DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 7, 2005
The assassination of Moussa Arafat was obviously well-planned and carefully staged. According to debkafile's counter-terror sources, the crime bears the hallmark of Palestinian minister for civilian affairs Mohammed Dahlan and his sidekick, Gaza preventive security chief Rashid Abu Shebak, two would-be Gaza strongmen who are no strangers to violence. Suspicion is strong that they contracted the Popular Committees' Salahedin Brigades for the slaying.
Scores of armed men dragged the former Palestinian military intelligence chief and head of national security forces in the Gaza Strip from his home, shot him dead and abducted his son Manhal. The fact that a large band of armed men was allowed to pump 23 bullets into Arafat's body - whereas none of his bodyguards suffered a scratch - bespeaks betrayal and conspiracy.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 30, 2005
US president George W. Bush, Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas are certain the Israeli government did the right thing in uprooting Israel's civilian presence from the Gaza Strip ahead of the final pullback of troops on Sept. 15.
But their gratification is likely to be short-circuited. The level of Palestinian terror is climbing day by day, and the first post-evacuation suicide attack has already taken place in Beersheba. Israeli troops are still in Gaza demolishing Israeli homes and dismantling their installations - and already they are targeted by the gunmen of the first outside Palestinian terror group to arrive from Lebanon.
Palestinian violence will fuel Netanyahu's chances of toppling Sharon - unless the government shows it can fight back.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 27, 2005
Failing a government or Knesset veto of the still unsigned Israel-Egyptian military protocol, the Sharon government will make Egypt two if not three strategic gifts: naval control over the territorial waters off the Gaza Mediterranean coast up to Ashekelon, for one. A second unpublished clause will place within range of Egyptian air force surveillance Israel's big air forces bases in the Negev and its armored and ground forces' deployment around the evacuated Gaza Strip.
These clauses have been withheld from the public, cabinet ministers and Knesset members. Sunday, August 27, the cabinet will be asked to approve the protocol; the Knesset's ratification will be sought Wednesday, August 31.
These sweeping Israeli concessions are set forth in a secret appendix to the military protocol. They are the price prime minister Ariel Sharon and defense minister Shaul Mofaz are willing to pay Cairo for relieving the Israeli army's of its security missions on the Gaza-Egyptian border.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 21, 2005
At an urgent weekend consultation, US, British, Egyptian, Jordanian and Israeli intelligence and counter-terror officials concluded that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's terror teams now pose an imminent threat to Israel. The Katyusha rocket which landed harmlessly near Israel's Eilat airport across from Jordanian Aqaba on Friday, Aug 19, was not a stray from the volley aimed at the two US naval vessels docked in the Jordanian Red Sea port. It was Zarqawi's first direct attack against Israel and it was aimed at its southernmost airport.
Since those attacks, Jordan, Egypt and Israel have put their sea and air ports and essential installations on high terror alert. Washington quietly barred new danger zones to US diplomats and military officers serving in those countries: Aqaba, all of Jordan south of Amman up to the Saudi border, the Jordan River bridge crossings between Israel and Hashemite kingdom, the southern Israeli highway to the Red Sea port of Eilat across from Aqaba, and the Eilat resort.
All these locations are now rated as high risk of terror attack. According to incoming intelligence data, the Zarqawi network has pumped fresh terror teams into Jordan.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 19, 2005
The tale of the acid attack by disorderly evacuation resisters against Israeli troops and police was born on the spur of the moment amid the noise and clamor of the evacuation of Kfar Darom synagogue in the Gaza Strip Thursday, Aug 18.
It was picked up without any sort of investigation with suspicious speed. Live broadcasts from the scene reportedly hysterically that six ambulances had rushed the injured police officers to hospital.
Friday afternoon, Aug 19, Michael Eytan, chairman of the Knesset law committee, published a furious protest against "the acid lie." He called it "a blood libel" designed to mar the atmosphere of restraint and mutual sympathy that had prevailed in the evacuation operation till then.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 17, 2005
The massed divisions of troops and police officers quickly saw that there were too many of them for the task ahead. The uniformed men had braced for violent resistance. Instead they were greeted with prayers, laments, outpourings of bitter outrage and chorused recitations of Psalms.
The soldiers must have asked themselves: What happened to the "violent extremists," the loonies they had been taught for more than a year to confront? And why were 40,000 combat troops called up to evict a few thousand civilians, half children, who had clearly no plans of physical resistance?
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 17, 2005
United Nations Headquarters in New York has quietly ordered all foreign staff, especially UN Refugees Works and Relief Agency personnel, to depart the Gaza Strip by Wednesday, August 17. The world body estimates any workers remaining in Palestinian areas, especially those adjoining Gush Katif, face extreme danger after the evacuations begin first thing Wednesday morning. Most significantly, Washington reversed its 20-month ban on US diplomats' visits to the Gaza Strip to urgently dispatch a top official, US assistance secretary of state David Welch, for a surprise visit to Gaza Tuesday night. US intelligence confirms the UN estimate of the extreme security danger prevalent in the Gaza Strip. It stems from Palestinian Authority chairman Mahamoud Abbas having fallen completely under the sway of the Hamas and the Jihad Islami, which are vying with each other for first grab of evacuated Israeli properties ahead of any claim by the Palestinian Authority. Both have especially drilled guerrilla units lurking close to Gush Katif ready to pounce on their prey, each other and above all, Israeli targets.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 10, 2005
There is no doubt that Abu Mazen has done a lot better than the late Arafat who never dreamed of fulfilling so many dreams. When he spoke of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem its capital, Abbas was not talking out of his hat.
Although not a word of this has been leaked thus far, Orient House, the symbol of Palestinian Authority sovereign rule in East Jerusalem, has reopened for business for the first time in four years. In 2001, this symbol was demonstratively shut down on the orders of the first Sharon government. Now, the Palestinian leader has jumped the gun and set his brand on Jerusalem, the seat of the Israeli government, ahead of peace negotiations or any talks with Israel on the profoundly controversial Jerusalem issue.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 7, 2005
The big day for Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon is Wednesday, August 10. He will then find out if his huge gamble in pushing ahead, through thick and thin, with Israel's pull-out from the Gaza Strip and part of the northern West Bank, comes up trumps. He has staked painful concessions, national unity and personal credibility on winning a big prize, but clearly believes it is worth the candle. That prize is a US-British-French initiative for a UN Security Council resolution declaring the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip at an end. It all depends on the Quartet coordinator James Wolfensohn announce his mission a success.
But there is till one Palestinian demand that Sharon has resisted so far, upon which the entire scheme stands or falls: the Palestinians are holding out for the Gaza-West Bank corridor to be free of Israeli searches or the right to unload freight and travelers that hazard its security. Wolfensohn goes along with the Palestinian contention that Israeli authority to conduct such searches would nullify their sovereignty over the Gaza Strip and therefore not terminate the Israeli occupation
On the other hand, Israel's security chiefs, the Shin Beit's Yuval Diskin and AMAN's Maj-Gen. Aharon Zeevi, are aghast at prospect of forfeiting this vital anti-terror measure.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 3, 2005
Tuesday, August 2, Al Qaeda claimed the establishment of a Gaza branch called "Al Qaeda-Palestine, Jihad Brigades in the Border Land." (This is an al Qaeda locution meaning warfront.) The announcement, accompanied by a video tape, appeared on Websites normally reserved for releases on major al Qaeda strikes, such as the Madrid, London and Saudi bombing attacks and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's operations in Iraq. It is therefore to be taken seriously. The statement came out three days after the debkafile exclusive disclosure of al Qaeda's purported theological grounds for attacking Israel, as expounded in its new monthly magazine, From the Tip of the Camel's Hump.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 1, 2005
Shown above is the cover of al Qaeda's new print-Internet magazine Zerwat al Sanam, - Tip of the Camel's Hump. A lavishly produced, professionally-edited publication, it reads as though Iraq commander Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was dictating his operational creed - yet another indication of his high rank in al Qaeda's hierarchy.
A five-page essay appearing under the transparent alias of Abu Zubeida al-Baghdadi is titled: How should Islam relate to the Jews? This is the first time this question has been discussed in theological terms in any al Qaeda publication. The Jews have learned and must still learn, says al Baghdadi, that there is no victory without sacrifice. [Al Qaeda's followers, in contrast, are ready at all times to make personal sacrifices].
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 28, 2005
French president Jacques Chirac lavished brilliant fanfare and ceremonial warmth on a rare visitor to Paris, Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, when he arrived Wednesday, July 28, on a state visit to France. The ice-breaking symbolism was just that, no more than a thin veneer over the true state of Franco-Israel relations and the difficulties besetting the two leaders.Chirac's approval rating at home has plummeted to just over 33%, an unpopularity record unmatched by any previous French president in office. He is beleaguered at home and isolated in Europe.
US officials are privately referring to Disengagement B and Disengagement C which would entail the destruction of entire Israeli towns, Maaleh Adumim outside Jerusalem and Ariel further north. To soften up the Israeli government, sanctions have been in force for some months against Israel's security and military organizations whose performance has begun to show damage.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 19, 2005
Hamas operatives are under orders to fire on Palestinian Authority security officers coming to arrest them and call the local people out on the street to hem them in. Monday and Tuesday, July 18-19, saw a certain slackening of Palestinian attacks on Israeli targets, compared with the preceding five days. What the terrorist leaders, led by Hamas, are keeping their powder relatively dry for is a mass Israeli target in the form of the anti-disengagement march, which was supposed to reach the Kissufim checkpoint at the entrance to the Gaza Strip Wednesday, July 20.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 15, 2005
The disorders of this week in and around the Gaza Strip make talk of truce and Israeli pull-backs sound surreal.
From Thursday, July 14, Palestinian terrorists have kept up a steady missile and mortar bombardment of Sderot and the moshavim and kibbutzim of southwestern Israel while challenging Palestinian security forces in bloody clashes. The violence surged with the arrival in Gaza of Mahmoud Abbas for a hopeless effort to assert control and revive the shattered truce he guaranteed last February in Sharm al Sheikh.
As he stood by helpless to halt the violence, Israeli air force helicopters revived the discontinued targeted killings of Hamas terrorist leaders, striking in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. The Israeli army and police meanwhile grappled with acts of defiance on the part of the Gaza Strip's West Bank communities destined for evacuation.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 14, 2005
Clearly, the Palestinian leader, like the Israeli chief of staff, knows the identities of the hidden hands behind the Netanya attack. Yet no one brings them in. Mahmoud Abbas` arrival in Gaza was preceded by a further deterioration. Hamas leaders warned him that they have extended their protection to the heads of the Jihad Islami. Any Israeli or Palestinian action to harm them will invoke Hamas retaliation against... Israel. The Hamas is thus forcing its will - not only on the Palestinian Authority but also on Israel.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 11, 2005
The Israeli cabinet meets Tuesday, July 12, to dive into some troublesome outstanding issues in the operation to evacuate 10,000 people from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank 35 days away from its implementation. Prime minister Ariel Sharon won the votes of half a dozen Likud ministers by a pledge to execute the withdrawals in four stages with a cabinet assessment of current circumstances between each. Military and police planners attach the highest importance to the operation's unbroken continuity as a means of cutting down on risks - especially in view of intelligence incoming this week on the special new strategy the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas has designed for the evacuation.
Sharon Grants Egypt Military Rewards in Sinai, Is Outmaneuvered by a Secret UK-Egyptian-Palestinian Gas Transaction
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 5, 2005
Israel`s proposed military protocol with Egypt for Egyptian border police to man the Philadelphi border route is under challenge by Israel`s Knesset. However, debkafile`s sources reveal that the Sharon government has also agreed to Egypt's deployment of commando troops, APCS equipped with night-vision equipment and helicopters along the entire border. Moreover, the Egyptian navy will be allowed to use the northern Sinai Mediterranean port of El Arish as a naval base for warships. A separate deal behind Israel's back provides for British Gas and its Palestinian partners - through the Athens-based Consolidated Contractors Company - CCC - to resume drilling at the Gaza offshore field and sell the gas to Egypt over the same 15-year period as the contract with Israel. This contract stands to put $150-200m a year in Palestinian pockets.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 3, 2005
The deep seams in Ariel Sharon's coalition government cracked further at the cabinet meeting Sunday, July 3, as ministers and factions began striking pre-election campaign poses against their rivals. Netanyahu was clearly throwing down the gauntlet after telling his friends he would beat Sharon in the next Likud primaries for prime ministerial candidate. Labor ministers and Likud members of Sharon's fan club followed their scripts and flailed Bibi from all directions. The prime minister, for his part, is confident he will reach the Likud primary with the agonies of the pull-back behind him and then plunge into campaigning for re-election. He would prefer to see Netanyahu out of government beforehand.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 25, 2005
The 17-year old Israeli student, Avichai Levy, shot dead by a Palestinian drive-by killer squad Friday evening June 24 near Beit Haggai, Mt. Hebron, was the third pre-disengagement victim of four Palestinian terrorist attacks this week. Five Israelis were also injured, one seriously. Earlier, Sgt-Maj Avi Karuchi, 25, from Beersheba, and Yevgeni Rider, 28, from Hermesh, were murdered in a revival of Palestinian violence which is focusing again on the West Bank. This resurgence of violence erupted on June 19 as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made her foredoomed attempt to persuade Palestinian leaders to cooperate in Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Her quest for a diplomatic understanding was worse than fruitless; it was reciprocated by a dangerous new spiral of Palestinian violence and threats.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 22, 2005
The meeting Tuesday, June 21, between Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian chairman Mahmoud Abbas - their first since the February Sharm al-Sheikh summit - went badly, as all the parties admitted. There was an attempt to present the failure as emanating from Sharon's impossible demand of Abbas to crack down on terrorism, countered by the Palestinian leader's complaint that he would if he could, but lacks the necessary strength. But, all in all, debkafile's Palestinian and intelligence sources claim the published account is misleading. Nothing was settled between the Israeli and Palestinian sides because the interchange was dominated by a flat refusal by Abbas flanked by prime minister Ahmed Qureia and other cabinet ministers to budge on any of the points raised by the Israeli side. Instead they pressed hard on their own.