DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 19, 2003
The Jordanian gunman who cut down a group of Ecuadorian pilgrims with automatic gunfire at the border crossing from Jordan to Israel north of Eilat on Wednesday, November 19, did much more than shatter the calm of a border terminal normally bustling with goods, tourist and business traffic between the Jewish state and Hashemite kingdom. The assault dashed any illusions about Osama bin Laden holding off from drawing blood in Israel. Five of the pilgrims were injured - one later died of her wounds - as they prepared to cross into Jordan, victims of al Qaeda's first direct strike inside Israel. The attack bore the fingerprints of Abu Musab Zarqawi, believed to be Al Qaeda's top terror "contractor."
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 17, 2003
As Israeli eyes were riveted on the appalling effects of the synagogue bomb attacks in Istanbul on Saturday, November 15, their air force executed a stunning demonstration of might over Lebanon lasting several hours Sunday, November 16. debkafile's military sources reveal exclusively that 30-40 Israeli fighter-bombers zipped through the length and breadth of Lebanon - from the northern regions and Tripoli, across to the Lebanese-Syrian border, the Beqaa Valley and Syrian bases, through Djebel Druze in the center, to Beirut and down to the south. The aircraft made low passes in quartets, buzzing key points. There was no response from the ground.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 8, 2003
In between chasing terrorists, Israeli police have their hands full investigating interlocking allegations of sleaze and scandal in high places. Tales of financial corruption are tossed to and fro freely by Israel's top political players - with or without foundation. Many fizzle out before they come to court or on appeal, but in the meantime these the affairs are natural and regular headline grabbers. For some time, the left-leaning Labor opposition has had it all its way with the make-a-deal Greek Island affair which daily buffets Likud prime minister Ariel Sharon and his Laurel and Hardy sons, Knesset Member Omri Sharon and business executive Gilead Sharon. All three are also faced with charges of illegal fund-raising for Sharon's 1999 primary coupled with overseas money-laundering. Two similar charges against Labor prime ministerial candidates were recently dropped. This has not let the opposition party off the hook. This week it was Labor's turn for a dose of the sour medicine.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 29, 2003
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.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 30, 2003
The machinery is running for the Israel-Hizballah prisoner swap. Barring hitches, debkafile's intelligence sources report it is due to take place on a date between Wednesday October 22 and Friday October 24, depending on when the sky-gazing senior imams sight the next crescent moon and proclaim the start of the holy Muslim feast month of Ramadhan. The Israeli government has agreed to this schedule, a bonus for Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah that enables him to advertise himself as the only Muslim leader - not Saddam Hussein or even Osama bin Laden or Yasser Arafat - capable of bringing about the release of "Islamic fighters".
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 27, 2003
The politicians are wholeheartedly dedicated to fighting terror - with words. Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon has declared Arafat at various times irrelevant and removable. After Arafat purged Abu Mazen, both the US and Israeli governments vowed to have no truck with a successor Palestinian government if it spoke for Arafat. At the United States General Assembly last week, President George W. Bush called on the Palestinians to change their leaders for the sake of peace. US secretary of state Colin Powell declared Saturday morning September 27 that the onus is on the new Palestinian government to fight Hamas, disarm terrorists and create a single Palestinian security body.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 25, 2003
Far from being a spontaneous, knee jerk action by a genuine anti-war pacifist group, the letter signed by 27 Israeli air force pilots announcing their refusal to fly missions over Palestinian territory was meticulously planned under political guidance. It was timed to explode at the most effective moment - amid a period of relative calm in the long ordeal of Palestinian terror, as Israelis prepared to celebrate the Jewish New Year festival. The signatories said they would refuse to fly missions over Palestinian territory, including targeted killings of terrorist leaders and ferrying ground troops over for counter-terrorist action, because they were "immoral and illegal."
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 23, 2003
Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the Hizballah secretary general, is an old hand at twitching Israeli nerves by dangling offers of information on prisoners, MIAs and fallen troops on terms that Israel cannot accept. The Israeli machinery dealing with prisoner recovery then swings into action expecting little more than a sign of life. Even that has not been forthcoming in most cases. The Hizballah leader is therefore rated in Israel as a big, manipulative talker who enjoys discomfiting "the Zionists". Two weeks ago, Nasrallah set in motion a fresh cycle of hope, fueling top headlines in the Israeli media. This time, he talked about a real exchange - and not just scrappy information - of the bodies of three Israeli soldiers kidnapped in October 2000 and an Israeli civilian, Elhanan Tanenboim, who was snatched at the same time, in return for Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 20, 2003
Israel's two top officials, prime minister Ariel Sharon and finance minister Binyamin Netanyahu (a former and would-be premier himself), offered perfect examples of the buck-passing mode of government this week. Friday, September 20, the normally authoritarian Sharon dumped the hot potato of the security fence in the laps of his Likud ministers. He told them to make the choice: Sticking to the security fence route in the face of Washington's objections carried the risk of a portion of the $9bn loan guarantees being deducted. However, giving up the controversial deviations would be detrimental to national security. The still bossier Netanyahu told the ministers it was up to them to decide how to slash a total of $2bn from the 2004 state budget. That way, the backlash from the pensioners, jobless, single parents, handicapped, sick and poor - whom he has already victimized in the cut-to-the-bone 2003 budget - would be deflected from himself.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 10, 2003
Fifteen Israelis died, more than 90 were injured, in two murderous Palestinian suicide attacks Tuesday night, September 9. The first struck down a crowd of soldiers waiting outside the Tsrifin military base for transportation home. It occurred just as Israeli and Indian prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Atal Bihari Vajpayee were winding up their conversation in New Delhi. The terrorist blew himself up with a 4-5 kg bomb, killing two Israelis on the spot and injuring another 30. Six died later from the grievous wounds inflicted by the blast at point blank range and the sharp nails and metal shards with which it was packed. All the victims were soldiers.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 7, 2003
The opportunity to remove the entire top strategic level of the Hamas terror group presented itself by chance on the day of Mahmoud Abbas's resignation as Palestinian prime minister - Saturday, September 6. That morning, Israel's defense minister Shaul Mofaz, army, air force and intelligence and Shin Beit chiefs reported to prime minister Ariel Sharon that eight top Hamas leaders were meeting later at the home of one of their number Marwan Abu Ras, a director at the Islamic University of Gaza, to consider how to beat the Israeli air and ground blockade on the Gaza Strip and carry out a fresh wave of terror assaults. The Hamas meeting was also scheduled to discuss how to deal with "Israeli collaborators". debkafile's intelligence sources report that this is a Hamas euphemism for the preventive security officers under the command of Mohammed Dahlan, internal security minister and partner of Mahmoud Abbas.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 2, 2003
Israel's Labor government and police chiefs who held office at the time are criticized in the harshest terms by state inquiry commission whose final report was published Monday, September 1, for gravely mishandling the Israeli Arab riots that swept northern Israel in October 2000 in which 13 Arabs - 12 Israelis and 1 Palestinian - were shot dead by police. One Jewish Israeli was killed by a stone and hundreds of police were injured.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 2, 2003
Israeli governments have never formulated any clear, consistent policy towards the country's Arab citizens, who today number some 1.3 million, representing one fifth of the population. This evasiveness is reflected in the justice meted out by the judicial system to the members of this minority. Many Israel Arabs admit freely to living in an intolerable no-man's land betwixt and between their Arab and Israeli identities, especially in times of conflict. At the same time, justified or not, policy-makers in Jerusalem claim "security considerations" as their rationale for selling Israeli Arabs short on civil rights and equality of opportunity. At least three generations of this minority have learned to view "Israeli justice", as a synonym for separate codes of justice for Jews and Arabs.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 22, 2003
Israel's decision to hit a senior Hamas terror chief was taken in the small hours of Thursday, August 21, in reaction to yet another postponement of a Palestinian Authority crackdown on Hamas and Jihad Islami - even after the deadly bombing by a Hamas suicide killer of a Jerusalem bus packed with Israeli families returning from the Western Wall. Twenty Israelis died in the blast and 150 were injured - many of them children. debkafile's military sources reveal that Palestinian internal security minister Mohammed Dahlan, confronted with a demand for action by the US president's senior Middle East monitor, John Wolf, begged off again. This time, he came up with the lame excuse that his men were grounded by "a shortage of vehicles."
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 20, 2003
The tragically high proportion of children and babies among the 18 dead and 120 injured in the latest Palestinian terror atrocity appears to have shocked prime minister Ariel Sharon out of his uncharacteristic meekness in the face of rising Palestinian demands and surge of terror. Two Palestinian suicide attacks went by last week without response. But Tuesday night, August 19, a Hamas imam, Ra'ad Misak from Hebron, detonated his bomb belt in the middle of a busload of families returning from the Jerusalem's Western Wall. The Sharon government finally roused itself to freeze talks with Palestinian leaders over the handover of four West Bank towns and suspended all exchanges and contacts with Palestinian representatives. Israel had been on the point of turning over the first two towns, Jericho and Qalqilya, by the end of the week, after dropping its basic demand for tight surveillance over wanted terrorist murderers.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 17, 2003
mg class="picture" src="/dynmedia/pictures/WOLFUS.jpg" align="right" border="0">The Israeli-Palestinian deal concluded by defense minister Shaul Mofaz and internal defense minister Mohammed Dahlan Friday, August 15 was the outcome of a pressing American intervention to curb the wave of Palestinian terror Yasser Arafat and Syrian President Bashar Assad kicked off last week. US president George W. Bush, while still on vacation, deployed his emissaries on two key fronts, the Palestinian and the Syrian. To deal with the second head of the terrorist hydra, debkafile's intelligence sources disclose that US undersecretary of state William Burns was ordered on Thursday, August 14, to turn his plane round and head with all speed to Damascus instead of Amman. He was told to deliver a last warning to the Syrian president - to butt out of Iraq and to stop stirring up terrorism against Israel.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 12, 2003
mg class="picture" src="/dynmedia/pictures/ARIEL1.jpg" align="right" border="0">The fact that the two Palestinian bombers, both from Nablus, who carried out separate terrorist attacks on Tuesday, August 12, belonged to two different Palestinian terror groups is irrelevant. debkafile's counter-terror sources all agree that both were directed by the same hand in Ramallah, shared the same objectives and were funded from the same pocket. What the participation of two separate groups demonstrated was a distribution of labor meant to mislead. Israelis, many on holiday and enjoying a relative lull, were stunned by the two terrorist attacks executed in quick succession: A Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up at the Neve Afek supermarket of Rosh Ha'Ayin 20 miles north of Tel Aviv, killing one Israeli shopper and injuring at least 10. The attack took place a few hundred yards from the Israeli police commissioner's home. Only 75 minutes later and 15 minutes drive away, a second bomber struck a group of hitchhikers outside the West Bank Jewish town of Ariel. They spotted him in time to open fire but not to stop him detonating his bomb belt and killing another Israeli and injuring two.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 5, 2003
mg class="picture" src="/dynmedia/pictures/BEER.jpg" align="right" border="0">A close inspection of photos from inside the Mosul villa where Qusay and Uday were shot dead by American troops last month reveals beer bottles and a candy wrapper with what looks suspiciously like Hebrew lettering. Ironically, Saddam Hussein's sons and grandson may have spent their last hours consuming the products of the hated Zionist state. In another odd twist, the troops of the US 101st airborne division may have cracked open beer of the same Macabbee brand while laying Saddam's heirs to siege. debkafile's Middle East sources reveal a thriving, unacknowledged, semi-secret trade route that has sprung up between Israel and Iraq in response to rising demand. More and more goods are getting through despite difficult and often hazardous conditions.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 7, 2003
"Israel's position is clear," Israeli defense minister Shaul Mofaz told the media after his three-hour meeting with Palestinian interior security minister Mohammed Dahlan on Sunday, July 6. "The Palestinian Authority has assumed responsibility for terror prevention in the areas turned over by Israel. Its next obligation is to dismantle terrorist organizations." In answer to a question, Mofaz said Yasser Arafat had more than once attempted to obstruct Abu Mazen; in general his actions were not constructive. The Israeli defense chief insists of late that his job is to hold down security. By this assertion he lets it be known that the diplomatic-political arena belongs to prime minister Ariel Sharon. It may also be inferred that the two areas do not necessarily overlap at all times. Indeed they are apt to clash. This was demonstrated at the Israeli cabinet meeting in Jerusalem Sunday, July 6, in which the ministers were divided over the norms for releasing Palestinian prisoners detained or convicted for terror.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 5, 2003
Most Israelis did not rise up in arms when IDF troops made way for Palestinian police forces to take over the Gaza Strip or even Bethlehem, site of Rachel's Tomb. They were generally unmoved by the removal of outposts. However, prime minister Ariel Sharon's decision to free 1,200 or more Palestinian terrorists, when memories of the latest terrorist attacks less than a month ago are still painfully fresh, arouses bitter resentment. To spread oil on troubled waters, Israeli officials announced that the Shin Beit will present the lists of prisoners and detainees to be freed to the prime minister in time to have it reviewed at the weekly cabinet session on Sunday, July 6. Those lists, it was further promised, will not include murderers. However, according to the information reaching debkafile from its military sources, the lists were put together last week by Sharon under pressure from the White House and after consultation with Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas and his internal security minister Mohammed Dahlan. Its makeup was not dictated by the severity of the crimes committed but by the following priorities.