A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending October 6, 2005

Hamas claims Palestinian Authority’s distortion of local council election results


1 October: Friday, the central election committee announced Fatah had gained 54%, Hamas 26% of the ballots, according to final results of elections for 104 West Bank local councils on Sept 29. In the previous two rounds, debkafile reported a strong Hamas showing which challenged the official figures. Partisan affiliation is hard to determine when much of the voting is on local clan rather than factional lines. debkafile: Israel’s mass arrests weakened the Hamas and Jihad Islami campaign for a strong showing in the ballot. They were ordered by defense minister Shaul Mofaz as payback for the terrorist groups’ continuing missile, mortar and shooting attacks in the Gaza Strip. The vote is seen as a general rehearsal for the Palestinian parliamentary election January 15, 2006


Al Qaeda plans kidnaps of Israelis visiting Egypt and Sinai


1 October: The terrorist combat center in Jerusalem urges Israelis already in Egypt and Sinai to leave at once. The Jewish holiday season begins Monday, Oct. 4.

debkafile adds: Hamas-Gaza also threatens abductions of Israelis. The Palestinian Islamists may be collaborating with al Qaeda operatives who have infiltrated the Gaza Strip through the open Philadelphi border

Last week, Maj.-Gen Aharon Farkas affirmed that al Qaeda operatives had taken advantage of the breakdown of controls on the Egyptian-Gazan border since Israel’s pull-back to infiltrate the Gaza Strip.


A Strategic Pact between Israel and Greece


1 October: debkafile‘s military sources report an important strategic treaty is due to be signed within a few days between Athens and Jerusalem.

Greek defense minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos will soon visit Israel as defense minister Shaul Mofaz’s guest. He will be taken round IDF bases, the military industry complex, air force plants, production lines of the Chariot tank and factories manufacturing military electronics and communications systems.

A few days later, Mofaz will go to Athens for an official signing of the military accords at the head of a large delegation.

debkafile‘s political sources report that for decades, Athens kept its distance from Jerusalem as long as Greece was ruled by a left-leaning government that supported the Palestinians against Israel and depended on the Arab states for its trade and support on the Cyprus question.

But the Kostas Karamanlis government is more than willing for a strategic partnership with Israel now. On his agenda is the modernization of Greece’s security and military systems and their conversion from being geared to hostile relations with Turkey to contending with the Islamic terrorist threat encircling its borders.

Al Qaeda’s Saudi cell and the Lebanese Hizballah have established strongholds in Bulgaria, Macedonia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Albania. Extremist fighters find it easy to slip in and out of Greece.

The two countries’ security services first began to work together when Israeli intelligence and private security firms took responsibility for safeguarding some of the installations and events of the 2004 Olympic Games.


Three Palestinians killed, 36 injured in police-Hamas firefight


2 October: The battle flared when Palestinian police tried to stop the son of late Hamas leader Rantisi at a Gaza City intersection Sunday night. The dead are a Palestinian police officer and two civilians. Palestinian security officers accuse the Hamas party of opening fire. Hamas say the police shot first. As the Palestinian police went on alert, the fighting spread to nearby Shati camp where Hamas shot four rocket-propelled grenades at a Palestinian police station and another at police in Sheikh Radwan, the Hamas stronghold in Gaza City.


Closure of Gaza and West Bank maintained


2 October: Police reporting 50 terror alerts per week are on special alert for the Jewish High Holidays beginning this week and coinciding with onset of Muslim Ramadan. Israel has halted its attacks on Gaza Strip since last Wednesday, Sept 28.

debkafile adds three unpublished events:

1. While the Palestinian Authority announced Sept 23 it was opening the Rafah crossing for “only two day”, the terminal is still open 12 days later. The passage back and forth between Sinai and Gaza takes place with no Israeli security control – contrary to all the pre-evacuation understandings. This is a dangerous precedent should Gaza’s air and sea ports be reopened for traffic.

2. Palestinian and Egyptian police have completely waived restrictions on the passage of terrorists and weapons from Sinai into the Gaza Strip. Israel’s military intelligence chief last week confirmed the entry of al Qaeda elements. They continue to enter freely, their operatives integrated into Hamas and Jihad Islami terrorist infrastructure.

3. The Palestinian Authority which claims to have deployed security units in the northern Gaza Strip as well as the border crossings is not interfering with the shooting or the illegal crossings.

4. Hamas can afford to declare a brief lull. It got away with firing 50 Qassam missiles immediately after Israel’s pullback from Gaza Strip, kidnapped and murdered an Israeli civilian and appears to have made a strong showing in the third round of West Bank local elections.


US troops expanded anti-al Qaeda offensive from Sada to Karabilah near Syrian border, report 28 insurgents killed


3 October: The sweep by 1,000 Marines claimed a two-day toll of 36.

But as debkafile reported, many of the terrorists and insurgents slipped out ahead of the repeated offensives against their sanctuaries and wayside stations from Syria. They usually return when the US force is gone. There are insufficient US and Iraqi troops to impose permanent control over the area, which is way these operations are repeated. Marine commander for Anbar Col. Stephen Davis said the latest offensive would at least dislodge insurgents for long enough to allow residents to take part in the Oct. 15 referendum on the constitution.


Zim Apologizes to Japan, accepts responsibility


3 October: Zim chairman Idan Ofer apologized at the Japanese embassy in Tel Aviv for the accident in which a 40,000 freighter ran down a Japanese fishing boat causing 7 deaths. The Haifa-based shipping company earlier denied causing the mishap.

The Japanese Coast Guard concluded that Zim Asia had caused the fishing vessel to capsize last Wednesday and did not stay to help the distressed crew. Streaks of paint from the sunken fishing craft were found imprinted on its hull at South Korea’s Pusan port. An Israeli transport ministry team earlier set out to question the crew of the Israeli container ship.

Because the Shinsei Manu No. 3 was struck in international waters off Hokkaido, it is up to the Israeli authorities to prosecute the Zim Asia captain. The Israeli shippers promised his company would compensate the families of the dead fishermen.


Al Qaeda in Sinai Has Advanced to Striking Range of the Suez Canal, Israel and Jordan


3 October: Al Qaeda has established local terror networks in northern Sinai – centering on el Arish, as well as strongholds in the inaccessible central mountains of the peninsula around Jebel Hillal. In all, the jihadists control roughly one-fifth of Sinai total area (61,000sq. km or 23,500sq. miles).

debkafile‘s counter-terror sources describe al Qaeda’s Sinai 2005 bastion as better fortified than the original Tora Bora. Interspersed among the natural barriers are bomb traps and anti-personnel and anti-tank mines. The caves perforating the slopes are firing positions – some armed with mortars and heavy machine guns.

The Egyptian have tried large-scale assaults on the al Qaeda mountain fastnesses and failed. They were forced to retreat with heavy casualties.

According to debkafile‘s military experts, the only way for Egypt to wrest mastery of the Sinai heartland from the terrorists is by a combined aerial bombardment coupled with helicopter landings of at least two special forces brigades.

This in present circumstances is not feasible because –

1. The 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty demilitarizing Sinai precludes Egyptian air force operations. In theory, Cairo can approach Jerusalem for permission, but in practice this would expose the Mubarak government to widespread Muslim opprobrium for collaborating with the Jewish state in the war against Islamic terror.

2. Egyptian intelligence does not have an exact count of the anti-air missiles in al Qaeda’s hands.

3. Al Qaeda’s smuggling routes crisscross Sinai day and nigh, freely plied by fighters, weapons, explosives and food. The Egyptians despite every effort have not been able to close down a single smuggling route.

4. Foreign terrorists are welcomed and integrated in to the Gazan logistical infrastructures of Hizballah, Hamas, Jihad Islami and the Popular Fronts. Elements of Hizballah, Hamas and Jihad Islami are given the use of al Qaeda’s logistical facilities in Sinai.

al Qaeda’s Sinai deployment is not just there to nab Israeli vacationers; its terrorist units are within striking distance of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Gulf of Aqaba, the Suez Canal and the Egyptian heartland, as well providing terrorist depth for Iraq and Israel proper.


Four US troops killed by roadside bombs in W. Iraq – 1 in Karabila, 3 in Haqlaniya – as offensive Operation River Gate is launched


4 October: In the second offensive in three days, 2,500 US and hundreds of Iraqi troops aim to root out terrorists and insurgents from Euphrates Valley towns of Haqlaniyah, Parwana and Haditha.

Farther west near the Syria border, 1,000 US soldiers continue operation Iron Fist against Sadah, Rumana and Karabila around al Qaim, strongholds of Abu Musab al Zarqawi where his followers have imposed strict Islamic law.

But as debkafile has reported, many of the terrorists and insurgents slipped out ahead of the offensives against their sanctuaries often into Syria. They usually return when the US force is gone. There are insufficient US and Iraqi troops to impose permanent control over the area, which is why these operations are repeated. Marine commander for Anbar Col. Stephen Davis said the latest Iron Fist offensive would at least dislodge Abu Musab al-Zarqawi`s men for long enough to allow residents to take part in the Oct. 15 referendum on the constitution.

Al Qaeda-Iraq issued call for intensified assaults on US forces during Ramadan, which for most Sunni Muslims began Tuesday


Will Assad Save Himself by Going the Way of Qaddafi?


4 October: How to save Syrian president Bashar Assad and his regime from toppling – or rather how to save him from himself? This was the main topic exercising Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and Saudi King Abdullah when they put their heads together in Riyadh Monday Oct. 3. They needed to talk urgently because the UN investigator of the Hariri assassination Detlev Mehlis had gathered the evidence to indict two of Assad’s close kinsmen, his brother Maher, head of the presidential guard brigade, and brother-in-law, Assef Shawqat, who is married to his sister Bushra, for involvement in the assassination plot against the Lebanese leader.

The clincher was obtained, according to debkafile‘s intelligence sources, in a Lebanese security forces swoop on the MTC Touch mobile phone company in Beirut. The officers copied data from eight telephone lines and took several employes away for questioning. These lines were allegedly used by Maher Assad, Assef Shawqat and two Syrian strongmen, Syrian interior minister Gen. Ghazi Kenaan and director of Syrian Special Intelligence Gen. Rusoum Ghazaleh, and other Syrian intelligence officers for contacts with their Lebanese accomplices who staged the bombing-shooting attack in Beirut last February.

The Syrian ruler’s fate hangs heavily on the final report Mehlis submits on the Hariri case. If he goes right to the top and assigns culpability to the president in person, not even the Saudi-Egyptian effort can save him. But if the finger of accusation stops at his close aides – such as his brother and brother-in-law, or lower echelons such as Generals Kenaan and Ghazale, Assad will hold the option of throwing them to the wolves and jumping aboard the rescue wagon.

He would have to be pretty nimble for this desperate ploy. The men he proposes to sacrifice might well have other plans, such as mounting a military coup to topple him to save themselves.


Putin and Blair discuss global terrorism, trade and the EU in London Wednesday


debkafile: The Russian president is most keen to thresh out two key issues: a change in London’s attitude on the Chechen rebellion. The UK and US refuse to address the Chechen movement as part of global terror despite the presence of Saudi al Qaeda operatives in Chechnya. Putin has little chance of changing this attitude even after the July bombings in London. He has as little chance of persuading Blair to extradite Chechen rebel envoy Akhmed Zakayev, who is wanted in Russia for terrorism (together with Boris Berezovsky sought for fraud). Both enjoy political asylum in Britain.

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