A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Weeks Ending June 4, 2015

May 29, 2015 Briefs

  • Ten killed in ISIS bombings at Baghdad five-star hotels
    Islamic State claimed bombings Friday outside two heavily fortified five-star hotels in the Iraqi capital that killed 10 people. A suicide bomber parked a car outside the Ishtar hotel in central Baghdad late on Thursday before driving another vehicle laden with 230 kg of explosives to the nearby Babylon hotel. He detonated himself in the second car at the same time as the first car bomb exploded.
  • Palestinians drop bid to exclude Israel from FIFA
    The Palestinian delegate to the international football association JIbril Rajoub Friday dropped the bid to bar Israel from international football, in response to pressure from dozens of national delegations. Earlier, the Palestinians rejected a four-point Israeli compromise granting Palestinian players substantial privileges and freedom of movement. UEFA president Michel Platini said: “Israel has not violated any [FIFA] regulation, and there is no cause for suspending it.
  • ISIS claims Saudi Shiite bombing that killed four people
    Islamic State claimed a bombing that killed four people at a Shiite Muslim mosque in the eastern Saudi town of Dammam Friday. It was the second ISIS attack on a Shiite target in Saudi Arabia in a week.
  • Enlarged US defense aid to Israel discussed by teams
    The discussions center on a new aid package for when the current $3bn a year expires in 2017. Sources on both sides expect the new deal to raise the figure to $3.6-3.7 billion a year, to assuage Israel’s fears about an unsatisfactory nuclear deal with Iran. Prime Minister Binyjamin Netanyahu said: "There is no trade-off requiring I agree to this (nuclear) deal with Iran. The deal is bad and we will continue to oppose it."
  • US puts onus for fighting ISIS on Iraqis
    “The United States is not going to be responsible for securing the security situation inside of Iraq,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Thursday. “It is up to the Iraqis to fight and defeat the Islamic State,” he said. “Our strategy is to back the Iraqi security forces… with coalition military air power as they take the fight to ISIL in their own country.” debkafile: Washington knows that the Iraqi government and army are no longer up the task and it will fall to the Shiite militias activated by Tehran.

May 30, 2015 Briefs

  • A Russian plane evacuates nationals
    A Russian plane delivered 21.5 tons of humanitarian aid to the Syrian regime-held port city of Latakia, and evacuated sixty-six Russians, seven Belarusians, four Ukrainians and three Uzbek nationals from the embattled country.
  • ISIS-Sinai threats to bomb Eilat port “in the coming days”
    The Islamist Sinai Province, known as Ansar Bait al-Maqdis before joining ISIS, threatened Saturday to strike Eilat Port, in partnership with the ISIS wing in the Gaza Strip. Abu Othman al-Mosley, a northern Sinai Islamist leader, called for the enlistment of new members to fight Egyptian security forces, attack Hamas’s military arm, Ezz e-din Al-Qassam, and take control of the Gaza Strip.

Iran weighs turning Hizballah’s anti-Israel missiles against Assad’s enemies

30 May. Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah frequently brags that his 80,000 missiles can reach any point in Israel. He may have to compromise. His masters in Tehran are eyeing the re-allocation of some 1,000 long-range missiles in his arsenal for attacking ISIS and saving the Assad regime in Damascus. Iran is also weighing a defense pact with Syria to enable Iranian troops to come to Assad’s aid. If this plan does go through, Iranian spy drones over the war arenas would feed Hizballah rocket crews with targeting data on ISIS positions and movements.

May 31, 2015 Briefs

  • Israel practices national preparedness for war, mass evacuations
    The IDF “Exercise Turning Point 15” was launched across Israel Sunday with the accent on the functioning of national infrastructure utilities, including, water, power, gas and food supplies for populations affected by a major multi-front and/or terror attack. Large-scale evacuations of civilians will also be tested. Taking part in the exercise lasting until June 4 will be the army, air force, navy, homeland command, the National Emergency branch of the defense ministry, other government ministries, local councils, Magen David, hospitals and the fire brigade. Sirens will alert the population to simulated attacks, excluding the communities around the Gaza Strip which get enough practice from real alerts.

June 1, 2015 Briefs

  • At least 45 Iraqi officers killed by three exploding vehicles
    Three bomb-laden vehicles were blown up beside a police base in Iraq's Anbar province and killed 45 Iraqi army officers, some of high rank.
  • Kerry cancels appointments after bicycle accident
    Secretary of State John Kerry cancelled the remainder of his overseas trip, including the lead in nuclear talks with Iran, after breaking his leg Sunday while cycling near Geneva. Saturday, he met with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.
  • Iranian general in Syria to deal with Assad army’s predicament
    Exclusive: Iran’s Gen. Qassem Soleimani was sent post haste to Syria Sunday to deal with the Syrian army’s accelerating retreat in the face of advancing rebel and ISIS forces to the point of imperiling the Assad regime. debkafile reports that Soleimani was accompanied by the heads of his general staff who are also running Iran’s interventions in Iraq and Yemen.

ISIS arrives in Gaza: Supporters of the “Islamic State of Jerusalem” sighted on Israeli border

1 Jun. ISIS fighters were spotted for the first time in the Gaza Strip this week, debkafile reports. Ansar al Dawa al-Islamia, renamed “Supporters of the Islamic State of Jerusalem,” has established a substantial anti-Hamas presence on the Gaza-Israel border. As Israeli, Egyptian and Hamas’ military sources made light of this development, ISIS went into action. The group took responsibility for assassinating a senior Hamas officer, attacks on Hamas bases,; a threat to target Eilat Port “in the coming days” and jointly with the Gazan ISIS wing take control of Gaza. Ansar al Dawa is preparing to declare the Gaza Strip a province of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

June 2, 2015 Briefs

  • Some 2,000 US AT-4 anti-tank weapons consigned for Iraq
    A Pentagon official reported that of the 2,000 AT-4 anti-tank weapons destined for Iraq, 1,000 were delivered directly to the government in Baghdad. The other half will be held by the US-led coalition for training Iraqi troops and future contingencies. The official said the AT-4s would serve as defense against approaching explosives-vehicles driven by suicide bombers, such as ISIS used in the capture of Ramadi last month.
  • Two siren alerts Tuesday drill Israel’s readiness for attack
    As part of the IDF’s preparedness drill for enemy cross-border attack or invasion, sirens were scheduled to wail across Israel at 11:05 local time and again at 19:05. Civilians were expected to run for bomb shelters.
  • US anti-tank missiles delivered to Lebanese army
    A shipment of improved American BGM-71C or TOW II anti-tank missiles with a range of up to 3.75 kilometers landed at Beirut airport Tuesday. The weapons have optical and thermal tracking capabilities.
  • ISIS launches surprise assault in push for Aleppo
    The Islamic State opened a new Syrian front over the weekend taking its fighters within reach of the Turkish border town of Azaz, after controlling checkpoints in the small town of Sawran. Videos posted on social media depicted four heads from decapitated bodies tossed into the back of a truck. Azaz controls access to an important Syrian-Turkish border crossing and is a lifeline for rebel forces in the city of Aleppo. Syrian rebel forces have appealed for international assistance to counter the new ISIS offensive, explaining that if Azaz fell it would cut their supply lines and “Automatically the Islamic State would gain control of Aleppo city.”
  • Anti-ISIS coalition ministers say Iraq must do more to enlist Sunnis
    The meeting in Paris Tuesday of some 20 ministers from Western and Middle Easter coalition countries including Saudi Arabia and Turkey focused on helping Iraq reverse its biggest military defeat in nearly a year – the fall of Ramadi, just 90 km west of Baghdad. "Ramadi was a big blow," said a French diplomatic source, “but it's crucial that everybody in Iraq is part of the fight against Islamic State."

Hamas-ISIS firefight in Gaza. Islamists on Israeli border

2 Jun. ISIS supporters were shot dead in Gaza Tuesday, June 2, in their first firefight with Hamas forces who had come to arrest them. The Islamists had planted a bomb trap in their hideout. The showdown occurred 48 hours after the Ansar al Dawa al-Islamia, renamed “Supporters of the Islamic State of Jerusalem,” gave Hamas a 48-hour ultimatum to end its crackdown on the group and release dozens of suspected Islamists held for a series of attacks. debkafile: ISIS fighters were spotted for the first time this week on the Gazan-Israeli border. They have threatened to target Eilat Port

June 3, 2015 Briefs

  • Armed motorcyclists kill two Egyptian police at Giza pyramids
    Gunmen on a speeding motorbike Wednesday shot dead two tourist police officers guarding the famous Giza Pyramids outside Cairo.
  • Trans-Saharan jihadist swears allegiance to ISIS
    In an audio statement, prominent trans-Sahara jihadist leader Lehbib Ould Ali Ould Said Ould Jumani (a.k.a. Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi) declared allegiance to the Islamic State on behalf of himself and a section of the organization that he leads, Harakat al-Tawhid wal-Jihad fi Gharb Afriqiya (Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa—MUJWA).
  • Egypt’s El-SiSi on state visit to Berlin
    Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, who traveled to Berlin on Tuesday, is scheduled to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Joachim Gauck and German business leaders in an effort to boost economic, military and security ties.
  • UK diplomat: London opposes boycott calls against Israel
    Deputy UK Ambassador to Israel Rob Dixon said that "the British government vehemently opposes calls to boycott Israel. We are deeply committed to promoting trade and business ties with Israel, he said, adding: "Britain will never let those who want to boycott Israel to impede a 60-year partnership that does so much to strengthen both countries. He was responding to a decision by the British National Union of Students (NUS) to join the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement against Israel. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the fact that the British NUS is willing to boycott Israel but refuses to ban ISIS says it all about the organization.
  • Boston police shoot dead terrorist suspect brandishing knife
    Boston law enforcement officers shot dead Usaamah Rahim, 26, Tuesday when he came at them with a large knife. They had come to question him as part of a terrorism-related investigation.
  • PM Valls: 110 French jihadists have died in Iraq and Syria
    French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Tuesday that 110 jihadists who left French territory to fight with the Islamic State group had died in Iraq and Syria. "More than 860 individuals have traveled to these countries, 471 of which are still there and 110 of which are dead, of whom nine died in suicide bombings," Valls told the Senate.

Iranian Rev Guards ready to intervene in Syria to save Assad. Soleimani: Expect major developments in Syria

3 Jun. Tehran is believed to be preparing to dispatch a substantial Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) special operations unit to Syria to tackle the separate encroaching rebel and ISIS advances closing in on the Assad regime, Western and Arab intelligence sources report. Tuesday, June 2, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, supreme commander of Iranian forces fighting outside the country, said enigmatically that “major developments” are to be expected in Syria “in the next few days.” He also said “the world would be pleasantly surprised.” These words are taken as presaging the first direct IRGC intervention in the Syrian war. If this happens, it would be the Revolutionary Guards’ first direct intervention in Syria in the nearly five-year Syrian war instead of the using Shiite proxies.

June 4, 2015 Briefs

  • Israel air strikes follow Grad rocket attack from Gaza
    Two long-range Grad rockets fired by Islamists in Gaza exploded on empty ground in the Sdot Negev-Netivot regions Wednesday night setting off code red alerts. There were no casualties. The Israeli Air Force struck back overnight against two Hamas and one Islamic Jihad facilities, although the “Omar Brigades” (Al Qaeda or ISIS) claimed responsibility and vowed to keep on attacking the “Jewish infidels.” No Palestinian casualties were reported. Thursday, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon again pledged that Israel would not stand for a “trickle” of rockets against its civilian communities and held Hamas would be held to account, no matter which “rogue groups” claimed responsibility.
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