A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Weeks Ending May 28, 2015

May 15, 2015 Briefs

  • Obama greets new Israeli govt with push for Palestinian state
    Shortly after Binyamin Netanyahu’s new government was confirmed, President Barack Obama said Israel's long-term security would be best served by reaching an agreement to live alongside a recognized Palestinian state.

May 16, 2015 Briefs

  • Jerusalem woman wounded by gunshot from Palestinian area
    A Palestinian sniper’s bullet from Shuafat, north Jerusalem, injured an Israeli woman in neighboring Pisgat Zeev Saturday night. During the day, Palestinians started fires in the wadi separating the two Jerusalem neighborhoods.

May 17, 2015 Briefs

  • Policeman injured, 2 Palestinians held in Jerusalem disorder
    Israeli police broke up Sunday a Palestinian mob lobbing rocks and bottle bombs – first at a group of Israeli civilians, then at police officers come to restore order – at the Jerusalem Old City’s Damascus Gate. One policeman suffered light head wounds. Two Palestinians were detained.
    In another incident, Israeli vehicles were damaged by Palestinian rocks on the Hussan bypass road in south Jerusalem. The incidents occurred ahead of the Jerusalem Day’s Flags Parade which passed through the Old City’s Muslim Quarter.

US Special Ops raid killing five ISIS chiefs had to be coordinated with Syria and Russia

17 May. The US Delta Special Operations raid that killed ISIS oil chief Abu Sayyaf Saturday, May 16, could not have taken place without prior US coordination with Damascus and Moscow, debkafile: Washington’s denial of such coordination did not preclude a prior notice to Moscow, which then passed it on to Damascus. The US, Russia and the Assad regime pulled together for the first time against the Islamic State for an operation that killed not one but five top ISIS commanders. John Kerry is believed to have set up the three-way collaboration when he met Vladimir Putin in Sochi on May 12.

May 18, 2015 Briefs

  • New justice minister criticizes inordinate court sway
    Israel’s new Justice Minister Ayalet Shaked said Monday: “The impression gained in recent years is that decision-making and governance are not the province of the people but have been taken over by the courts of justice.” Addressing a meeting of the Israeli Bar Association in Eilat, Shaked commented that “the basic tenet at the heart of judicial doctrine is that court rulings must not contradict the will of the people but serve it.” This issue is at the heart of our public debate, she said. “
  • Shin Bet intercepts 40 diving suits for Gaza
    A consignment of diving suits labeled as sports outfits was stopped by Israeli customs officials at the Nitzana crossing Monday. The Shin Bet suspected they were destined for Hamas’ naval commando unit, which during the IDF Gaza operation last summer, mounted an abortive raid from the sea on Kibbutz Zikim.

Ramadi’s fall opens ISIS road to Baghdad. Jordan warns US air strikes won’t stop the terrorists’ advance

18 May. Jordan’s King Abdullah has warned Washington that US air strikes alone can’t stop the Islamic State’s advances in Iraq and Syria. Neither are they an obstacle to an Islamist incursion of his kingdom next door, which would also put Saudi Arabia in peril. He criticized Washington’s efforts to play down the Islamists’ core strength. In Amman, the king Sunday fired the Minister of Interior, the head of internal security (Muhabarat) and a number of high police officers. debkafile reports: They were dismissed for losing authority in the southern Maan district against the rising influence of extremist groups identified with Al Qaeda and ISIS.

May 19, 2015 Briefs

  • Herzog to Norwegian FM: Hamas is building more terror tunnels
    Opposition leader Yitzhak Herzog informed visiting Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende Tuesday that, day by day, Hamas is building more terror tunnels from the Gaza Strip for cross-border attacks on Israeli civilians.
  • Arab military chiefs approve Egyptian-led intervention in Libya
    Arab military chiefs held an unpublicized meeting in Cairo Monday to coordinate plans for Egyptian-led regional intervention in eastern Libya (Cyrenaica) to root out the armed extremists who have kept the country locked in chaos since Muammar Qaddafi’s ouster, and install a stable government. Present were the chiefs of staff of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Sudan and the Libyan Tobruk government. Talks are ongoing with France and Libya to pitch in. They own an interest in containing the flood of African refugees beating on European shores from Libya.

May 20, 2015 Briefs

  • US approves large-scale guided bomb, bunker buster sale to Israel
    According to a Defense Security Cooperation Agency announcement, the US has approved the sale to Israel of over 20,000 guided bomb kits and 8,650 associated warheads, including additional 5,000 lb 'bunker busters’ – as well as 250 AIM-120C Advanced Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAMs) and 3,000 AGM-114K/R Hellfire missiles. The total cost is $1.9 billion. The Hellfires were held back during Israel’s operation against Hamas last summer.
  • Three police officers injured when run down by Palestinian vehicle
    A Palestinian driver was shot dead after he ran down three Israeli police officers, one a woman, in Abu Tor, Jerusalem. Palestinian protesters pelted police cars and ambulances as they arrived on the scene.
  • No plan for separate bus lines for Palestinians and Jews
    Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon denied Wednesday any plan to run separate bus services for Jews and Palestinians on the West Bank a few hours after it was widely reported. He referred only to a pilot program to ascertain that Palestinian commuters traveling to work in Israel return to their West Bank homes at the end of the day, but segregation was not part of that plan.
  • Khamenei stands fast on no UN access to nuclear scientists
    Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Wednesday that, in the ongoing negotiations with the world powers, Tehran would not allow “the privacy of our nuclear scientists…to be violated,” by interviews. Neither would inspections be permitted of Iran’s military sites following Western allegations that they were used for secret tests on a nuclear warhead.

May 21, 2015 Briefs

  • Iran wants 24 days notice for nuclear inspections
    France's foreign minister Laurent Fabius reported that Iran demands 24-days’ notice before international inspectors can visit its nuclear sites in the event of a suspected violation of a deal with world powers. He cautioned that "a lot of things can disappear" in 24 days.
  • Israel’s defense exports total $5.66bn in 2014
    In 2014, Israel’s defense industries signed new contracts for sales worth $5.66bn, according to Defense Ministry figures. This figure breaks down to $2,964 to Asian and Pacific countries; $937 to North America; $716 to Latin America; $724 to Europe; and 318 to Africa. debkafile: The figures have dropped in sales to the US and Europe, and rising for Asia.

The US and Iraqi and Syrian armies fall to pieces against ISIS drive. Alarm in Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia

21 May. Ramadi’s fall in Iraq and Palmyra’s in Syria proved ISIS’s ability to rock the Middle East to its foundations. Watching the threats closing in on their borders, Jerusalem, Amman and Riyadh grasp they may have to contend alone – not just with Iran but also with ISIS.

May 22, 2015 Briefs

  • E. Saudi Shiite mosque explosion kills twenty
    An ISIS terrorist blew himself up during Friday prayers a the Imam Ali Shiite mosque in the village of Al-Qadeeh in the oil-rich eastern Qatif region of Saudi Arabia, killing 20 and injuring 50 people. Qatif is home to millions of Shiites who are employed in the kingdom’s main oil center. debkafile: ISIS undercover agents aimed to stir up sectarian violence in the Shiite minority against the Saudi crown.

May 23, 2015 Briefs

  • Nasrallah calls for full Hizballah mobilization for Syria
    "This is the time for everyone to mobilize, everyone who can participate. The danger facing us is an existential one that is similar to that in 1982," said Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah Saturday. “If the organization had not fought in Syria, it would have found itself fighting inside Lebanese territory, he said in an attempt to justify the heavy losses the organization has sustained in fighting alongside Bashar Assad’s army.
  • US thwarts anti-Israel vote on ME nuclear weapons ban
    US Under Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller Friday blocked a proposal by Egypt and other Arab countries for the UN Secretary to call a regional conference on banning WMD in the Middle East. That conference would be with or without Israel's participation, without agreement on an agenda and with no discussion of regional security issues. The US veto, backed by the UK and Canada, caused the once-in-five years review of the nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty to end Friday without consensus. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called all three governments to express Israel’s appreciation.

US and Hizballah coordinate spy drone flights over Qalamoun, share US combat intelligence

23 May. The US has joined the battle for Qalamoun. debkafile discloses that a US special operations unit, stationed at the north Lebanese Hamat air base, is directing unarmed Aerosonde MK 4.7 intelligence-gathering flights over the Qalamoun Mt arena, 100 km to the west. Since Hizballah is operating Ababil-3 surveillance drones over the same battlefield, US-Hizballah coordination became necessary. The US military is working directly for the first time with an internationally-designated terrorist organization. This strange pair of bedfellows has earthshaking ramifications for Israel’s security, strategic ties with the US, intelligence on its northern borders and its surveillance drones.

May 24, 2015 Briefs

  • Two Jewish teens stabbed in Jerusalem Old City
    A Palestinian man was detained by police Sunday after a chase through the Old City of Jerusalem on suspicion of stabbing two 17-old Israeli boys near Damascus Gate. They were taken to hospital with moderate injuries.
  • Yemeni Houthis reportedly down Saudi jet, destroy border crossing
    The F-16 Saudi-led coalition jet was reportedly shot down in the Bani Harith district of Sanaa, the capital, as heavy artillery fire blew up part of the main border crossing between Yemen and Saudi Arabia Saturday night. debkafile: If the F-16 did indeed take off from Yemen’s northern al-Dalaimi air base, it would indicate that the long-neutral Yemeni air force has come down on the side of the exiled president Abd Rabbou Mansour Hadi.

Exclusive: ISIS columns heading from Syria toward Jordan, first targeting the border crossing

24 May. Columns of ISIS tanks and armored cars (made in the US and taken booty in Iraq) were heading Sunday, May 24, from Palmyra for the Jordanian border – a distance of 250km – with no Syrian troops there to block their advance, debkafile reports exclusively. Their initial target is the eastern section of the border, including the meeting point between the Syrian, Jordanian and Iraqi frontiers. The US maintains 7,000 special operations troops and an air force unit in the Kingdom of Jordan. President Barack Obama must now decide whether to react to a potential ISIS invasion of Jordan.

May 25, 2015 Briefs

  • Gilad Erdan named Public Security Minister with expanded powers
    After long dickering, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Monday appointed Gilead Erdan Public Security Minister, with additional powers as Minister of Strategic Affairs, charge over the Israeli Broadcast Authority and membership of the inner security cabinet. He will also be responsible for the government’s information campaign against a nuclear-armed Iran and counteracting international efforts to boycott Israel and deny its legitimacy. MK Benny Begin stepped down as Minister without Portfolio to make way for Erdan to take Likud’s 12th place in the cabinet. The ministers approved the appointment by telephone vote. Former ambassador to the UN Dore Gold was named Director General of the Foreign Affairs Ministry – a portfolio held by the prime minister.
  • Former PM Ehud Olmert sentenced to 8 months prison for corruption
    Jerusalem district court, reversing a former verdict, sentenced former prime minister Ehud Olmert to eight months in prison and NIS100,000 fine on charges of fraud and breach of trust. The sentence, for accepting cash in envelopes from the US businessman Moshe Talansky, was ruled to run consecutively with the six year-sentence imposed on Olmert in the separate Holyland bribery case. He has 45 days to appeal.

No army in Mid East is challenging ISIS. Iran regroups to defend S. Iraqi Shiites, Assad to save Damascus

26 May. Not a single competent army capable of launching all-out war on ISIS in Syria or Iraq is to be found between the Jordan and the Euphrates and Tigris to the east, or Ramadi and Riyadh to the south. Iran is regrouping to save the Shiite towns and oil of S. Iraq – especially the the shrine towns of Najef and Karbala, as well as the Basra oil fields; Assad and Hizballah, falling back to defend Syrian cities and block the Lebanese border with their depleted armies. May 24, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said the Iraqi army had shown no will to fight. UK ex-army chief Lord Dannatt called for 5,000 British ground troops to fight the Islamists in Syria and Iraq. Iranian Al Qods Brigades chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani was quoted as saying: “The US didn’t do a damn thing to stop the extremists’ advance on Ramadi.”

Five long-range rockets from inside Gaza City target southern Israel, claimed by Islamic Jihad and Popular Front

26 May. Sirens across southern Israeli Tuesday night, May 26, warned of at least five incoming rockets from the Gaza Strip. One long-range Grad rocket exploded in the industrial zone of the coastal city of Ashdod near the Big In shopping mall which was crowded at the time; another hit Frankfurter St in the town. More explosions occurred at the entrance to Gan Yavne. No casualties were immediately reported, except for shock victims. debkafile: The rockets were fired from the Sheikh Ajloun district of Gaza City, and spotted by IDF surveillance by air and land.

May 27, 2015 Briefs

  • Iran: nuclear talks may be extended past June 30
    Iran’s state TV said Wednesday that the self-imposed June 30 deadline for Iran and the six major powers to reach a final nuclear deal may be extended. France's ambassador to the United States, Gerard Araud, said on Tuesday that the deal was not likely by that deadline, because differences still remain over inspections

Assad pulls air force out of Deir ez-Zour, the third Syrian air base surrendered to ISIS

27 May. Just a week after losing the big Palmyra air base to the Islamic State, Syrian military and air units Wednesday, May 27, began pulling out of another big air base at Deir ez-Zour – Bashar Assad’s last military stronghold in eastern Syria. debkafile: In the Islamic State’s sights now, is the Syrian army’s biggest air facility, T4 Airbase, which is located on the fast highway linking Homs with Damascus 140 km away and holds the backbone of the Syrian combat air fleet.

Israeli Air Force strikes four empty “terror” targets in Gaza for five Palestinian rockets

27 May. Israel resorted Tuesday night, May 26, to its old routine response to the firing of five rockets from the Gaza Strip by the aerial bombardment of four “terrorist” targets. Once again, Hamas hurriedly removed its personnel from the targeted facilities in time to escape casualties. For Israel it was an opportunity missed. The first Palestinian long-range Grad rocket attack since last summer’s Israeli operation in Gaza was a chance to go for really potent terrorist infrastructure, such as the new tunnels the Palestinians are again running under the border.

May 28, 2015 Briefs

  • Syrian rebel Nusra leader: Assad will soon fall
    Abu Mohamad al-Julani, leader of the Syrian rebel Nusra Front, told Al Jazeera in a rare interview aired Wednesday that his group is focusing on Damascus and toppling Assad. Turning to the Alawite community, he said: “If they drop weapons, disavow Assad, and return to Islami, then they are our brothers.”
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