A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending September 1, 2005

Al Qaeda’s First Strike in Jerusalem


25 August: Al Qaeda-Palestine claimed the knifing attack that killed Shmuel Matt, a 21 year old British citizen, in the Old City of Jerusalem, August 24, from its Gaza base. A second badly injured student, an American citizen, made it to the police station to summon help. debkafile summarizes the key al Qaeda text:

After the successful strike in Jerusalem, they (the Palestinians) will soon receive notice of al Qaeda’s first suicide attacks and the extended range of the missiles they aim at Israeli towns. “We are not interested for the moment in a media presence,” said the notice. “We have filmed our operations and will soon release images showing our men shooting from Khan Younes, Rafah, Deir al-Balakh and Beit Hanoun. “Above all we are about to release photos of marksmen firing at IDF troops, and in the last instance at an IDF soldier at Ganei Tal.”


Israel‘s acting finance minister Ehud Olmert fails to obtain firm US undertaking on its $2.1bn aid request


25 August: Assistant Secretary of State David Welch said reform in the Palestinian Authority is essential, but added Israel understands the US position regarding its security fence route and the West Bank.

debkafile‘s Washington sources note that, while heaping praise on Ariel Sharon for his courage in going through with the dismantling of 25 Israeli communities, the Bush administration will hold back financial assistance until he also makes good on the “understood” position. This means that the West Bank security fence must exclude Maaleh Adumim, Gush Etzion, the Binyamin bloc near Ramallah, Ariel and the Beit Arieh region commanding Israel’s international airport. Israel will also be asked to continue pulling back from West Bank territory.


All the Palestinian terror organizations poised for large-scale attacks on Israeli troops and West Bankers


26 August: Israel’s dismantling of Gaza communities was constantly accompanied by Hamas vows to pursue its violent campaign until the last Israeli was dead or out of Palestine and al Qaeda-Palestine’s publication of five threatening communiques.

debkafile‘s military sources reveal that Hizballah’s triple rocket attack on northern Israel Thursday, Aug. 25, was no accident, as some Israeli sources have claimed.

Our military experts see it as the launch of Hizballah’s post-disengagement strategy according to a new rulebook. The Lebanese terrorists were retaliating for the Israeli raid in the West Bank town of Tulkarm in which five Palestinians were killed resisting arrest. At least two were Hizballah agents; the others Fatah-Al Aqsa Brigade operatives in its pay. By striking back on their behalf, Hizballah lets its Palestinian partners claim they are observing the informal truce.

Israel has so far made no response to the dangerous evolution of the terror front as an interlinked and transnational organism.


Omri Sharon is indicted before Tel Aviv Court for corruption


27 August: He is charged with illegal fund-raising for his father’s election primary in 1999 and falsifying accounts.

debkafile‘s political sources report that one of the prosecution’s key witnesses will be prime minister Ariel Sharon.

This is one part of the rationale that has, according to our sources, persuaded the prime minister to start planning his retirement from politics at the end of the incumbent government’s life in November 2006 – that is unless he is toppled before then.

If he opted for an early election, he risks losing the party leadership to Binyamin Netanyahu in a Likud primary. If he keeps going, something may turn up either to improve his situation or let him retire with honor.

The prime minister has been influenced by four more considerations:

1. If he quit Likud to form a new centrist party with Labor (22 Knesset seats) and Shinui (16 seats) leaders Shimon Peres and Tommy Lapid, he could not count on more than one Likud minister, his deputy Ehud Olmert, joining him. This he discovered in a quick canvass of ministerial supporters.

2. His government lost its majority in most key Knesset committees with Netanyahu’s departure from the cabinet. Governance and legislation are thus seriously disabled.

3. All his bridges are burned with the religious and ultra-religious parties (22 seats) as he discovered when he put out feelers. Sharon lost them once when he cut them out of his cabinet and again when he went through with the Gaza and northern West Bank evacuations.

4. According to a new opinion poll, 51 percent of Israelis think that having completed his evacuation plan, Sharon should bow out.


debkafile Exclusive: First outside Palestinian terrorist group to land in Gaza – Ahmed Jibril’s PFLP-GC – snipe at Israeli troops


28 August: The PFLP-General Command bases in Beirut and Damascus are controlled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards unit in Lebanon. In Damascus last week, Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Quraia promised Jibril access for his gang to the Gaza Strip after the Israeli pullout. On orders from his Tehran masters and the Hizballah, the terror master jumped the gun.

According to our intelligence sources, Jibril was told to give Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, currently shuttling between the Gaza Strip, Ramallah and Jerusalem an object lesson, namely, it will be beyond the power of the Egyptian force due to take up position on the Gaza-Egyptian border to keep outside Palestinian forces from entering the Gaza Strip or prevent them launching attacks on Israeli military and civilians.

Israeli military officials are reluctant to take these attacks seriously so soon after the successful evacuation of civilians from the Gaza Strip. But according to debkafile‘s sources, hardline Jibril will use this advantage to intensify his strikes and move on to attacks on the West Bank too.

He is due to be followed by entire Palestinian terrorist commands just waiting to move over to Gaza as soon as Israeli troops leave and Egyptian border police take over the gateway to the Gaza Strip.

Abu Mazen believes the hard-core terrorists from Lebanon and Damascus will strengthen his hand against Hamas and other rivals in return for pursuit of the war on Israel. For this, he will waive billions of reconstruction dollars for Gaza and international control of border posts. However, Palestinian groups vying for domination of post-pullback Gaza will make their mark by attacking Israelis.


The New Gaza: Open Floodgates for Palestinian Militias from Lebanon, Terrorist Commands from Damascus


29 August: The Palestinians are standing fast against any form of Israeli control – even through a third international party – over the border crossings from Egypt into to the Gaza Strip after the Israeli army pulls out of the territory next month. Cairo, while pretending to hear both sides of the argument, is quietly backing the Palestinians. The Palestinian object is the removal of any barrier to traffic through the Rafah border post after Israel’s exit. Although the Egyptians have committed to keep terrorists out after they take over, the Palestinians are counting on them to do as little in this respect as they have done to interfere with their arms smuggling operations from Sinai.


The Sharon-Netanyahu Contest and the Palestinian Agenda


30 August: US president George W. Bush, Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas are certain the Israeli government did the right thing in uprooting Israel’s civilian presence from the Gaza Strip ahead of the final pullback of troops on Sept. 15.

But their gratification is likely to be short-circuited by the rush of events on the ground. Already, Sharon is paying the price for his action: his Likud has set in train steps for his ouster, accusing him of deserting its principles by expelling Israeli communities for nothing at best, a heightened terrorist menace, at worst. His long-time challenger, Binyamin Netanyahu, translates the US president’s praise for Sharon’s courage as “a headwind for Palestinian terror.”

Had Abu Mazen followed up on the Israeli pull-back with determined action to disarm and disband Palestinian terrorist organizations and then moved forward to join Israel in peace negotiations, Sharon could have taken the Netanyahu threat in his stride. But the level of Palestinian terror is climbing day by day, and the first post-evacuation suicide attack has already taken place in Beersheba. Israeli troops demolishing Israeli homes and dismantling their installations are already targeted by the gunmen of the first outside Palestinian terror group to arrive from Lebanon, Ahmed Jibril’s PFLP-GC.

Palestinian violence will fuel Netanyahu’s chances of toppling Sharon – unless the Sharon government shows it can fight back. Evacuated Gaza, far from becoming Abu Mazen’s power base and a place to start the de-terrorization of people, is turning out to be a magnet for his most extreme opponents. PLO politburo chief Farouk Kadoumi is impending and the Palestinian terrorist command bases in Damascus and Lebanon are packing their bags ready for the journey to Gaza.

Mid-September prime minister Sharon is due in New York for the UN General Assembly opening to collect accolades for his bold steps in Gaza and the northern West Bank. He has never made a trip to the United States that was not rudely interrupted by a major terrorist attack at home. He need not hope that September 2005 will be any different.


Syrian president Assad cancels New York trip to UN for fear of arrest


31 August: A second wave of arrests of Lebanese security officials was made overnight Tuesday Aug. 30 on the orders of the UN team investigating the Hariri assassination headed by German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis. French sources report these officials had access to the weapons the former Lebanese prime minister’s assassins used after they blew up his motorcade last February.

debkafile‘s intelligence sources report the Assad regime is in a panic as the UN team’s findings on the murder case draws near. In Beirut, the specter of civil war hovers as Syrian agents and Hizballah officers are seen handing out weapons to Muslims – the first sign that Assad has decided to react to the threat closing in on him by igniting fresh civil bloodshed.

Warnings from French intelligence to were conveyed to Lebanese leaders in the last 24 hours to get out of Beirut and take temporary refuge in Paris. Most Lebanese cabinet ministers, bankers, public figures and newspaper editors accepted the offer.

Our sources add that the Mehlis probe achieved a breakthrough when defectors from Syrian and Lebanese security and intelligence services from the time Damascus dominated the country reached Paris this week. They handed French intelligence incriminating materials and testimony on the part played by the Syrian president and Lebanese president Emil Lahoud in the Hariri murder – enough evidence for international arrest warrants against them.

Also Wednesday, US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice interrupted her vacation for a conference with Terje Larsen, the UN secretary’s Middle East envoy who updated her on the latest turn in the Hariri inquiry. The European Union’s external affairs executive Javier Solana, currently visiting Israel was on the point of traveling to Beirut but changed his mind.


Three explosives-vested suicide bombers, one an Afghani, and two bomb cars apprehended in Shiite Baghdad massacre


31 August: The captives named Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as plotter of the atrocity.

Most of the victims were women, children and old people. The attack unfolded in stages, starting with mortar shelling of the edges of the million-strong procession at the Imam Mousa al Kadim mosque. Hundreds broke through a railing and fell to their death in the contaminated river.

The Shiite government is at pains to keep this information dark to prevent Shiite popular reprisals that could tip Iraqi into wholesale sectarian violence


Musharraf declares Pakistan will not set up diplomatic relations with Israel before a Palestinian state is established.


He spoke in Quetta, Thursday, Sept. 1, after Israeli and Pakistani foreign ministers held first ever open talks in Istanbul. Hailed as a diplomatic breakthrough, the talks took place amid heavy security on the initiative of Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf and Turkish mediation. At a news conference later, Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri said Islamabad had decided to maintain open relations with Israel following its pull-back from the Gaza Strip. Contacts have taken place at various levels for many years, but Muslim Pakistan has always taken a hard line towards the Jewish state. Shalom said he hoped Islamabad’s new open policy would lead to full diplomatic relations – only to be snubbed from Quetta.

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