Israel‘s Pullout-out Changed Nothing
24 September: The Palestinian-Israel war has blown up in force five weeks after Israel evacuated all its civilians from the Gaza Strip and northern West. The scenario was not unexpected. The evacuation operation was plagued by Palestinian shooting attacks, roadside bombs, Qassam missiles and grenades. Israel’s defense minister and generals promised “zero tolerance” for Palestinian attacks – but sat on their hands.
On the West Bank, as Israelis were rooted out of the northern region, Palestinian terrorists regrouped further south undisturbed. Israel’s passivity was most remarked when Palestinian weapons and terrorists flooded into the Gaza Strip from Egyptian Sinai, day after day from stockpiles in northern Sinai. There is no explanation for why Israel omitted to make Egypt’s liquidation of the lethal stocks a condition for handing over the Philadelphi route to Egyptian border police.
According to debkafile‘s military sources, this open door enabled the Hamas and Jihad Islami to beef up their manpower and weapons resources by one third. Incredibly, the Palestinian Authority purchased some of the smuggled goods.
September 23, defense minister Shaul Mofaz, in a lecture in Tel Aviv, laid bare the Sharon government’s policy guidelines.
He made three points:
1. The most important project after the pull-backs is to build up the Palestinian economy as the means of reducing incentives to engage in terrorism.
2. The Palestinian Authority is geared for a genuine, tough struggle to assert its authority over the Hamas.
3. If the Hamas seizes power through the ballot box, Israel will withdraw its cooperation from Palestinian Authority institutions.
debkafile‘s counter-terror and intelligence sources maintain that all three guidelines are totally unreal, based on nothing more than pious hopes.
Mofaz has uncritically embraced the thinking of vice premier Shimon Peres, co-author of the discredited 1993 Oslo Peace Accords, and international coordinator James Wolfensohn, who argue that material prosperity is the cure-all for terrorism. This philosophy has held Israel’s military back from cracking down on persistent Palestinians provocations – even as they divert construction funds to arms stockpiles instead of slum clearance. And the Palestinian Authority has no intention of tackling the Hamas. Its chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, wants to integrate them in his government.
The sentiments expressed by Mofaz are interpreted by Palestinian terror tacticians as meaning that they are getting away with their maneuvers and can continue to advance on their goal of Israel’s destruction without fearing military repercussions.
Israel‘s anti-missile operation is supreme test of its intelligence capability
25 September: debkafile Analysts: The Israeli defense cabinet’s reliance for stopping the Palestinian missile offensive on aerial attacks against Hamas targets, resumed targeted assassinations, or even controlled artillery bombardment, means the Sharon government has ruled out a ground incursion for the time being. The decision to avoid a ground operation makes the air offensive contingent more than ever on the new intelligence system the Israeli army deployed when it withdrew to new lines outside the Gaza Strip two weeks ago. The effectiveness of the ongoing air strikes should become apparent in the decline of Qassam strikes against 45 Israeli towns and villages within their range. But In the best scenario, it will take days of constant pounding to stop them altogether.
But the steering of Israeli warplanes to the correct targets faces a major difficulty: Hamas retains the options of mounting their old-and-tried suicide attacks inside Israel and shooting missiles by night from densely populated urban districts and then fleeing across the border into Sinai. Israel lost the ability to block this maneuver when its troops departed the Philadelphi border enclave of Rafah.
The Hamas parade blast was caused by a smuggled Katyusha rocket
25 September: debkafile reveals: A 107mm Katyusha rocket of 30-35km range blew up in Friday’s Hamas military parade in Gaza, killing 19 Palestinians, injuring 80. This surface rocket packs a bigger punch at more than twice the range of Qassam missiles. It is in general Hizballah use, but was never before shown in Palestinian hands
Sharon Fends off Leadership Challenge, Buys 6 months
27 September: Israeli prime minister Aril Sharon’s victory over his longtime rival and predecessor Binyamin Netanyahu does not prove that the right-of-center Lilkudy has embraced his guiding principles. The losing side did after all garner very close to 50% of the vote, nearly doubling the Likud anti-evacuation rebels’ strength. The rift cutting through the heart of Sharon’s party since last year when he first broached his disengagement plan is more unbridgeable than ever. Netanyahu was rejected, but at least half of Likud has refused to change its ideological spots.
When Sharon expected to lose the vote, he seriously mulled retiring from political life, while also under pressure to create a new party with left-of-center allies. Now, he must use every minute of the six months he has wrested from his party. The Bush administration has been waiting in the wings with demands to follow up the Gaza-northern West Bank evacuations by further pull-outs on a far larger scale from the remaining parts of the West Bank – and not just in word. At the same time, the prime minister will have to take into account the weighty opposition to his policies if he wants to carry off the primary scheduled for April, 2006 and run for a third term at the end of the year.
Monday, Sept 26, he got in by the skin of his teeth and some behind-the-scenes maneuvers that misdirected attention from the security escalation following the Gaza pull-back. Next time, he may have to work harder.
The Israeli air forces strikes over the weekend hardly damaged the terrorist organizations’ infrastructure. The Israel operation with the most bite was staged on the West Bank, rather than Gaza. For three days until Monday, Sept 26, Israeli troops, the Shin Beit and other security branches, acting on orders from Sharon and Mofaz, rounded up hundreds of the ticking bombs and wanted men, but also most of Hamas’s West Bank election campaign staff. Sharon has made himself a player in Palestinian as well as Israeli party politics.
President Bush Contradicts his Generals
28 September: The US president maintained there are enough Iraqi troops ready now to hold northwest Iraqi towns after the terrorists are flushed out to prevent them returning and regrouping. He made a special Rose Garden statement on terrorism to the media the day that two US officers in Iraq spoke of the disturbing gains made by al Qaeda’s commander Abu Musab al Zarqawi in Iraq.
Bush noted that in the successful Tal Afar offensive which captured and killed hundreds of terrorists, Iraqi troops for the first time outnumbered the US force. “Iraqi troops are on the offensive in NW Iraq,” he said, “denying the terrorists safe haven in the Anbar province and impeding their influx from Syria. Only when the situation stabilizes will the US army pull out of Iraq, he insisted.
Earlier, the top US intelligence officer in Iraq Army Maj. Gen Richard Zahner told the Washington Post that “the Iraqi insurgency had been hijacked by a terrorist campaign” led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his foreign and Iraqi associates. The US military command has since the spring seen Zarqawi’s al Qaeda in Iraq as having supplanted Iraqis loyal to ousted Saddam Hussein as the insurgency’s driving element. He stressed “…the Saddamists are essentially riding this, but the individuals inflicting huge amounts of violence are the still numerically inferior Zarqawi network. This shift has affected the focus of US military operations. Since spring, US commanders have focused on shutting off the flow of foreign Islamic extremists infiltrating from Syria from a number of countries. Suicide attacks fell about 50 percent between May and August. More than 315 have been killed since March and nearly 330 detained. But Zarqawi still appears able escalate attacks when he wants and the average level of daily attacks across Iraq continues to creep up, now standing at 90.
“If you don’t take off the terrorist element,” Gen. Zahner said, “the political process can’t mature.”
In another interview, US Marine commander Lt. Col. Julian Alford said insurgents loyal to Zarqawi had taken over at least five key Western Iraqi towns on the Syrian border. Alford, who commands the 1,000-strong Marine unit stationed outside the border town of al Qaim, revealed that al Qaeda is kicking local people out of al Qaim and four towns on the Euphrates – Dulaym al-Husayba, Karabila, Sada and Al Ubaydi – on pain of death. Marines do not venture into these towns which are completely controlled by insurgents who are enforcing strict Islamic law. Most are foreign fighters who crossed in from Syria. No Iraqi soldiers or police operate inside these towns. Alford said he was expecting to mount a joint offensive in al Qaim after the arrival of some 3,000 Iraqi troops “soon,” to make the area safe for the Octo.15 constitution referendum.
Israeli military intelligence AMAN chief reports influx of al Qaeda to Gaza Strip, confirming debkafile‘s earlier reports
28 September: Maj.-Gen Aharon Zeevi affirmed that al Qaeda operatives had taken advantage of the breakdown of controls on the Egyptian-Gazan border in the last 16 days since Israel’s pull-back to infiltrate the Gaza Strip. In a lecture at Tel Aviv University, the intelligence chief offered the view that Israel will have no option but to carry out further unilateral withdrawals.
Gaza-Egyptian Border Open to Uncontrolled Traffic for 16th Day
28 September: debkafile reports: The Rafah crossing from Gaza to Sinai remains open to the continuous flow of terrorists and weapons 16 days after Israeli troops withdrew from the Philadelphi route – in defiance of Egypt-Palestinian pre-evacuation pledge.
Palestinian Terrorists Stream toward Gaza, Undeterred by Israeli Offensive
28 September: War tensions between Israel and the Palestinians have been spiraling upward sharply in the last five days. Israeli air strikes over Gaza alternate with Palestinian missile, mortar and shooting attacks. For the first time, the Israeli artillery battery blasted missile sites in northern Gaza.
The tensions – which flared up after the Israeli pull-back from Gaza and the northern West Bank 16 days ago – are not confined to the Gaza Strip. The Hamas has branched out into a Zarqawi-style atrocity: the abduction, murder and display Tuesday, Sept. 27, of an Israeli, Sasson Nuriel, 50, blindfolded, bound and bloodstained, minutes before they killed him in a Ramallah hideout. The kidnappers threatened to take more Israelis hostage and sentence them to death against the release of Palestinian prisoners. They claimed to have launched a new Hamas unit, the Ezz-a-Dine al-Qassam “Prisoner Release Group,” to carry out abductions on Israeli soil.”
Aside from that new initiative, debkafile‘s counter-terror sources report major Palestinian moves on three additional fronts:
1. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, in Cairo Wednesday, Sept 28, will propose keeping the Rafah border open for a lengthy period when he meets the newly-sworn in president Hosni Mubarak. The Palestinians and Egypt are in cahoots to cut Israel out of any security oversight – even by an international body – and its role in the customs arrangements at the shared Rafah crossing.
2. The passage of smuggled terrorists and banned weapons shipments from Sinai to Gaza has been regularized. Egyptian and Palestinian officers only count the incoming crates to collect $50 toll per unit.
3. Fresh fuel for a future conflagration is piling up with the movement of 1,200-1,500 Palestinian terrorists from the most radical organizations, exported by Syrian intelligence from the refugee camps around Damascus since last Friday, Sept 23, to two focal points in Lebanon: the Beqaa Valley and Sidon on the southern coast.
Revealing this, debkafile‘s intelligence sources report the Assad regime hopes, first, to pre-empt Mahmoud Abbas’ takeover of the Palestinian refugee camps and militias of southern Lebanon and, second, to get them into Lebanon, whence they will be sent on to Sinai by sea, to join the uncontrolled traffic heading into the Gaza Strip and form a pro-Syrian Palestinian terrorist force or militia in the evacuated territory.
The Israel military’s seemingly broadened military offensive in the Gaza Strip is barely enough to slow down the Palestinian missile barrage on neighboring Israeli towns, let alone tackle the ingathering of virulently hostile terrorist forces heading in to the Gaza Strip.