A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending September 8, 2005

An Amazed World Watches a Superpower’s Sluggish Response to Disaster at Home


2 Sept: Five days after Hurricane Katrina devastated the three Gulf states of the United States, President George W. Bush flew in. One angry charge he heard repeatedly was that the relief effort – which he admitted was “unacceptable” – was under-sourced because of Iraq. He replied sharply: “The war in Iraq does not affect the relief effort.”

The hurricane victims were not alone in asking how the same America which took on a war on global terror and two foreign conflicts simultaneously fell so short in coping with its own dire disaster. This question will be engraved on the historical memory of the United States and the world – all because the US president, the commander in chief, took five days to assume command and galvanize the White House staff, the branches of his government and military and police forces for a mighty effort to aid three important states of the Union, which had suffered an indescribable human disaster.

Two days after it broke, he did interrupt his vacation – but only to fly over the distressed region, never to touch down. He then stood in the White House flanked by two former presidents Bush and Clinton and, arguably the worst speech he ever made, asked Katrina victims to exercise patience.

Even after Bush gets his act together, America’s moment of lapsed leadership put unhealthy ideas in the heads of its enemies and non-friends. The impact on America’s world standing, on the Iraq War and the situation in the Middle East will be far-reaching and damaging. The Bush administration is under pressure to pull forces out of Iraq and bring them home; America’s dire emergency is deemed more urgent than installing democracy in Iraq. But the withdrawal of even a small number of US troops from Iraq will be seen by America’s foes in the Arab Middle East as a great victory and leave allied governments vulnerable as never before.

The men of terror, including al Qaeda, will have drawn their own conclusions. To defeat America, the terrorists need no war weapons, only to locate its Achilles heel, places where the largest number of civilians going about their daily lives can be harmed, like high-rise buildings of New York. The terrible scenes in New Orleans will have given them plenty of food for thought.


President Bush orders another 7,000 elite troops deployed in hurricane stricken states


3 September: In a special televised address to the nation, Bush said the Pentagon would deploy active duty troops of the 82nd airborne division, the 1st Calvary and the 1st and 2nd Marine expeditionary forces.

debkafile military sources: These are US elite units elements of which are fighting in Iraq. By diverting them to the emergency operation, the US president may be forced to delay the rotation of those combat elements.


Palestinian leader Abu Mazen: Israel’s handover of Gaza is not enough for an end-of-occupation determination


3 September: He is now demanding more Israeli territory to the north and east of the Gaza line established in the 1993 Oslo Peace Framework accords over Yasser Arafat’s signature.

debkafile adds: The overall Palestinian policy whereby any Israeli concession of land is never enough is fully coordinated between Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas and the Lebanese Hizballah.

Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon to an internationally approved line in May 2001 was again challenged by Hizballah leader Nasrallah Saturday, while the Hamas makes no secret of wanting every inch of Palestine. Both are dedicated to terrorism to achieve their goals, leaving Abbas to try his hand with the salami method until Israel disappears.


Palestinian Jihad Islami like Hamas bares the face of its commander


4 September: A leaflet called Dawn of Victory named and ran photos of seven Hamas Ezz-e-din-al Qassam commanders, some masked. Not to be outdone, Jihad Islami followed suit Sunday, Sept 4, by disclosing the identity of its military chief for the Gaza Strip and West Bank: Mohammed Sheikh Khalil, 33.

DEBKA file’s counter-terror sources report he is the cousin of the notorious Ezz e-din Sheikh Khalil, terrorist guru of Hamas bomb-makers and masterminds, whose assassination in Damascus Israel organized a year ago with a bomb trap in his car.

His cousin has now surfaced as commander of the Palestinian extremist Jihad Islami, which is funded from Iran. His disciple, Muhammed Deif, is presented as the pinnacle of Hamas’ Ezz- e-din-al Qassam pyramid of command. In interviews to Dawn of Victory, the seven terror chiefs announce that when Israeli troops withdraw on Sept 15 they will be confronted with a fully-deployed new front line along Gaza’s borders of small, highly mobile assault squads. Their tasks: to join battle with the enemy (IDF), surveillance and intelligence gathering and preventing Israel troops from re-entering Gaza.

Supreme commander Deif is reported by Dawn of Victory as stating that the arms smuggling tunnels from Sinai to the Gaza Strip will still be important even after the Israeli withdrawal and Egyptian border guards are posted along the Gaza-Egyptian border strip. Hamas, he said, will continue to activate them at full capacity. This statement is clearly at odds with the assurances given publicly by Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman last week.

Like Hamas, Jihad Islami, which launched its “Voice of Jerusalem” radio station Sunday, is emerging from the underground. They are racing each other for domination of the Gaza Strip as soon as Israeli soldiers are gone.

In the last ten days, Hamas fire has been directed against Israeli towns, villages and kibbutzim around the rim of the Gaza Strip and planted big bombs along their roads.


Al Qaeda’s Iraq commander makes cynical use of the hurricane disaster


4 September: The terrorist Abu Musab al Zarqawi issued a statement Sunday, Sept. 4, blessing the elements of nature with which Allah struck the United States. debkafile adds: All Qaeda units including those posted in Iraq and Afghanistan have been placed on the ready for what it call “events to mark the approaching fourth anniversary” of its attacks on New York and Washington


Al Qaeda’s Iraq chief Abu Musab al Zarqawi claims full control of al Qaim


5 September: Witnesses report a new sign outside the Iraqi-Syrian border town proclaiming “Welcome to the Islamic Kingdom of Qaim.” Zarqawi’s men are said to be executing civilians seen as government supporters.

For the last two months, debkafile and DEBKA-Net-Weekly have been reporting on al Qaeda’s advancing offensive in Iraq and Zarqawi’s expanding domination of the large western Iraqi province of al Anbar.


Explosions in a Hamas bomb-making facility in Gaza City killed 5 Palestinians


5 September: The great force of the blasts started several fires and causes buildings to cave in. debkafile‘s counter-terror sources report: The clandestine facility operated out of former home of Muhammed Nadal Farhath the Hizballah suicide bomber who killed 5 Israelis in Atzmona March 7, 2002 Hizballah and Hamas adopted his mother as “Mother of Martyrs.” Israel denies a hand in the blast, which appeared to be an accident. Most of the casualties were women and children.


debkafile Exclusive: UN Hariri murder probe turns up fingerprints of high-ranking Syrian officers


5 September: A key discovery by the UN inquiry team led by the German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis is a secret headquarters the plotters set up in two luxury apartments in the upscale Beirut suburb of Hamra. One was the assassins’ living quarters, the second housed advanced electronic jamming gear which made the slaying of the former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri and 20 others on February 14, 2005, a certainty.

Hariri’s large, heavily protected convoy was equipped with the latest thing in electronic hardware made in America for detecting and defusing explosives, locating suicide bombers or other armed men in the path of the convoy and jamming their firing mechanisms. His equipment also picked up electronic signals emitted from the immediate vicinity of the convoy and listened to telephone calls, including from mobiles in the neighborhood, while blocking listening devices homing in on phone or communications devices operating from the convoy.

But the gear Hariri’s assassins had installed in the al Hamra apartment was customized to breach Hariri’s electronic safeguards. This was deduced by the electronic experts the UN investigator requested from Washington and Paris.

According to our sources, the fingerprints found in the flats clinched the case and enabled the Lebanese prosecutor general to publish his indictment last Thursday, Sept. 1, for complicity in the Hariri murder and a terrorist attack against four top-ranking pro-Syrian Lebanese officers. They also turned up fingerprints belonging to Syrian generals and linking them directly to the assassination.


Israeli high command fears Hamas will exploit the slowdown of the IDF’s withdrawal from Gaza for crowd offensive to grab former Israeli habitations


6 September: This first attempt against Neve Dekalim was fended off Tuesday, Sept. 6. debkafile‘ s military sources report that the Israeli units, there to take down buildings and guard property, have been made vulnerable by the dismantling of their fortified positions ready for the pull-back originally scheduled for Sept 15 – or thereabouts. The high court instruction to the prime minister Tuesday Sept 6 to appeal to international organizations, starting with the US president and UN secretary-general and the Palestinian Authority, to save the Gush Katif synagogues, is a brake on the military withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Hamas and other terrorist groups are already scaling up their Qassam missile and mortar attacks from Gaza on Israeli targets on both side of the Gaza border. Further terrorist aggression may force the Israeli high command to redeploy troops and equipment in evacuated territory.


Three Continents Tense for al Qaeda Action to Mark 4th Anniversary of 9/11


6 September: The places believed most prone to attack are New York and Washington – again – as well as London, Paris, Rome, Warsaw, Moscow, Sofia, Cairo, Riyadh and Tel Aviv. But debkafile‘s counter-terror sources caution against predicting al Qaeda’s next moves. Osama bin Laden’s jihadists rarely strike when and where they are expected; more often than not, they catch their victims by surprise.

Certain manifestations point to an imminent terror operation:

1. Intelligence data trickling out of Iraq in the past month depicts al Qaeda’s commander Abu Musab al Zarqawi as deep in preparations for a terrorist spectacular in Europe or the Middle East rather than the United States.

2. In the last few days, there is a fresh upsurge of coded electronic correspondence among the various al Qaeda branches

3. Intelligence experts predict that the trouble besetting the Bush administration over the Katrina hurricane disaster will predispose al Qaeda to make a special effort to add to American suffering. A hint of this intention was found in Zarqawi’s communique of September 4. He thanked Allah for harnessing the elements of nature against America and swore to carry on from there.


Arafat Murder Is Widely Seen as Palestinian Authority Inside Job


7 September: The assassination of Moussa Arafat was evidently well-planned and carefully staged. According to debkafile‘s counter-terror sources, the crime bears the hallmark of Palestinian minister for civilian affairs Mohammed Dahlan and his sidekick, Gaza preventive security chief Rashid Abu Shebak, two would-be Gaza strongmen who are no strangers to violence. Suspicion is strong that they contracted the Popular Committees’ Salahedin Brigades for the slaying.

Scores of armed men dragged the former Palestinian military intelligence chief and head of national security forces in the Gaza Strip from his home, shot him dead and abducted his son Manhal. In Nablus, the local Palestinian intelligence chief Maher Yousuf wondered aloud how nearly 100 gunmen could have fired rocket-propelled grenades, automatic weapons and grenades for 45 minutes in the heart of Gaza City, which is packed with Palestinian Authority security men, without interference. Another Palestinian official, military security chief, Col. Maher Fares, accused interior minister Nasser Yousef of abetting the murder. He refused to believe the Popular Committees, whose Salahedin Brigades claimed the assassination, acted alone without the connivance of someone in authority. A third Palestinian Authority cited Hamas.

When prime minister Ariel Sharon Tuesday night celebrated the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip as “putting an end to the interminable whining about our situation”, he left out any reference to the backlash on the ground. But chief of staff Lt.-Gen Dan Halutz admitted in a briefing to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security committee Wednesday, Sept 7, that Israel’s response policy to Palestinian terrorist attacks would need amending after the troop withdrawal next week from the Gaza Strip. Far from Israeli official assurances prior to the pullback that the evacuation of the territory would bring greater security, Halutz remarked wryly: “We have mortars too.”

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