A Digest of the Week’s Exclusives

13 July: An assessment of the current Turkish political turmoil’s potential for holding up the US campaign against Iraq, is the errand bringing US deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz to Ankara next week. Incirlik and Adana, where the US air force bases its F-15, F-16 and AWACS aircraft, are important launch pads for striking at northern Iraq and providing air cover for the pro-US Kurdish and Turkoman contingents recruited for the US offensive to topple the Saddam Hussein regime in Baghdad.

However, DEBKAfile‘s military sources point out that, while their strategic value next door to Iraq is high, the two bases are no longer unique. Since being booted out of its Saudi air base, the United States has set up substitute operational facilities in Jordan and Israel and other parts of the region, boosted by air carrier fleets cruising the eastern Mediterranean and southern Aegean opposite Turkish and Greek shores.

Most of all, Wolfowitz must ascertain that the Turkish special forces stationed in the Turkoman regions of Iraq are up to par and their integration in the US-led ground assault will not be hampered by political upsets in Ankara.

Last month too, Turkey, the only Muslim-majority member of NATO and a secular democracy, took control of the allied peacekeeping force in Kabul.

After two months of debilitating ill health, Turkey’s veteran political warrior, 77-year old Bulent Ecevit is left with a government and party deeply eroded by defections, economic crisis and a rising clamor for an early poll. Faced with the exit of seven ministers from his government and 43 deputies from his Democratic Left Party – DSP, the prime minister yet refuses to stand down and call an early election in September. In a live TV interview Friday, July 13, Ecevit declared elections would be considered only if his party is further splintered and his government’s parliamentary majority of 15 disappears. That is exactly what happened this week when the rate of defections further accelerated. The government was forced to call an early election for November 3.

16 July: The expert ambush laid for the Bnei Brak-Immanuel bus 189 Tuesday, July 16, left seven Israelis dead. Eight of the 16 injured are fighting for their lives. The hospital had to deliver a badly hurt pregnant woman of a premature baby by Caesarian incision, in an attempt to save both lives. Immanuel is a small town. Therefore the second Palestinian attack in less than a year has decimated families that first suffered losses in last December’s strike that killed eleven residents.

Four Palestinian groups, led by Yasser Arafat’s Fatah, made haste to claim “credit” for the attack. Their boast was hollow. Since Israeli forces took control of West Bank Palestinian towns three weeks ago, none of the regular terrorist groups has been able to break out of the Israeli military grip clamped down on their strongholds for almost a month – though not for want of trying.

DEBKAfile‘s military sources note that the Immanuel massacre broke with the routine Palestinian terrorist atrocity in that it was engineered by Iran through its military-terrorist surrogate, the Hizballah, under the direct command of the super terrorist Imad Mughniyeh.

Tuesday’s Immanuel attack displayed quasi-military advance planning, efficient intelligence and expert tactics carried out by well-trained operatives. Their planning and attention to detail was faultless, including their escape route. The killer squad of three or four men appears to have spent two days or more lying up near the scene of the attack. They studied the 189 bus’s route and timetable and marked the vulnerable gaps in its armor. First, they set explosives in its path, calculating in advance that the blast would tip the bus over on its right, leaving its unarmored windows and roof exposed. The terrorists then leapt out of their hiding place and sprayed the unprotected windows and roof with automatic fire, tossing hand grenades through the smashed windows. They also turned their guns on a pick-up van behind the crippled the bus.

Most of the victims, taken off guard by the Israeli army uniforms worn by the killers, suffered gunshot wounds, unlike the more common blast and flying shrapnel injuries from terrorist attacks.

The terrorists’ disguise fooled Israeli troops who rushed to the scene demanding that their “comrades” pitch in to help the injured, instead of which they opened fire on the rescuers too.

This method of operation was first seen in the attack four months ago on March 12, when seven Israelis were slaughtered on the Kabri-Matsuba highway of North Israel’s Galilee. That strike was the work of a mixed team of Ahmed Jibril’s Damascus-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command, and Hizballah, who spent several days at the scene of attack beforehand. Then too, the killers lay in wait until a line of Israeli cars was disabled, then advanced on their victims spraying bullets and hurling grenades directly into the vehicles, until they were sure that the injured were dead.

The multiple murder method exhibited in Immanuel resembled the Galilee attack closely enough to convince DEBKAfile‘s senior military sources that the professional, highly-trained killers came from the same outfit, the Hizballah.

The claim of responsibility by the four Palestinian groups is therefore meaningless. What has happened is that Arafat has found a way to field a fresh, well-trained organ of violence to make sure the bloodletting goes on.

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