A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Weeks Ending Oct. 1, 2015

September 25, 2015 briefs

  • Israel toughens penalties for rock- and firebomb- throwers
    The security cabinet unanimously approved Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s proposals to expand open-fire orders for security forces – not only when their own but any lives are in danger. Also approved were minimum sentences of four years jail for adults who throw firebombs, rocks or other projectiles, and increased minimum fines for minors and their parents. The prime minister said: We are maintaining the status quo. The remarks about our intention to upset the status quo at Islamic holy places are utter nonsense. The status quo is being changed by those who bring pipe bombs and explosives into mosques.
  • Australian Jewish lawmaker slams rapprochement with Iran
    Michael Danby, a federal MP of Australia’s Labor opposition, called on the new prime minister Malcolm Turnbull to order Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to “halt and reverse this slide towards appeasement of the hardline, bellicose regime in Tehran.” He said Turnbull “can be a friend of Israel or a friend of the dangerous Iranian regime, but he can’t be both.”

September 26, 2015 briefs

  • Hizballah gets its first tanks from Iran, not Syria
    Iran has provided Hizballah with 75 Russian T-55 and T-72 tanks so give the terrorist organization its first armored division. At his summit with President Vladimir Putin this week, Prime Minister Binyamin revealed that he had intelligence data about this, and knew that the reporting claiming the tanks came from Syria was deliberate disinformation. debkafile exclusively identifies the tanks as Iran-made Raad-1 and Raad-2 self-propelled howitzers and the first T-72S tanks.
  • Donald Trump: Let the Russians deal with ISIS
    In his first specific foreign policy comment, Donald Trump accused his Republican presidential revivals of wanting to start World III over Syria. At a campaign speech in Oklahoma, he said: “You know, Russia wants to get ISIS, right? We want to get ISIS. Russia is in Syria – maybe we should let them do it?”

A Chinese aircraft carrier docks at Tartus to support Russian-Iranian military buildup

26 Sep. China has jumped aboard the Russia-Iranian military alliance in Syria by sending the aircraft carrier Liaoning-CV-16 to Tartus ahead of a squadron of its J-15 Flying Shark fighters for its decks. While talking to US President Barack Obama, Xi Jingping was showing muscle – not just in the South China Sea but in the Mediterranean too. That the Middle East balance was being stood on is head was grasped belatedly by US Secretary of State John Kerry. On Sept. 25, he sent Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman to announce US willingness for dialogue with Iran on Syria. If the US diplomat hoped to bypass the Russian initiative by going straight to Iran, he missed the train. Iran is already moving forward fast to augment its military presence in the war-torn country, buttressed by the ground, air and sea support of two world powers, Russia and China.

September 27, 2015 briefs

  • Israel shells Syrian posts after second rocket on Golan
    After two rockets from Syria exploded on the Golan in two days, Israeli artillery Sunday targeted two Syrian positions near Quneitra with Tamuz artillery rockets. There were no Israeli casualties. Israeli spokesman said the rockets probably strayed across the border from the fighting near Quneitra, but Israel nevertheless held the Syrian military responsible for actions that endangering its people.
  • First French air strike in Syria destroys ISIS camp – Hollande
    French bombers “totally destroyed” an ISIS training camp in Syria, French President Francoise Hollande said Sunday after the first French air strike in Syria.
  • Russian ships carry more arms, marines for Syria
    debkafile reports that another two Russian naval vessels were heading for Syria in the last 24 hours: The Tapir-class landing ship Saratov with 300 marines and at least 15 tanks aboard, and the Russian navy’s largest guided missile cruiser, the Moskva.

New Police Chief Ronny Alsheikh may bring innovative technology to war on crime

27 Sep. As police commissioner, Ronny Alsheikh, 52, will not enjoy the untrammeled operational and intelligence facilities and access to data granted the Shin Bet, but have to function in a far stricter, inhibiting framework. He will also find that police methods for fighting crime lag far behind the innovative technology incorporated in the work of Israel’s clandestine agencies. But the new man is well placed to call on his former colleagues for cooperation in technology and intelligence to bring police standards of operation up to par and make the boys in blue as effective a tool for fighting crime as the undercover agencies are for fighting terrorism.

September 28, 2015 briefs

  • Putin: No plans to put combat troops in Syria “right now”
    Ahead of his UN speech, Russian President Vladimir Putin told CBS: "Russia will not participate in any troop operations in the territory of Syria or in any other states. debkafile reports: Just Saturday, the Russian landing ship Saratov with 300 marines aboard crossed into the Mediterranean on its way to Syria, with hundreds more troops waiting at Black Sea ports for transportation to the embattled country. Putin defended Russia's support for Assad’s army as the only legitimate one in Syria and criticized US military support for "illegal structures.”

September 29, 2015 briefs

  • Iron Dome intercepts rockets aimed at Ashdod
    Ashdod, Lachish and other locations within Grad range of the Gaza Strip were alerted to a rocket attack Tuesday night. Two rockets were successfully intercepted by an Iron Dome battery. Crowds of holidaymakers are touring the region, many visiting outdoor events staged for the Succoth festival.

Putin warns Israel off targeting Iranian targets in Syria

29 Sep. Russian President Vladimir Putin is concerned about Israel’s repeated attacks in Syria, he said, after talking his meeting with President Barack Obama early Tuesday, Sept. 29, in New York. He was warning Israel to keep its hands of Syria, after the IDF’s powerful Tamuz rockets hit back for Syrian fire. Israel has signaled it would not permit an Iranian-Syrian-Hizballah terror base to operate from the Syrian Golan, but the Russian leader’s concern centered on Israel’s discovery of Rev. Guards Brig. Gen. Saeed Azadi hatching a new terrorism plot opposite the Golan. While Israel views him as a menace, for Putin he is part of the Russian-Iranian axis in Syria for bolstering Bashar Assad.

September 30, 2015 briefs

  • Khamenei warns “fierce” reaction if Saudis don’t return Iranian hajj dead
    Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei threatened a "fierce" reaction Wednesday if Saudi Arabia does not quickly repatriate victims of last week's hajj stampede.
  • Saudi-led coalition captures Iranian arms ship for Yemeni rebels
    The Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen reported Wednesday that an Iranian vessel disguised as a fishing boat had been caught trying to smuggle a large consignment of arms and ammunition to Houthi rebels. It included bombs anti-tank mines, grenade-propelled rockets and shoulder-borne missiles. The vessel was intercepted in the Oman Sea.
  • US infantry forces help Afghan forces recapture Konduz
    US special ground forces have joined Afghan government forces in the battle to liberate the key town of Kunduz which was captured Monday by the Taliban.
  • Russia says US warplanes must immediately exit Syrian airspace
    Russian diplomats had sent an official demarche ordering US planes to quit Syria, adding that Russian fighter jets were now flying over Syrian territory. US military sources told Fox News that US planes would not comply with the Russian demand. "There is nothing to indicate that we are changing operations over Syria," a senior defense official said.
  • US opens link to avoid clashes with Russian air force over Syria
    US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Tuesday instructed the Pentagon to establish a communication channel between US and Russian forces operating in the Syrian theater in an attempt to “avoid conflict in the air” and accidents as a result of non-coordination or pilot misjudgments.
  • Prime Minister Netanyahu lands in New York
    On arrival in New York early Wednesday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu blasted Iran’s military presence in Syria in support of Bashar Assad. He is accompanied on this trip by Mrs. Netanyahu, advisers and reporters. Thursday, the prime minister delivers a speech to the UN General Assembly.
  • A Russian SU-34 fighter squadron lands at Latakia
    Six advanced Russian SU-34 strike fighter jets have landed at Latakia’s Al-Assad international airport as Moscow continues to build up its military might in Syria. The warplanes flew in through Iraqi airspace.
  • Israeli fighter jets strike four Hamas targets in Gaza for rocket attack
    Four Hamas installations were hit early Wednesday by Israeli fighter jets in reprisal for a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip on the port town of Ashdod and western Negev Tuesday night, two of which were intercepted by an Iron Dome battery. No casualties are reported.

Russia enters Syrian war with air strikes, jolts the Mid East into new era

30 Sep. Russia launched its first air strikes in Syria Wednesday, Sept. 30 maintaining it was acting in support of Bashar Assad’s war on the Islamic State, assisted by other foreign powers. They drew strong criticism from Washington. The targets were described as stores, ammunition dumps and vehicles around Homs and Hama.
The Russian aerial offensive marks a turning point in Middle East affairs. Russia is emerging strongly as the number one power in the region. The governments which hitherto coordinated their military polices with the US, like Israel, Jordan and Turkey will have to reassess their orientation in a hurry.
For Israel it is the end of years of freedom for its air force to strike its enemies from the skies of Syria or Lebanon.

October 1, 2015 briefs

  • Second wave of Russian air raids in Syria
    Russian fighters and bombers are carrying out a new wave of attacks in Syria, striking 30 different targets Thursday morning and early afternoon. Most were carried out in the northern part of the country, including Al-Shughour and Kafr Nabl, where there are concentrations of rebel groups. Lebanese television reported that fighters from the Al-Nusra Front were wounded in the attack on Al-Shughour.
  • Targets in Syria not limited to ISIS, Moscow says
    The Kremlin said on Thursday that Russia’s air strikes in Syria targeted various rebel groups, not only ISIS. In an announcement to the press, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the targets were selected carefully with the full cooperation of the Syrian military.
  • Moscow slams “disinformation” on air strikes
    At a press conference on Wednesday in New York with US Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters, “Don’t listen to (the) Pentagon about the Russian strikes.” The air strikes targeted 12 ISIS positions, vehicles and warehouses, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Wednesday. But Western officials were skeptical. US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said the Russian air force had targeted areas that were not under ISIS control. He also claimed that Russia’s military moves are “doomed to fail.”
  • Turkel Commission clears Ronny Alshiekh as police commissioner
    Israel’s Turkel Commission, which reviews the appointments of senior government officials, approved the appointment of Ronny Alsheikh, 52, deputy head of the Shin Bet internal security service, as the next commissioner of the Israel Police. It now goes to the cabinet .
  • Seven Israeli Arabs accused of joining ISIS, planning attacks
    A group of Israeli Arabs has been arrested on suspicion of joining ISIS and planning to carry out terrorist attacks against the IDF and the police. An indictment submitted to the district court in Nazareth on Thursday said that the suspects made contact with ISIS agents in Syria, illegally bought weapons and started training for future attacks. They planned to use guns and bombs to attack police stations and vehicles as well as IDF bases in the northern part of the country, the indictment said.
  • New wave of multiple ISIS beheadings
    The Islamic State Thursday released three new videos depicting the beheadings of 25 victims at separate places: Ten Kurdish Peshmerga fighters taken captive in Iraq: 13 “pro-Assad traitors and collaborators” at ISIS Syrian HQ in Raqqa, and two unidentified victims accused of “heresy” in the town of Hasaka.
  • Israel dismisses Abbas UN speech as lies and incitement
    In a speech to the UN General Assembly Wednesday, the Palestinian leader threatened to renege on former interim peace accords with Israel whom he accused of violating those accords, without citing a timeline. Israeli officials dismissed the speech as a tissue of lies, and accused him of inciting a wave of Palestinian violence in recent weeks focusing on falsely accusing Israel of violating the status quo at the Al Aqsa Mosque on Temple Mount. They again challenged him to join Israel in talks for resolving the conflict. debkafile: Abbas tried in vain before a half-empty hall to reignite the Palestinian issue, after it was ignored in major UN speeches by the US and Russian presidents and omitted from their talks on the session’s sidelines.
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