 October: In a televised phone-in Wednesday, Oct. 25, Putin offered the view that the sex scandal surrounding President Katzav and the corruption charges against PM Olmert were provoked by “Israel’s actions in the Lebanon.” He added: “Many see the events as defeat. That immediately triggered attacks against the president, the prime minister and the chief of staff.”

Putin’s words are seen as a gratuitous and unprecedented affront to Israeli leaders and a breach of normal courtesies between governments.

During a joint Kremlin appearance with Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert two weeks ago, the Russian president was caught on microphone coarsely commenting: “Say hello to your president – he really surprised us.” Later he claimed he thought the microphones had been switched off. But reporters quoted him as adding a further off-color comment: “We did not know he knew how to deal with 10 women.”

The Russian president’s follow-up remarks Wednesday, Oct. 25, suggest his earlier comments were meant to be heard. They also reflect negative fallout from the Putin-Olmert talks in Moscow.

debkafile‘s Moscow sources report that the Russian president felt Olmert had misrepresented the outcome of their Kremlin talks when he informed his cabinet that they had reached complete understanding on the Iranian nuclear question and agreement to coordinate security aspects. But Putin became angry when the Israeli prime minister contradicted a statement by Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov to the Kuwaiti news agency on Oct. 20. Referring to the Iranian nuclear issue, Lavrov said Russia would oppose any attempts to penalize Iran through the UN Security Council or take the nuclear program as a pretext to topple the Iranian regime.

On Oct. 22, Olmert, challenged by his ministers about the Lavrov interview, replied: “I heard quite different things from Putin.”


President Putin confirms he will retain political influence after he steps down in 2008


25 October: This confirms the exclusive revelations of DEBKA-Net-Weekly 274 on Oct. 20. Together with a profile of his intended successor, Sergei Ivanov, DEBKA-Net-Weekly disclosed Putin’s intended post-office activity as Moscow’s energy czar in Europe partnered by ex-chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

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