A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending October 5, 2006

French tanks obstruct Israeli tanks over suspected Hizballah robbery of Israeli weapons store


30 September: The south Lebanese village of Merwahin was the stage Thursday, Sept 28 of the first near-showdown between UN and Israeli forces. debkafile published here the first photo of an encounter between 4 French Leclerc and at least 5 Israeli Merkava tanks in that Lebanese village.

Despite the photographic evidence, Israel officially denies the incident. debkafile reports the French force sought to prevent the Israeli unit from combing through the Hizballah-dominated village in search of the raiders who crossed into Israel and broke into the IDF’s Kibbutz Shomera arms store last week. They made off with a large quantity of side-arms, anti-tank weapons, LAU rockets and hundreds of combat grenades, which the Israeli force was determined to recover.

American and German correspondents who witnessed the incident report that the two tank units held menacing positions 50 meters apart for about half an hour, after which the French tanks broke off contact and turned tail. The French commander claims the Israel tanks retreated first. debkafile‘s military sources note that this was the second incidence of French backing for Hizballah. On Sept 22, French fighter jets were seen cruising in Beirut’s skies above the podium of Hassan Nasrallah’s “victory speech.” He boasted then that he was not afraid to address the masses directly instead of through armored glass.


Israel Quits Lebanon Leaving Hizballah Back in Saddle under UN Auspices


1 October: The Iast Israeli soldier quit Lebanon before dawn of Oct. 1, Yom Kippur eve, leaving Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev in captivity.

Only one third of the 15,000 international peacekeepers the UN Security Council pledged for an expanded UNIFIL was deployed. And even that force has made no effort to stop Hizballah restoring its presence and replenishing its stocks of rockets and missiles to points in South Lebanon within firing range of Israel. In most ways, therefore, UN Security Council Resolution 1701 of Aug. 14 is a dead letter.

UNIFIL commanders refused even the minimal demand to restrict Hizballah’s military movements along the Israeli border. They claimed they could only act with the permission of the Lebanese government. By finally giving way on this point, the Israeli government agreed to UNIFIL being an instrument of the Lebanese government – not the enforcer of UN resolutions or Israeli security – and made nonsense of their claim that the Lebanon operation removed Hizballah’s fighting forces from the Israeli border.

By removing its troops from Lebanon, Israel has bargained away its last card for extracting information about the fate of the two soldiers seized by Hizballah.

The naval blockade against illegal arms imports is about effective as UNIFIL’s ephemeral roadblocks when UN-flagged vessels are barred from entering Lebanese territorial waters. And so a strip of ocean 12 miles wide up to the Lebanese coast remains wide open for Hizballah’s arms ships to freely ply the route between Syrian and Lebanese ports.

Israel’s policy-makers had better hurry up now and form a plan to meet an exacerbated threat from Lebanon, the possible displacement of the Fouad Siniora government in Beirut with a pro-Syrian, Hizballah-dominated administration.


Ahead of Rice Middle East mission, Hamas sends its Rapid Intervention Force to smash Fatah’s last Gaza power base


2 October: Another three Palestinians were killed Monday Oct. 2 in clashes between Fatah and Hamas combatants in Gaza Monday Oct. 2, the day after fierce gunfights left 9 Palestinians dead and more than 100 injured.

debkafile reports: The ruling Palestinian Hamas took advantage of angry Fatah protests for unpaid wages to assert its domination of the Gaza Strip and pursued a standing plan to smash Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement in the Gaza Strip, especially Muhammad Dahlan’s “death squads,” Fatah’s last viable group in the territory.

Hamas troops acted in advance of the meeting in Cairo Tuesday, Oct. 3, of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice with the foreign ministers of six moderate Arab governments. According to debkafile‘s intelligence sources, Palestinian frictions were fueled by two decisions by the Hamas Shura council in the second week of September.

To refrain from freeing the kidnapped Israeli soldier Gideon Shalit and to break up the unity government talks on power-sharing between Fatah and Hamas.

The Shura decisions constituted a victory for the hard-line Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal as supreme leader of Hamas.

Abbas kept this terminal snarl-up from the Americans and Israelis, but he ordered Fatah public-sector and security staff out on wage protests; on the quiet, he sent Fatah death squads into violent action against Hamas officials. The Hamas interior minister Said Siyam ordered 5,000 members of the crack Hamas Rapid Intervention force to lay into the Fatah death squads; in addition to killing 3 squad members, they took at least 30 officers prisoner including the squad’s commander, Sifwat Rahami.

Abu Mazen, as usual in a crisis, was out of the country.


Iran and Syria declare massive boycott of multinational companies with Jewish or Israeli stockholders or Zionist links


3 October: Our Iranian sources report that, in a move to counter possible UN sanctions, foreign minister Manoucheir Mottaki presented 7 booklets with two enclosures listing those firms to the Majlis on Oct. 2. He explained: “Article 8 of the law titled Support for the Islamic Revolution of the Palestinian People bans economic relations with any company, institution or firm affiliated with the Zionist regime anywhere in the world.”

Two days earlier, the US Congress passed a bill extending Iran sanctions after the White House watered down an earlier version that would also have punished offshore subsidiaries of US companies that deal with Iran. Iran has countered by pushing OPEC to reduce production and raise oil prices.

Mottaki further informed the Iranian parliament that the list of firms with whom Iranian law bans relations will be updated henceforth year by year. Iran and Syria are determined to expose Israeli companies hiding behind false names.

Iran, he said, will follow up the ban of Israeli products imposed by the OIC (the Arab Boycott Organization).


Israeli concerns raised by US Senate Majority leader Bill Frist’s advice to bring Taliban into Afghan government


3 October: During a visit to a US-Romanian base, Frist said the Taliban are too numerous and have too much popular support to be defeated militarily. debkafile: The Frist statement represents a complete turnabout by the Bush administration on the war against terror, with grave applications for US Middle East policies in relation to Iraq, Lebanon and Israel, as well as the rampant Hizballah and Hamas terrorist groups and their state sponsors.


Hizballah Blocks Reoccupied S. Lebanese Bases against Lebanese and UN forces


4 October: On Yom Kippur, Oct. 2, 24 hours after the last Israeli soldier left South Lebanon and the day before UNIFIL published its rules of engagement, Hizballah placed roadblocks on all the approaches to the central sector of the South and the entrances to the towns and villages reoccupied by its forces and their rocket units.

These enclaves were declared “closed military zones.”

debkafile reports that neither the Lebanese army which moved south nor the international peacekeepers of UNIFIL venture to set foot in these enclaves. Nor did they raise a finger to block the first broad-daylight consignment of advanced Iranian weapons to be delivered in Lebanon via Syria since the August 14 ceasefire.

This coordinated Hizballah-Iranian-Syrian ploy has brought into question the point of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 which was to prevent the resumption of hostilities and Hizballah’s rearmament while helping the Beirut government and army assert its sovereignty in the South.

It is especially noted that the Israeli government has made no military or diplomatic response to these violations, or even informed the public that Hizballah has redeployed in the precise positions from which it blitzed Haifa, Nahariya, Carmiel, Acre and W. Galilee for more than a month.

The main clauses of the UN force’s just published rules of engagement are open to broad interpretation. For instance, the force's commanders have sufficient authority to act forcefully when confronted with hostile activity of any kind.

The term “hostile” could apply to attackers from outer space since there is no mention of “Hizballah,” “Syria or “Iran.” The “arms embargo” ordered by Resolution 1701 is another unmentionable. “The civilians” to be protected are likewise undefined.


Qaeda-in-Palestine has active operational presence in Gaza and West Bank – video


5 October: This presence is betrayed by the al Qaeda video posted on the internal Hamas Web site Wednesday Oct. 4. The blurred image of “Abu Hafs,” claimed the killing of Col. Jad Tayeh (picture), Abu Mazen’s top intelligence officer and 4 bodyguards in Gaza on Sept. 15. debkafile: Tayeh was Abbas’ go-between with Egyptian intelligence.

The al Qaeda operative states clearly that Abu Mazen and his Palestinian clandestine services are in al Qaeda’s sights: “American security companies hold the military and security of Palestine, have invested capital within the state, and Palestinian leaders do not use the funds for the people or care for them when crises arise.

“To all those who are alert, wake up! The coming danger does not accept halfway solutions. This is the first time since al Qaeda established a Palestinian presence in Gaza after Israel’s Sept. 2005 withdrawal that the jihadist group has come out in the open and confirmed that presence.

The form and content of the 5 minutes 25 seconds clip betray a deep al Qaeda penetration of the top levels of Palestinian leadership and intelligence ranks. It was released at the very moment that Abu Mazen and visiting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice began their news conference in Ramallah.

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