Feb 14: A small detachment of Iranian National Revolutionary Guards is smuggled into Gaza with a Hizballah cell and a group of Lebanese Palestinian trainees in terrorist and guerrilla techniques to lend their support to the Palestinian uprising. The Hizballah begins selling weapons to the Palestinians. Masoud Ayyad, a Colonel in Yasser Arafat’s elite Force 17 and his operational contact officer with the Hizballah, was killed by an Israeli hit squad to discourage the connection.
Feb. 15: US and British pilots patrolling Iraq’s no-fly zones are warned that Saddam has acquired quantities of SA-6 anti-air missile batteries from Serbia and the Ukraine. They were told that Iraq had modified the missiles’ guidance and radar systems to enable them to change direction in mid-flight and stay on their target’s tail.
Feb 16: Israeli prime minister-elect Ariel Sharon’s emissaries call on US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld in Washington, just hours before Friday’s US air raid over Baghdad.
Feb 17: US 69th (Patriot) Artillery Brigade and Israeli air defenses are put on high alert in advance of US air strike against control and command installations in Baghdad. They remain in a state of readiness in anticipation of further war action focusing on Iraq.
Feb 18: A special DEBKAfileresearch project establishes that Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority is deliberately inducing economic hardship in the areas under its rule as a means of diverting popular anger from its corrupt practices. Galloping unemployment expands the manpower pool from which to raise fighting men who are consumed with hatred for Israel as the source of their wretchedness. “The worse things are, the better for our struggle,” says a Tanzim militia commander.
Feb 19: US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Israel prime minister Ehud Barak order the launch of a joint US-Israel Patriot Missile firing exercise two days hence, after US satellites pick up Iraqi military units on the move with missiles
Feb 20: This week’s joint US-Israeli missile defense exercise in the Negev served also as a test for the interoperability of the short-range American Patriot and the long-range Israeli “Arrow” in a combined missile defense system. If the test is successful, the Arrow’s integration in America’s missile shield program may be considered.
Feb 22: DEBKAfile pieces together an ominous picture of rising Mid East tension on the strength of information from its American and Israeli intelligence sources and from Israel military quarters:
1. Early Thursday morning, US satellites picked up Iraqi ground-to-ground missiles moving west with launching equipment. US intelligence estimates that the missiles would be ready for launch by the evening prompted Israel to place all its security forces on the ready Thursday morning.
2. According to fresh reports from certain Arab capitals, Syrian president Beshar Asad has reached a strategic decision. This is interpreted in two ways: He has either agreed to grant the 6 Iraqi armored divisions deployed on the Iraqi-Syrian frontier passage through his country, or given the Hizballah the nod to unleash a long-range rocket attack against northern Israel – or both. This development is behind the grave warning the US and Israeli governments issued to the Syrian government Thursday morning. The night before, Northern Israeli towns and villages were warned to prepare for long-range rocket attacks from Lebanon.
3. Palestinian sources confirm 1. and 2. and refer to unusual Palestinian military activity in the last 24 hours. In view of these reports, and the spreading word of Palestinians plans to bring out heavy weapons, Israeli units have reportedly stepped up their sorties into Palestinian-controlled Areas A. DEBKAfile‘s sources learn that a massive Palestinian terrorist attack may be programmed as the starting signal for a regional flare-up.
4. The combined American-British air raid last Friday missed its essential target: a command and control center 20 miles north of Baghdad for the coordination and dispatch of both anti-air and ground to ground missiles. The allies had intended to pre-empt Saddam Hussein, following intelligence of his decision to launch missile-attacks on Israel, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The failed air raid strengthened Saddam’s resolve. Now, he his determined to go to war without delay before the Western allies degrade his missile-launching capability.