A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Weeks Ending July 30, 2015
July 20, 2015 briefs
- Cutbacks in IDF non-combat personnel in next budget
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen/ Gady Eisenkott Monday released his five-year plan for cutting back on military spending. It entails reducing regular forces by 2,500, slashing the reserve army by 100,000 men and women, as well as the artillery brigades and light infantry battalions. Eisenkott also proposes reducing the age of field brigade commanders from an average 40-42 to 32.
- At least 32 killed in first ISIS suicide attack in Turkey
In the first ISIS attack in Turkey, an 18-yeard old suicide bomber Monday blew up a municipal culture in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa’s Suruç district near the Syrian border, killing at least 32 people and injuring more than a hundred.
Israel to Ashton: Iranian forces mustn’t be allowed to dump ISIS on Israeli Golan
20 July. Israeli leaders’ main business with visiting US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter when they meet Monday, July 20, is their concern about Tehran’s possible endgame in fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. They asked Carter to make sure that the US did not let Tehran harness Hizballah and Syrian troops to help its Shiite militias push ISIS onto the Golan and the Jordanian borders.
July 21, 2015 briefs
- US pilot hailed as ”The Man Who save Tel Aviv” is dead
Louis (Lou) Lenart, an American fighter pilot, hailed as “The Man who saved Tel Aviv” during the opening days of Israel’s War of Independence, has died, aged 94 in Raanana, Israel. At 17 he enlisted to the US Marine Corps and saw action the Battle for Okinawa and other Pacific missions. In early 1948, Lenart joined the clandestine effort to smuggle surplus planes to the nascent state of Israel. On May 29, large Egyptian forces had advanced to within 16 miles of Tel Aviv when Lenart, as only of four Israeli fighter pilots, led the attack on the Egyptian columns. They retreated. That was how the US pilot became “The Man Who Saved Tel Aviv. Lenart produced six feature films, including “Iron Eagle” and “Iron Eagle II.” He is survived by his wife Rachel, his daughter and grandson.
July 22, 2015 briefs
- The EU targets Israeli banks in labeling goods made in settlements
The European Council for Foreign Relations Wednesday proposed including Israel banks in the boycott measure for labeling Israeli goods made in “settlements” in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It would now cover bank loans and mortgages, qualifications earned in settlement institutions and the tax-exempt status of European charities that deal with Israeli settlements. Under European Commission guidelines from 2013, EU- and member-state-funded lending cannot be provided to Israeli businesses and individuals operating in the “occupied territories.” Israel has denounced Europe’s steps as discriminatory, wrongheaded and anti-Semitic.
- First French Rafale fighter jets delivered to Egypt
Egypt has taken delivery of the first three of the 24 Rafale fighters jets bought from France in a 5.2 billion euro deal. They are armed with advanced ordnance including guided air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles and come with a missile vessel to be launched at the ceremony marking the widening of the Suez Canal on Aug. 6.
Iran buys 100 Russian refueling aircraft for its air force to reach any point in the Mid East
22 July. Iran has ordered 100 Russian IL78 MKI tanker aircraft for refueling its air force in mid-flight, debkafile reports exclusively. The transaction runs contrary to the ten-year arms embargo embodied in the nuclear accord the six world powers have just signed with Iran. Able to simultaneously refuel 6-8 warplanes, they bring Israel, and the Middle East at large – within easy range of Iranian aerial bombardment. It puts Iran ahead of Israel in mid-air refueling resources.
Secretary of State John Kerry can expect some really hard questions during his trip on exactly how the Vienna accord makes the region safer.
July 23, 2015 briefs
- Roadside bomb kills four Egyptian servicemen in Sinai
An Egyptian officer and three soldiers were killed when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb Thursday near the Sinai-Gaza border town of Rafah. The attack came a few days after seven soldiers died in an attack by the Islamic State Sinai affiliate on a checkpoint.
Israel gives Jordan 16 Cobra helicopters to fight ISIS – with US approval
23 July. In the first publicized Israeli military hardware transaction with an Arab nation, Israel has handed Jordan 16 decommissioned Cobra combat helicopters free of charge in support of its large-scale aerial-commando operation in the Iraqi province of Anbar to carve out a security barrier against ISIS intrusion.
ISIS infiltrates Egyptian special forces, joins with Hamas to occupy N. Sinai, liquidate Sisi
23 July. The Islamic State’s success in infiltrating elite military units and banding together with the Palestinian Hamas poses mounting danger to the life and rule of Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi. debkafile: A large group of Egyptian officers and men has defected to ISIS led by Hisham al-Ashmawy, who is seen as the hand behind the prosecutor general’s assassination and other attacks on regime officials. Tuesday, July 21, the Multinational Force and Observers in northern Sinai came under attack for the first time by a joint ISIS-Hamas force. The attack is ongoing.
July 24, 2015 briefs
- US, Turkey impose partial no-fly zone over Syria
Turkish military sources reported Friday that the US and Turkish air forces had established a “partial no-fly zone” 40-50km deep inside Syria and 90km in length. It covers all the Idlib province of northern Syria up to the Aleppo.
- Jordan shuts only Iraqi border crossing “indefinitely”
In view of its war operations in Iraq, the Jordanian army Friday shut down the only border crossing between the kingdom and Iraq “indefinitely.” The Trebil terminal, athwart the Amman-Baghdad highway, was cleared of civilian traffic to make way for reinforcements and supplies to reach the units battling ISIS in the Iraqi province of Anbar without delays.
Jordan launches war on ISIS in Iraq, Turkish warplanes hit ISIS in Syria. US and Israel involved in both operations
24 July. The Middle East woke up Friday, July 24, to two new fully-fledged wars launched by Jordan and Turkey for cutting down the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The US and Israel are involved in both campaigns. Jordanian armored, commando and air forces have struck deep inside Iraq, aided by Cobra helicopters provided by Israel; Three Turkish F-16s struck three Islamic State targets in northern Syria. Both conducted mass arrests of suspected Islamist terrorists. Ankara also approved US air strikes against ISIS from Turkish air bases, including Incirlik.
July 26, 2015 briefs
- White House justifies Turkey’s use of anti-ISIS operation against Kurds
White House spokesman Alistair Baskey justified Turkey’s “right to defend itself against terrorist attacks by Kurdish rebels” – a green light for Turkish forces to use their proclaimed anti-ISIS operation to settle accounts with the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) in Syria and Iraq. The PKK thereupon declared its two-year truce with Ankara at an end.
- Palestinian rioters on Temple Mount hurl rocks at Tisha Be’Av
Tens of thousands of Jews gathered at the Kotel (Western Wall) Sunday, the 9th Day of the month of Av, the annual day of mourning, fast and lamentation for the destruction of the First and Second Temples. Overhead, on Temple Mount, masked Muslim rioters had stored a supply of rocks, bottle bombs and fire crackers overnight in Al Aqsa mosque, for hurling at police guards as they arrived to secure visitors and pilgrims on the mount and worshippers at the Kotel against attack. Three police officers were injured.
The police, under a hail of flying objects and streams of an unidentified liquid, drove the rioters into the mosque and shut the heavy doors.
July 27, 2015 briefs
- IDF rehearses surprise large-scale call-up of reserves
Automated call-up messages were tested Monday for the first time by the IDF for the surprise mobilization of reservists from all branches of the armed forces – air, land, sea and Home Front Command. Thousands were told to report to recruitment centers to drill responses to different kinds of attack, including strikes against national infrastructure, rocket fire from the Gaza Strip or Lebanon and other war scenarios, including cyber attack. The Home Front Command will rehearse rescue operations in Holon and Neurim. The exercise lasts until Wednesday.
Assad in a position of strength after Vienna deal with Iran
27 July. Syrian President Bashar Assad, in his first public speech in a year, Sunday, July 26, admitted to losing territory. But debkafile reveals he was quietly handed a new Iranian rehabilitation plan for his army, which reorganizes divisions and brigades into three armored commando super-divisions, one each for the northern, southern and Damascus fronts.
July 28, 2015 briefs
- Jonathan Pollard to be released on Nov. 20
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked announced Tuesday night that the US Parole Commission has decided to release Jonathan Pollard on Nov. 20, after 30 years in an American prison. He was convicted of spying for Israel during his employment with the US Navy as an intelligence analyst.
- CNN poll: Most Americans reject nuclear deal
A majority of Americans want Congress to reject the recently-negotiated nuclear deal with Iran, even as President Barack Obama's approval rating continues to stand in net-positive territory for the second month in a row, according to a new CNN/ORC poll. Overall, 52% say Congress should reject the deal, 44% say it should be approved.
- Hollande warns Iran: Face attack if you break nuclear accord
French President Francois Hollande has warned his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani that if Iran fails to fails to uphold the nuclear accord signed in Vienna, Israel and a coalition of other nations may decide to attack its nuclear facilities.
- Eisenkott: Comprehensive military exercise is key to victory
Lt. Gen Gady Eiskenkoot, IDF chief of staff, while inspecting the progress of Israel’s large-scale reserve call-up drill launched Monday, said: “We decided to press the entire army into the current exercise in order to gauge its full potential for defending the country against every possible threat and achieving victory.”
July 29, 2015 briefs
- Erdogan to discuss a missile deal in Beijing
Although Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Beijing Wednesday with 100 business executives. Ankara has tentatively transacted to purchase a $3.4 bn Chinese missile defense system.
ISIS wipes out the Syrian army’s largest strategic arsenal, flattens sections of Al Safira complex
29 July. As the US and Turkey got started on a new air campaign against the Islamic State in Syria, the jhadis pulled off their most devastating attack yet on the Syrian army’s biggest arsenal. They subjected the giant Al-Safira military complex north of Aleppo to a steady blitz of an estimated 50 Grad missiles from Monday night to Tuesday, July 28. debkafile’s military sources report that Facility No.790, a large depot of the Syrian army’s strategic weapons, including chemicals, was set on fire and flattened. Many Iranian technical personnel were present at the facility.
July 30, 2015 briefs
- Justice Minister: Remove land disputes from High Court
After two Beit El buildings were torn down Wednesday in obedience to a High Court ruling, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (pro-settlement Bayit Yehudi Party) proposed removing land disputes in Judea and Samaria from High Court jurisdiction and referring them to regular courts. The two buildings were demolished after three days of clashes between protesters and the police.
Later, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu approved 300 new housing units in Beit El, as per a three-year old government promise of alternative housing in another part of Beit El for hundreds of voluntary evacuees from the Givat Ulpana district, that was built on Palestinian land.
Iran orders from China 150 J-10 fighter jets that incorporate Israeli technology
30 July. Iran is about to purchase from China the Chengdu J-10 multirole jet fighter, known in the West as the Vigorous Dragon, according to an exclusive report from debkafile. Beijing has agreed to sell Tehran 150 of these sophisticated jets, which are comparable to the US F-16. From Moscow, Tehran has ordered 250 the highly-advanced Sukhoi-Su-30MK1 fighters as well as 100 in-flight refueling planes. The scale of Iran’s multibillion acquisitions from China and Russia indicates that Tehran’s top spending priority for funds released by the lifting of sanctions will be the construction of a spanking new air force.