A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending September 15, 2005

First Palestinian indicted in Israel as an al Qaeda terrorist


8 September: Israel’s military prosecution indicted Mahmoud Rahman Mutlaq Varidath, 26, from Dahariya southwest of Hebron on charges of actively participating in training and operations on behalf of the al Qaeda terrorist organization. He took courses in weapons, combat in open terrain as well as bombing-making in theory and practice at a training facility near Kandahar in eastern Afghanistan, visited three times by Osama bin Laden. Hereturned to Dahariya through Pakistan but after the 9/11 attacks, he decided to go and fight in Afghanistan against American forces.


As anarchy spreads in Gaza, the Israeli troop pullback from Gaza is put on fast forward


9 September: Israeli soldiers will be ready for exit at 24-hour notice before the allotted Sept. 12-15 timeline. Palestinians attempted to break into former Morag Wednesday night, after planting large shape bombs on the Kissufim route which were safely disarmed. Early Thursday, Sept. 8, Palestinians shot at Israeli troops on Philadelphi border route. No one was hurt.

Later Thursday, Gush Katif evacuees will congregate in the central synagogue of Neve Dekalim for a last, leave-taking prayer together. Thursday, the Palestinians turned down the last Israeli compromise proposal on the border crossing dispute, which is to shut the Rafah terminal down for six months until international security monitors and equipment are in place.


US military reviews its anti-insurgent tactics for Tal Afar offensive


10 September: debkafile‘s military sources describe Tal Afar as the microcosm of a fundamental problem in Iraq: the US-coalition and Iraq are short of the troops necessary to repel the creeping insurgent-al Qaeda occupation of al Anbar province, which has already engulfed al Qaim and Hasbaya.

The insurgents and al Qaeda’s Iraqi chief Abu Musab al Zarqawi simply retreat in the face of every US-Iraqi advance, only to return after its pull-out.

This time, to break the cycle, the US high command plans to broaden the territory targeted for cleaning out terrorists, extending operations from single towns to complete provinces. Large-scale strength will be deployed to take over and flush the enemy out. More US troops will encircle these regions in defensive array to block the insurgent flight. Military planners in Washington believe the guerrillas will find it difficult to withdraw quickly to regions outside their sanctuaries where the population may be less hospitable and US forces are lying in wait. On the move they will also be more vulnerable to US air strikes.


The Israeli flag lowered symbolically over the Gaza Strip


11 September: During the night, armored columns rolled out of the territory and by Monday morning, the last Israeli soldier was gone. The last parade ending 38 years of Israel’s presence in Gaza was addressed by Chief of staff Dan Halutz, OC Southern Command Dan Harel and Gaza commander Aviv Cochavi.

All Israeli civilians were evacuated from Gaza last month in stage one of the Sharon government’s its disengagement program. Signs were put up marking the synagogues left behind as holy places.


What Prompted Mofaz’s Synagogue Mutiny?


11 September: What was behind these unexpected changes of heart on the synagogues? debkafile offers some theories.

1. Some of the ministers now admitted that expelling 10,000 Israelis from their homes last month had left a personal mark painful enough to deter them from further national shocks.

2. For some too deeply buried Jewish instincts held their hand against forcing young Israeli soldiers to commit an act that would outrage many. They may even have sensed an atavistic fear of a reckoning one day with their Maker.

3. The ministers’ wooden acceptance of the evacuations may have cracked when they heard their prime minister refer cynically to “structures that once served as synagogues?”

4. Or perhaps it was about politics. The elected may have sought to store a saving grace against the moment when they needed to confront an electorate whose psyche has been scarred by the chilling efficiency of the evacuations.

The most intriguing question is what led Shaul Mofaz to raise the flag of mutiny against the prime minister. For eighteen months, his obedience to Sharon’s evacuations decree has been almost machinelike. debkafile‘s analysts believe he felt his loyalty had been rewarded with a kick in the teeth when Sharon abruptly snatched security responsibility for the Gaza Strip and handed it to vice prime minister, Labor leader Shimon Peres. This means he will have to go running to the dovish Peres each time the evacuated Gaza Strip is used as a Palestinian firing position or terrorist base against Israeli targets.

Furthermore, Mofaz’s expectations of becoming the Likud’s crown prince in the succession race were disappointed. When Binyamin Netanyahu quit as finance minister, Sharon coolly passed him over in favor of – again – the Labor leader Shimon Peres.

By this move, Sharon forced the majority to choose between him and splitting the party in favor of his two rivals, Netanyahu and Uzi Landau. To woo the party round, Sharon is promising there will be no more evacuations. But his choice of the Oslo peace accords architect Shimon Peres as his partner points him in the opposite direction.


Stiffest US warning to Syria yet


12 September: US Iraq ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told a news conference at the state department: “Our patience is running out” On the help Damascus is giving radical groups in Iraq, he added “all options are on the table,” including military.

debkafile adds: The US ambassador’s statement coincided with the arrival in Damascus of the UN Hariri murder’s UN investigator bearing testimony with dangerous implications for the Assad regime, the progression of the massive US-Iraqi offensive against Tal Afar, the Iraqi way-station for terrorists incoming from Syria, and the expiry of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s 24-hour ultimatum to US forces to halt the offensive or face a chemical attack.

Khalilzad went on to urge Syria to close the training camps. “If people like Zarqawi were to dominate Iraq, it would make Afghanistan under the Taliban look like a picnic.”


UN Hariri investigator gets a helping hand from… Assad’s uncle Rifat


12 September: debkafile Exclusive’s sources report: When he went to Damascus Monday, Sept 12, Detlev Mehlis, head of the UN team investigating the murder-plot against former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, was armed with a secret weapon. He left the Syrian capital empty-handed and will return next week, after taking advice from the UN secretary and Security Council.

That weapon is the testimony taken from Col. Zuheiri Safi, a Syrian intelligence officer who defected to Paris in early August and proved a gold-mine. He supplied his French intelligence interrogators with the names of colleagues directly complicit in the assassination. He also named the contact men in President Bashar Assad’s bureau and among his close aides who were instrumental in the various stages of preparing the conspiracy.

Among them is the director of Syrian military intelligence Asaf Shouaqat, the president’s brother-in-law.

debkafile‘s Washington sources reveal that the assistance rendered by the Syrian president’s uncle Rifat Assad was crucial in getting Col. Safi to open up. He liaised between him and the American and French parties on the terms of his defection. Without his mediation, there would be no direct evidence linking President Assad’s bureau to the crime.

Rifat has long harbored ambitions to become president of Syria and, with Bashar gone, he would be a leading candidate to succeed him.


Abu Mazen pledges “to control chaos in Gaza” by end of year


12 September: In an interview with Corriere della Sera, whose reporter was kidnapped by armed Palestinians Saturday, Abbas said that with the pullout completed, he will be able to better deal with the problem. The Palestinian leader stood by his refusal to disarm Hamas.

debkafile adds: Abu Mazen has pledged often to control chaos and violence.

He invariably demands more time and Israeli concessions of one kind or another to cover his inability to deliver. His preference for putting terrorists on the Palestinian Authority payroll rather than disarming them has proved useless as a means of instilling law and order.


Gazan Palestinians ravage their own fledgling economic infrastructure


13 September: Looters made off with the greenhouses, supposed to have given 14,000 Palestinians a living, and vandals dismantled the Erez industrial and workshop center, which had jobs for another 12,000.

The Peres Peace Center and international coordinator James Wolfensohn raised $14m to buy the greenhouses from the Israeli farmers and so keep the Palestinian workers in their former jobs after their Israeli employers left.

In Erez, the former joint Israeli-Palestinian ventures were ransacked and torn down or vandalized, power centers were smashed and electric wiring pulled out of walls and stolen.


Israeli naval- air force shield for new US oil tanker supply route through Jordan to Iraq


13 September: debkafile‘s Exclusive sources in Eilat report that a new US fuel supply line to Iraq began operating through Jordan last month. Every few days, a US supertanker puts in at the Jordanian Red Sea port of Aqaba and transfers the oil to escorted overland convoys cutting through the Hashemite Kingdom to US forces in different parts of Iraq.

Jordan provides the port installations (built with financing from the defunct Saddam Hussein regime); Israel, the port tugboats and a naval-aerial protective umbrella.

Our Eilat sources report that the Israeli tugboats are fitted with state of the art navigational electronic gear for guiding the supertankers into harbor for unloading and then out to sea. The Israeli naval-air force umbrella provides environmental protection without entering Jordanian air space or waters.

According to debkafile‘s counter-terror sources, the July 23 al Qaeda Katyusha attack on Aqaba and Eilat was planned to disrupt this route by blowing up the first US supertanker due to enter Aqaba port the night before.


Palestinian Gunmen Broke up Palestinian Authority’s Gaza Celebration


14 September: Heavily armed Palestinian terrorists jumped on the stage, fired in the air and broke up the Palestinian Authority’s “national” celebration of Israel’s withdrawal in Neve Dekalim. Around 2,000 arrived, some masked, carrying weapons of all kinds and their own flags. The general public stayed away, as did the PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Before he was interrupted, PA secretary Tayeb Abul Rahim declared: Ariel, Maaleh Adummim and Gush Etzion will all be evacuated!


The UN General Assembly Ducked Definition of Terrorism in its 60th Anniversary Session


14 September: “The deliberate targeting of civilians” was deleted under Arab pressure in support of the Palestinians. The entire section on disarmament and nonproliferation was dropped, making for a watered-down agenda.

In his speech to 160 world leaders, Bush pressed the world to crack down on terrorism. UN secretary Kofi Annan called for a comprehensive convention on anti-terrorism. However the major world powers could only agree on a blueprint prohibiting “incitement to terrorist acts” without identifying those acts.


State Legal Aid Pledged Israeli Officers Facing “War Crimes” Suits in Europe


13 September: Israeli justice minister Tsipi Livneh promised legal aid for Israeli officers or soldiers facing detention in Europe on “war crimes” for taking part in counter-terror operations.

She pledged a vigorous diplomatic campaign among European governments to annul legislation which made this possible as “immoral and likely to boomerang.”

Warning of a war crimes warrant forced Maj-Gen (Res) Doron Almog former OC Southern Command to return to Israel without disembarking at Heathrow from an El Al flight.

Draft legislation would impose 3 years in jail for Israeli suing members of national security forces in foreign countries. The law is proposed by the Knesset foreign affairs and security committee chairman Yuval Steinitz.


Because of Egyptian Police Failure to Control the Gazan Border, Cairo Wants to Rewrite Accord with Israel


14 September: Wednesday night, Egypt laid down fresh terms for restoring the border to normalcy after Egyptian security police watched tens of thousands of Palestinians indulging in a wild rampage in and out of Gaza and northern Sinai for the last two days.

Now, Cairo is saying that sealing the border against the Palestinian masses is too much for the Egyptian border police. Therefore they want to scrap the deal they signed – to shut down the Rafah crossing for six months until proper security measures are installed. Instead, they want to keep it open, promising only to repair the breaches in the border wall and prevent Palestinian egress to Sinai.

Israeli security experts say the Egyptians are trying to trap Israel into accepting three precedents:

1. Accords that Egypt signs with Israel need not be honored. Under Palestinian pressure, they can be easily scrapped or amended.

2. Only two days after its pull-out, Israel can be forced to let go of its insistence on security controls at the Rafah crossing and let the Palestinians get away with free passage.

3. Israel can be maneuvered into giving up its planned border terminal at Kerem Shalom.

The Egyptians also informed Israel that 5,000-6,000 secret police officers, members of the dread Mukhabarat, are to be deployed in Sinai to locate and send home the thousands of Gazan Palestinians, who took advantage of the bedlam at the open border to stay in Egypt


The Palestinians pour their Sinai arms dumps into Gaza


14 September: They took advantage of four days or unrestricted border transit. With them came a fresh influx of terrorists, including arrivals from Lebanon. According to debkafile‘s Exclusive’s military sources, the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Jihad Islami and other Palestinian groups have poured many tons of explosives, rockets, RPGs and missiles into Gaza. An Israeli officer estimated the quantity would have kept three large Sinai-Rafah arms tunnels busy around the clock for a year.

Thursday, September 15, thousands of Palestinians continued to flock across the border unchecked by Egyptian or Palestinian police.

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