A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Weeks Ending Aug. 28, 2014

Islamic State posts execution of US journalist to deter Obama from further involvement in Iraq war

20 Aug. Iraqi Islamic State terrorists released a video online Tuesday night, Aug. 19, showing the beheading of American photo-journalist James Wright Foley, 40 after threatening to punish the US and Britain for air strikes in Iraq. debkafile: Al Qaeda’s Iraqi wing has been sighted gearing up for a counter-offensive against Peshmerga and the Iraqi army to deter any further US or foreign intervention in the Iraq war, as Iraqi and Kurdish leaders wait tensely for a decision by Barack Obama.

August 22, 2014 Briefs

  • Three people injured, one gravely, when a Hamas rocket hit their car
    A direct rocket hit to a car in Gan Yavne injured three people Friday night. Injured critically was a solider just back from the Gaza front.
  • Four-year old boy killed by mortar identified as Daniel Tregerman
    Daniel Tregerman, aged four and a half, was killed by mortar shell Friday while running for shelter in Kibbutz Shear Hanegev.
  • A Hamas rocket hits Ashdod synagogue injuring three people
    At least three people were injured and dozens went into shock when a Palestinian rocket from Gaza struck a synagogue in Ashdod Friday. Another rocket exploded on open ground in Tel Aviv. The blast reverberated through the city but no warning sirens were activated. .
  • Palestinian Jerusalemites shoot at neighboring Jewish home
    In a first incident of this kind in many years, Palestinians from the Sheafat refugee camp in northwest Jerusalem opened fire on a house in the neighboring Pisgat Zeev suburb.
  • Rocket seriously wounds a man, damages buildings in Beersheba
    A multiple rocket barrage directed by Hamas against Beersheba Friday was partly downed by Iron Dome, but one rocket exploded between houses seriously injured a man and caused heavy damage to buildings. More than 100 rockets fired Friday.
  • DEBKA: Abbas-Meshaal meeting in Doha breaks up
    Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas traveled to Doha to persuade Hamas political chief Khaled Meshaal to accept a unified Palestinian stand on a Gaza ceasefire at talks with Israel in Cairo. debkafile reports exclusively that the two Palestinian leaders quickly broke up in shouts and abuse.

Hamas executes 18 Palestinians as informers

22 Aug. Hamas executed 18 Palestinians as Israel informers Friday, Aug. 22 – shooting eleven at a police station in Gaza City and seven publicly outside the city’s central mosque. This method was seemingly counseled by Iranian and Hizballah advisers to deter Israel from further targeted liquidations of Hamas’ military chiefs. The gruesome images from Gaza ought to have dispelled Egyptian and Israeli illusions that Hamas, any more than the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, seeks a political solution of the Gaza conflict. What these Palestinian extremists want is a bloodbath.

August 23, 2014 Briefs

  • Rocket fire from Lebanon and Syria. IDF withholds response
    One of two rockets fired from Lebanon Saturday night struck a holiday village in Western Galilee, injuring one person. Rockets also landed in the Golan from Syria. No one was hurt. Israel received guarantees through UN peacekeepers that these were one-time incidents.
  • Hamas executes 4 more alleged Israel informers
    Hamas has now executed by shooting 27 Palestinians accused of spying for Israel – four of them women – after killing another four Saturday. Seven were shot dead in a public square outside a Mosque after Friday prayers. The victims’ heads were shrouded in hoods and their hands tied behind their backs. The executions were taped and released for publication.
  • Gunmen kill 68 people at Iraqi Sunni mosque, halting unity talks
    At least 68 people died at the Musab bin Omair Mosque in the eastern Iraqi Diyala province during Friday prayers, when a suicide bomber burst in followed by gunmen. Sunni politicians reacted by withdrawing from the talks on forming a new unity government, although there were conflicting reports about who was behind the attack.

More southern Israeli dwellers head north away from rocket fire

23 Aug. A steady stream of Israelis living next door to the Gaza Strip headed north Saturday, the day after a four-year old boy was killed by falling mortar shrapnel. Community leaders complained that the government has the tools for ending the agony and is not using them. More than 100 Hamas rockets battered southern Israel Saturday.

Will Obama take the fight against IS into Syria?

23 Aug. President Barack Obama must take into account that any decision to extend US military action against the Islamic State to Syria would have the effect of rescuing Bashar Assad’s rule in Damascus from the Islamist peril and strengthening the presence of his Hizballah and Iranian allies in Damascus. debkafile: It would also bear on the security of Israel and Jordan. Considering Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi’s recent undercover contacts with Assad, a US decision may also affect his calculations in hosting diplomacy for an accommodation of the Gaza conflict.

August 24, 2014 Briefs

  • IS captures key Syrian Tabqa air base. Hundreds killed in battle
    Two weeks of fierce fighting ended Sunday with an Islamist siege force breaking through to the strategic Tabqa airbase southwest of their northern stronghold of Raqqa. Hundreds of the 1,000 Syrian soldiers trapped there were killed. This is IS’ second major victory after conquering Iraq’s second city of Mosul in early July.
  • Palestinian mortars injured 5 Israelis ferrying Gaza wounded to Israel
    The five Israelis injured by Palestinian mortar shells, three in serious condition, were at the Erez crossing Sunday to pick up wounded and sick Gazans for treatment in Israeli hospitals, when they were hit by mortar fire from inside the Gaza Strip.
  • Netanyahu to defense minister: Hit every source of terror in Gaza
    Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Sunday issued new directives to Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon: Strike every source of terrorist attack from the Gaza Strip. No more immunity” for civilians.

Hamas gains strategic edge by hitting Israel with attrition

24 Aug. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Sunday, Aug. 24 that Operation Defensive Edge would end “only when quiet returns to southern Israel. Till then, we shall continue to hammer Hamas – for now by air.” debkafile: This approach leaves Hamas with the initiative and advantage of surprise against the IDF. And so, despite its inferiority in numbers and weaponry, the Palestinian Islamists have scored two strategic gains: they have dragged Israel willy-nilly into a war of attrition, and emptied its southern communities of 70 percent of their dwellers in flight from rocket fire.

August 25, 2014 Briefs

  • Hamas accelerates rocket-mortar attacks Monday
    By Monday evening, after launching 130 rockets at a large spread of targets, Hamas rocket and mortar crews accelerated the rate of fire, sending rockets against more than a dozen locations, including Greater Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion airport, which were intercepted by Iron Dome. Mortar fire intensified on locations closest to the Gaza border. According to a TV Channel 2 poll, popular approval for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s performance has plunged from 82 percent a month ago to 38 percent at present.
  • Iranian TV shows purported Israeli drone downed near nuclear site
    The brief video, aired on the Arabic-language Al-Alam TV, shows what the channel says are parts of an Israeli spy drone drone, scattered in an unidentified desert area, after being shot down by Revolutionary Guards Saturday. It is identified as a Hermes 450, a known Israeli model, but the parts shown had not visible Israeli markings.

Gazan buildings reduced to dust as Israelis flee rockets

25 Aug. Community leaders of 40,000 dwellers of the dozens of kibbutzim, moshavim and small towns adjoining the Gaza Strip spoke out Monday, Aug 25: “The populated front line facing the Gaza Strip is no more.” Some bluntly blamed this fiasco on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and their management of the operation against Hamas. They juxtaposed the untenable situation of Gaza buildings reduced to dust by Israeli air strikes against the disappearance of Negev communities as refugees.

August 26 2014 Briefs

  • Three police officers injured in Palestinian riots across Jerusalem
    The Gaza truce Tuesday night set off Palestinian riots and clashes with police in Silwan, Shuafat, A-Tur and Jebel Muqaber. Police using crowd control measures dispersed the mobs.
  • Jerusalem police searching for New Jersey yeshiva student
    Aaron Sofer, 23, of Lakewood, New Jersey, has been missing since Friday, when he went on a hike with a friend in the Jerusalem Forest, the police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. Police have launched an extensive search for the ultra-Orthodox yeshiva student with the participation of some 500.
  • Barzani: Iran begins supplying Kurds with arms to fight Islamists
    Mustapha Barzani, president of the Iraqi Kurdish republic disclosed Tuesday that Iran had begun sending weapons for the Peshmergo to fight Islamist encroachments. debkafile: Until now, the US and Israel were the Kurds’ primary arms suppliers and military backers.
  • Egyptian, UAE conduct air strikes against Libyan capital
    Alarmed by the growing threat of Libya’s Islamist militias, Egypt and the Emirates conducted two air strikes against Tripoli in the past week without informing Washington.

Israel-Hamas truce deal in effect Tuesday 7 p.m.

26 Aug. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi brought Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip to accept an unlimited ceasefire in hostilities in effect from 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 26, based on the 2012 deal. Netanyahu did not ask for his ministers’ endorsement, knowing he did not have majority support in the cabinet. During the 50-day conflict, Hamas violated all eleven agreed truces.
The Palestinian group’s patrons, Iran and Hizballah, also encouraged Hamas to accept a ceasefire as part of a tradeoff, in the hope of US recognition of their ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad, as the only Middle East figure capable of fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – IS.

August 27, 2014 Briefs

  • Netanyahu: We can’t promise prolonged calm
    Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, summing up the 50-day operation against Hamas, said Wednesday that the ceasefire marked a tremendous military and political achievement. Hamas was sorely beaten and failed to attain any of its conditions. At the same time, Netanyahu admitted that it was too soon promise lasting calm. “Destroying a terrorist organization is not an easy task. But if it goes back to shooting, Israel will hit back seven times harder before.”
    Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz addressed the televised news conference Wednesday night after the prime minister.
  • Australia posts counterterrorism units at largest airports
    New counterterrorism units are posted at Australia's two largest airports and have already intercepted a person of interest, the prime minister Tony Abbott said Wednesday. They would soon be introduced at all the country’s international airports.
  • Nearly all Palestinians favor Gaza rockets against Israel
    A poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion has found 88.9% supporting the firing of rockets from Gaza at Israel and 75.4% believe that “Palestinian Resistance” deterrence has increased. Hamas: For truce, Israel halts targeted assassinations
    Hamas leader Mussa Abu Marzuk claimed Wednesday that Israel undertook to halt targeted assassinations and give Hamas leaders the freedom to come out of hiding and move about freely in the Gaza Strip. He claimed this commitment was part of the understandings which led up to the ceasefire deal that went into effect Tuesday night.
  • The two Hamas mortar victims before the ceasefire are identified
    Kibbutz Nirim Security Officer Zeev Etzion, 55, and Shahar Melamed, 43, kibbutz member, were killed by a Hamas mortar bomb attack shortly before the Gaza ceasefire went into effect Tuesday. Seven people were injured.
  • Spreading criticism of government acceptance of Gaza truce
    The Gaza truce, which went into effect Tuesday night, has stirred a storm of criticism. Some called it “capitulation to terror.” Eshkol District council head Haim Yellin told a radio interviewer Wednesday that the ministers should have made their decisions from the south, instead of seats in Jerusalem. Individually, they may be amazing people, he said, but the government as a collective was “one big circus.”
  • Rocket belonging to Syrian M302 class injured 71 people in Ashkelon
    The rocket that injured 71 people and destroyed two buildings in Ashkelon Tuesday was an R-160 belonging to the Syrian M302 class of rockets which are normally armed with 90 kilogram of explosives. This type of rocket is exceptionally destructive. The one fired by Hamas was estimated to have carried a reduced warhead of 60 kilos to extend its range as far as Tel Aviv. But it fell short, striking a residential area of Ashkelon, which is why no red alert was triggered. The last known Hamas launch of an R-160 was against Haifa on July 9. For it to cover the 110km distance, the warhead was stripped of most of its explosive charge. The rocket which exploded in Ashkelon carried the biggest warhead of any so far used by Hamas.

The Israeli drone downed by Iran took off from Azerbaijan

27 Aug. Tests by Iranian aviation and intelligence experts indicate that the Israeli Hermes 450 drone downed Aug. 23 over the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility took off from Azerbaijan’s Nakhchivan Airbase, debkafile reports exclusively. Our sources add that the Hermes 450 boasts a range of video and still cameras that can capture extremely high-resolution color images. Thermal imaging devices allow the cameras to operate in poor visibility and almost any weather condition. Iran has made concerted efforts to stop regular drones from Nakhchivan from spying on its nuclear program, but failed until now.

August 28, 2014 Briefs

  • Obama convenes national security team on Iraq and Syria
    President Barack Obama has summoned his national security advisers for a special consultation Thursday on the war on Al Qaeda’s Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.
  • Al Qaeda abduct 43 UN peacekeepers on Golan
    The Syrian branch of Al Qaeda, the Nusra Front, Thursday captured 43 UNDOF personnel at the Quneitra crossing of the Golan as hostages and laid to siege all the other UN positions in the disengagement zone between Israel and Syria.
    Israeli forces fire on Palestinians making threats on Gaza border
    Israel troops fired att a Palestinian gang making threats from the Gaza border Thursday. One crossed over and was apprehended near Kibbutz Nahal Oz Hamas accused Israel of breaking the ceasefire.
  • Russian tanks cross into S. Ukraine to aid rebel counteroffensive
    US and Ukrainian sources report that Russian heavy weapons have crossed into S. Ukraine, apparently to aid rebels in what is shaping up as a major counteroffensive on a new front along the border.

Israeli forces caught up in Al Qaeda’s complex toils in both in Golan and Gaza

28 Aug. The battle for Quneitra has no real military importance for the Syrian conflict at large, says debkafile. The Syrian army, helped by Iran and Hizballah, is winning and the rebel side crumbling. However, integrated in the rebel contingents fighting for Quneitra, with US, Israeli and Jordanian backing, are Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front fighters and its Sinai arm, Ansar Beit Al-Madis, which works hand in glove with Israel’s foe, the Palestinian Hamas with which Israel has just ended a 50-day war. When a black Al Qaeda flag flies over Quneitra 200 m from its Golan border, Israel will face a new dilemma, which will take some explaining.

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