A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending Sept. 7, 2007

USS Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group takes up position opposite Lebanese coast amid trepidation over September presidential election


31 Aug. Our military sources report that aboard the Kearsarge group’s vessels are members of the 22nds Marine special operations-capable Expeditionary Unit, ready to execute landings on Lebanese beaches.

The posting of the Kearsage and a marine force within reach of Lebanese shores is intended as a deterrent and indicator of Washington’s willingness to send the military over to prevent Lebanon’s takeover by Iran or Syria.

Lebanese police are investigating the re-appearance of a sick videogame in Beirut whose goal is the murder of the prime minister, cabinet members, Jumblatt and Maronite leader Samir Geagea, who are designated “thieves and traitors.” Its name, “The Battle of the Seraya,” refers to the government building. The game, which has been removed from stores in Beirut, depicts underground tunnels leading from the government building to the US embassy, echoing Hizballah’s reference to the Siniora government as “the Feltman Cabinet.”


Major shakeup in elite Revolutionary Guards executed by supreme ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Sept 1 takes Iran a step closer to war


1 Sept. In a special decree, Khamenei suddenly sacked Gen. Rahim Safavi and appointed Gen. Mohammad-Ali (Aziz) Jaafari, commander of missile forces, in his place as Revolutionary Guards chief. debkafile‘s Iranian sources disclose: Two years ago, Khamenei entrusted Jaafari, then commander of the corps’ ground forces, with charting a war strategy for the IRGC, the bulwark of the regime, to meet a foreign attack on Iran. His formal task was to set up the corps’ “center for strategy,” which was mandated to “draw up the new strategy and the necessary changes to ensure rapid an efficient transformation of the country’s civilian infrastructure and resources to military footing under the control of the IRGC.”

Our sources that Khamenei has now assigned his most trusted adviser in the elite corps with carrying out the strategy developed in two years as supreme commander of the IRGC. This appointment takes Iran a step closer to armed conflict.


Lebanese army takes control of embattled Palestinian refugee camp from al-Qaeda-linked Islamists – but not the bunkers


2 Sept. debkafile‘s military sources say the battle raging against a pro-Syrian Palestinian Islamist faction holed up there since May is not yet over. The Lebanese army has indeed captured the camp, but an underground labyrinth of tunnels and bunkers has not been purged.

debkafile‘s sources disclose that East German military engineers built the Nahr al Barad subterranean fortress in the 80s for Yasser Arafat and his armed Fatah men as a shelter from Israeli air raids.


Newly-arrived Iranian and Hizballah instructors upgrade Palestinian missile capabilities in Gaza. IDF restrained from striking


3 Sept. debkafile‘s military sources report: The Jihad Islami chief Mohammad al Hindi recently brought back from Tehran dozens of Iranian and Hizballah artillery experts who are training their operatives and advising on the development of upgraded, extended-range missiles. Southern command officers told debkafile: The government forbids us to take out the Iranian and Hizballah missile experts recently arrived in Gaza.

The officers ask why the government appealed to the United Nations, which is helpless, instead of to Egypt, which knowingly allowed the terrorists and their foreign advisers to touch down in Cairo and proceed to Gaza despite an intelligence alert of their arrival. Since they landed in early August, Palestinian capabilities have improved.


Bush on surprise visit to Iraq: It may be possible to maintain security with fewer US troops if current progress continues


3 Sept. Bush capped his unannounced visit to Iraq Monday, Sept. 2, with a speech to cheering US troops at an Anbar air base west of Baghdad. The US president told them their success in the province denied al Qaeda a safe base from which to plot attacks on the USA. He pledged that the draw down of troop levels would depend on “calm assessments by commanders in the field – not poll-driven politicians in Washington.”

debkafile: Bush made no mention of the British military pull-out from Basra Palace and city to an air base at its international airport on the day he arrived in Iraq. The British withdrawal is more of a retreat and is an admission by America’s senior coalition partner in Iraq that its troops have lost control over their area of jurisdiction in the South to anti-West and pro-Iranian Shiite militias and extremists.


Olmert calls cabinet session Wednesday amid pressing demands for broad military action to stamp out missile threat from Gaza


4 Sept. Following a seven-Qassam barrage on Sderot’s schools Monday, several ministers have added their voices to opposition demands to send the army in against “Iran’s forward position” in Gaza. Opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu: It is way past time for a large-scale military operation. “If the government cannot provide security for citizens, then it should quit.”

Sderot’s high school pupils are parked Tuesday, Sept. 4, outside the Knesset in Jerusalem, to emphasize the town’s call for military action to stop the Palestinian missiles which have been flying against Sderot for seven years.

debkafile: They are up against the prime minister’s determination to withhold effective action for protecting Sderot and its neighboring communities that may upset his dialogue with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas – at least until the regional Middle East conference called by Washington for November is over.


Lebanese army chief urges his forces to keep their rifles aimed in “proper direction, Israeli army and terror”


4 Sept. This injunction was included in Gen. Michel Suleiman’s order of the day marking the Lebanese army’s victory over al Qaeda-linked Fatah al-Islam Monday after a four-month battle at the northern Nahr al-Bared refugee camp near Tripoli.


Barak: We are heading for a major ground operation to stamp out Palestinian missile attacks and curb the Hamas military buildup


5 Sept: This statement came Wednesday, Sept. 5, from Israel’s defense minister after a special defense cabinet session on ways to halt the Qassam missile barrage from Gaza.

Tuesday, debkafile disclosed exclusively that Israel had warned Egypt that it was faced with the single option of military action to halt the weapons flow to Gaza. The decision followed the upsurge of missile fire against Sderot and the Egyptian forces’ discovery in Sinai of several dozen 240 mm Katyusha rockets, the first addressed to Hamas and Jihad Islami of the type used by Hizballah to blast northern Israel last year. The rockets were found in a cache with 2.7 tons of explosives.


German, Danish authorities thwart terrorist plots, round up suspects, as 9/11 anniversary approaches


5 Sept. German officials say the threat was massive and would have been bigger than the Madrid and London bombing attacks. Three of the suspects were Germans who converted to Islam and one a Turkish national, all in their twenties and all trained in Pakistan in 2006.

According to media reports, the men had specifically targeted Frankfurt airport and the giant U.S. military base in Ramstein, the main staging hub for Iraq and Afghanistan where some 3,000 German troops are deployed.

Danish intelligence officials, like their German counterparts, confirmed that the eight suspects arrested in Copenhagen this week had direct links to al Qaeda.

US homeland security secretary Michael Chertoff said Wednesday: The continent of Europe remains at risk of orchestrated al Qaeda attacks at home. Al Qaeda continues to carry out active war against the West six years after 9/11.


Tehran seizes initiative for patching up Palestinian feud to steal show from Washington’s Middle East diplomacy


5 Sept. Thursday, Sept 6, Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will receive the heads of 10 Palestinian factions in Tehran, among them Hamas’ Khaled Meshaal, Jihad Islami’s Abdullah Shelah and, most important of all, Fatah’s radical politburo chief Farouk Kadoumi.

debkafile‘s counter-terror sources report this will be the first time Hamas and Fatah representatives sit down at the same table since the former grabbed the Gaza Strip from the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority. It will also be a feather in Iran’s cap.

Iranian leaders believe if they can pull off their bid to reconcile the quarreling Fatah and Hamas, they will be entitled to claim a seat at the international Middle East regional conference convening in Washington in November.


Three Israeli soldiers injured, one moderately, in large-scale overnight counter-terror operation in Nablus


5 Sept. A large explosives manufacturing facility was blown up in the Balata camp Tuesday night and the premises of Hamas and Fatah-affiliated al Aqsa Brigades raided.

debkafile: The operation was part of a comprehensive Israeli sweep of Hamas and Jihad Islami West Bank infrastructure which, notwithstanding nightly IDF raids, is expanding. Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority security services and Fatah-al Aqsa Brigades are not lifting a finger to combat Hamas’ spread – in defiance of his commitment as quid pro quo for the immunity Israel granted last month to more than 100 wanted terrorists. Instead of joining the effort as they pledged, some members of Fatah actively collaborate with Hamas.

Similar operations with arrests were carried out Tuesday night in Qalqilya, Tulkarm, Ramallah and Jenin.


Alert declared in Israeli Air and Air Defense Forces after Syria claimed Israeli jets penetrated its air space


6 Sept. Leaves have also been canceled at IDF bases as Israel braces for a possible Syrian reaction to the incident in the coming hours.

Israeli official spokesmen declined to comment on the Syrian News Agency claim that Israeli warplanes entered its air space from the Mediterranean Sea Wednesday night and flew opposite Al Raqqah in northeastern Syria, breaking the sound barrier. Syria fire forced them to leave without causing casualties, says the report. Arab and European stations quote Syrian sources as accusing the Israeli air force of dropping bombs on empty areas.

A Syrian spokesman warned “the Israeli enemy against repeating its aggressive action” and said his government reserved the right to respond.

A Western diplomat in Damascus said Thursday night: It appears that the Israeli planes were on a reconnaissance mission when they got caught by Syrian defenses and were forced to drop their bombs and extra fuel tanks.

debkafile military sources speculate that Damascus may be seeking to raise military temperatures already high between the two countries for its own purposes, or else fabricating a pretext to go on the offensive directly against Israeli targets on the Golan or indirectly through its allies.


Tension climbs on Israeli-Gaza border, 10 armed Palestinians killed Thursday


6 Sept. Palestinian mortars in Gaza pounded Israeli positions outside Sderot Thursday night after a day of clashes, injuring one Israeli soldier. This followed an incident in which two Palestinian Jihad Islami vehicles, one a truck, were thwarted by Israeli air force action in an attempt to attack an Israeli position north of Kissufim. Five Palestinians were killed. One of their objectives is believed to have been the abduction of another Israeli soldier like Gilead Shalit, who has been held hostage in Gaza now for 14 months.

Five Palestinian Hamas and Jihad Islami gunmen were killed Wednesday in a clash with Israel counter-terror forces operating in an area between Kissufim and Khan Younes. The operation continues.

During Thursday, the Palestinians fired a Qassam missile which caused no casualties or damage. Wednesday night, a Givati infantry unit dismantled eleven missile launchers in the northern Gaza Strip.

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