Assad, Nasrallah and Abu Ala Scale up Threat Levels

A shrill chorus of threats has been emanating from Syria, the Palestinians and the Hizballah as the Middle East heads toward another bleak winter.
President Bashar Assad is still smarting from Israel’s October 5 retaliatory air strike against a terrorist training camp at Ein Hatsav 15 miles from Damascus – the deepest Israeli raid inside Syria since the 1973 war. It followed the deaths of 19 Israelis in a suicide bombing in Haifa and Israeli accusations of Syrian support for terrorist groups and activities.
Not content with the warnings issuing from Syrian officials every couple of days, Assad dispatched his military chief, General Hassan Turkmani, and deputy chief of staff general Ali Habib – widely regarded as the Syrian army’s most professional commander — to Beirut on Monday, October 27 for some straight talk with Lebanese leaders. They notified President Emil Lahoud, army chief of staff General Michel Suleiman and military intelligence chief General Michel Azar in no uncertain terms that any future Israel strikes would bring forth Syrian reprisals. In such a contingency, Lebanon would be required to stand shoulder to shoulder with Syria in a united front.
Syrian foreign minister Farouk a-Shara had already spelled out Syria’s intentions. In an interview with Britain’s Sunday Telegraph, he said: “Syria will strike back if Israel attacks again and could hit Israeli settlements on the Golan Heights. Our people will not stand for another attack and we will have to carry out the will of the people.” He added: “We have many cards that we have not played. Don`t forget the many Israeli settlements in the Golan. I am not exaggerating but describing things as they might happen.”
Israel captured the Golan Heights in 1967 after Syria joined a combined Arab offensive on its borders and was thrown back. The two countries are still at war.
For Damascus, artillery or missile attacks against Israeli targets on the Golan Heights would be regarded as legitimate military action inside Israeli-occupied Syrian territory. Hizballah uses a similar argument to justify its shelling attacks in the disputed Har Dov/Shebaa Farms region which remained in Israeli hands after the UN approved the pullback of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon to the international frontier in May 2000. On Monday, October 27, the Lebanese Shiite terrorists aimed several rounds of missile and shell fire at the Golan as well as at Israeli positions on Har Dov. Israel hushed up the incident, but Hizballah publicized it a day later.
According to debkafile‘s intelligence and military sources, the Syrian military visitors extracted from Beirut prior and unrestricted permission for the Syrian air force to use Lebanese airspace and for Syrian troops to redeploy in the central and southern Lebanese positions they have been evacuating in the past four months. This change in the strategic situation on its northern frontiers not only poses a challenge for Israel but represents a dramatic reversal for Washington’s efforts to stabilize the Lebanese government and strengthen its pro-US leaders, such as prime minister Rafik Hariri. The Americans based progress towards their goal of weakening Syrian and Hizballah influence in Lebanon on the phased withdrawal of the Syrian army. It now looks as though Syrian troops leaving through Lebanon’s front door are reentering from the back.
On this front, prime minister Ahmed Qurie, better known as Abu Ala, has decided to stay on after forging a seven-point pact with Yasser Arafat, according to which he will form a permanent government on November 4, when the mandate of the emergency cabinet expires.
debkafile‘s Palestinian sources reveal the key points of the pact:
1. The Palestinians will refuse to join Israel in peace negotiations as long as construction of Israel’s separation fence continues. “Its continuation makes any talk of a Palestinian state farcical,” our sources quote Abu Ala as saying.
2. Any Palestinian-Israeli ceasefire agreement must be based on terms quite different from the conditions of what Abu Ala calls “Abu Mazen’s failed hudna”.
3. The Palestinians will demand the evacuation of settlements as condition number one for a ceasefire.
4. The Palestinians will insist on advance notice of all of the Sharon government’s actions in relation to the Palestinians.
5. A ceasefire will be phased, taking effect in one zone after another.
6. No Palestinian administration will accept the demand to dismantle terrorist infrastructure.
7. Palestinian security forces will go into action only against ceasefire violators.
Arafat made the important concession of allowing Qureia to appoint a security affairs minister with real authority.
On the strength of this pact, Abu Ala asked to meet Hamas leaders to discuss a truce, sparking rumors that the way was clear for General Nasser Yousef to assume the security post.
debkafile‘s sources report that Abu Ala dismissed suggestions that he travel to Washington or a European capital. He told his associates that, unlike Abu Mazen – who was eased out by Arafat last month – he preferred to cast his lot in with the “rais” (boss) and does not seeks relations with the Americans or Europeans.
German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder told visiting Israeli foreign minister Silvan Shalom last week that Hizballah secretary general Hassan Nasrallah believes Israeli prime minister Sharon had backed away from most of the points agreed in the German-mediated Israeli-Hizballah negotiations on a prisoner swap, especially those covering the repatriation of Lebanese prisoners and detainees held by Israel.
Nasrallah listed the top five men he wanted: Jawad Caspi, Hizballah’s operations officer, Anwar Yunes, Omas Balahis, Ali Baro – a drug dealer who fled a death sentence in Egypt in 1998 and was given an 18-year jail term after being caught by Israel – and Samir Kuntar.
In 1979, Kuntar was part of a four-man Palestinian terror squad which carried out a particularly savage attack on a civilian family in the northern Israeli town of Nahariya. The four broke into the Haran family apartment. One terrorist used his rifle butt to smash in the skull of 4-year old Einat Haran and then joined another team member to murder her father, Danny Haran aged 32. Her mother accidentally smothered two-year old Yael Haran to death to keep her from crying out in their place of hiding in an attic. Rescuers killed two of the raiders and captured the remaining two, one of whom was turned loose in a 1985 prisoner exchange deal. Kuntar stayed in jail and his release is now demanded by Nasrallah.
According to debkafile‘s sources, Nasrallah warned the German mediators he was giving Sharon one last chance to carry out the exchange as it stood in relation to the Lebanese prisoners. Otherwise, the Shiite group would resume its attacks against Israel, including kidnaps of soldiers and civilians. Official Israeli sources do not credit the Shiite extremist’s claim that the barrage Hizballah loosed on Monday was unrelated to the prisoner issue. Tuesday, October 28, Israeli defense minister Shaul Mofaz stated: “Israel has very deep information of the Hizballah’s intention to carry out a major attack in the north”.

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