DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 1, 2004
Although Yasser Arafat's French physicians at the Percy military hospital near Paris have yet to come up with a definitive diagnosis of his condition, the Palestinian succession struggle has begun. The warring factions are acting on the assumption that he will not return to Ramallah and are fighting to fill the power vacuum. This premise is shared by Israel. The Carmel street market bombing Monday, November 1, claimed by the ultra-violent Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestinian, is seen by debkafile's Palestinian experts as an opening shot in the contest. The camp supporting Arafat sought to demonstrate that no leader as soft on Arafat's war of terror against Israel as is former Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) would be allowed to step into the ailing leader's shoes.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 29, 2004
The first winter rain bucketed down mixed with hailstones as two Jordanian helicopters carried the seriously ill Yasser Arafat out of Ramallah early Friday, October 29. Within an hour, he was out of the Middle East aboard a French presidential aircraft fitted out as an ambulance with life-support systems that whisked him from Amman to a French military hospital in Paris for urgent medical treatment. The circumstances of his exit indicate that, despite the veteran Palestinian leader's sinking health, waning popularity and a reputation tainted with rampant corruption, he remains a force capable of sustaining the war of terror he declared on Israel four years ago, although for three of those years he was confined to his Ramallah headquarters. They also signal the onset of a new stage in that war and the entry of a new lead player: France.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 23, 2004
The deterioration in Arafat's health has caught Sharon unawares. He is currently in full tilt of an assault on government and parliament to hammer home his disengagement plan against massive resistance. The distraction of Arafat's sudden departure from Ramallah threatens to slow down his plans in the short term. A long term threat cannot be ruled out. Established in an Arab or European country, the Palestinian leader would pose a different sort of peril, one that could undermine Sharon's disengagement scheme.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 13, 2004
According to debkafile's Palestinian and intelligence sources, Moussa Arafat`s would-be assassin was his foremost rival, the former Gaza strongman and Palestinian minister, Mohammed Dahlan. The two men spurned Egypt's recent attempts to make peace between them. The failed hit was an open declaration of war between the feuding Gazan kingpins and their followers. It is clear to both and to ordinary Gazans that both are determined to fight to the death, their own and those of their loyalists and whoever gets in the way. The crunch will undoubtedly come before Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon gets his Gaza pullout plan endorsed and in motion.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 6, 2004
Israel's chief of staff Lt.-Gen Moshe Yaalon made it clear this week that the seven-day IDF offensive to eliminate the Qassam cross-border missile blitz against Israel may well last weeks. He added that even after it was over, Israeli incursions into northern Gaza to destroy missile launchers and their crews would be repeated as often as necessary. Taken together, the two statements betray how little faith Israel's top soldier has in the operation crushing the missile threat, whether because it is a mission impossible or because it stands a good chance of being foreshortened by reason of political constraints. He will not have forgotten the non-completion of last May's Rafah-Khan Younis operation. Its declared missions then were to destroy the tunnel system feeding Palestinian terrorists with a steady flow of smuggled weapons from Egyptian Sinai and to set up a security zone on the Israel-Egyptian border under joint Israeli and Egyptian patrols to cut Palestinian Rafah off from Sinai.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 30, 2004
Forty-eight months into the so-called Palestinian uprising, an Israeli town was hit by 11 primitive missiles in four days and two small children murdered. All the signs point to the fact that neither the Israeli army nor the Sharon government has a clue on how to defeat the homemade Qassam. The Palestinians have achieved four additional victories: 1. Anarchy may prevail in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, but there is method to the Palestinian madness. It not only enables Yasser Arafat to exercise complete control in the Gaza Strip but also allows him - as Israel watches helplessly - to use the territory for transforming his four-year old campaign of suicidal terror into a full-scale war.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 25, 2004
On Thursday, September 23, US forces resorted to targeted assassination to dispose of Abu Anas al-Shami, a senior aide of the Jordanian al Qaeda mastermind, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, in Baghdad. Locating and killing a high-profile member of Zarqawi's organization a few days after the capture of another top Zarqawi aide, known as Omar Baziyani (an alias), is a considerable American feat in its relentless offensive against the group behind the deadly suicide bombings and hostage-taking atrocities afflicting Iraq. His real identity, we reveal here, was Omar Yusef Juma'a, a Palestinian terrorist operations expert from the West Bank town of Tulkarm. debkafile's counter-terror sources report that al-Shami was killed by an American missile in Baghdad's Shiite slum district, Sadr City.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 20, 2004
The missile in the photo with this article is the Luna-2 short-range ground-to-ground missile, known to NATO from Soviet times as FROG-7, which Iran has developed as its Zelzal-2/Mushak-200. In the hands of Iran's Lebanon-based Revolutionary Guards, it has extended the Iranian-Hizballah's missile range due south to Israel's coastal cities of Haifa, Hadera and Netanya. The missile, its launchers and infrastructure are well-hidden in special storehouses in the port town of Sidon in the care of Revolutionary Guards specialist teams. A Lebanese urban center was chosen for their hiding places to reduce the weapon's vulnerability to an Israeli air strike. With Tehran already issuing operational orders to the Palestinian Hamas fundamentalist terrorist group, it is only a question of time before these missiles are transferred to the Gaza Strip, so bringing southern Israel, Tel Aviv and the cities in between, such as Rehovot, Rishon Lezion and Ashdod, within striking range.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 8, 2004
Call him M. He is an Israeli army lieutenant who serving in the special anti-sniper unit posted in the southern Gaza Strip. His job is to spot and eliminate Palestinian snipers. Until last March, his training was adapted to the Palestinian sniper. But then, one morning, there was a change. Through his field glasses, he saw two men with a different look from the Palestinian gunmen he was used to. Both were neatly turned out in well-pressed civilian trousers and new western camouflage jackets. One had long fair hair, a light complexion and moved like a European. Around 90 minutes later, he stood up to move to another part of the roof. His right shoulder had been visible over the parapet no more than three or four seconds when he was knocked over by a gunshot before he had time to fire.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 10, 2004
Since Thursday, August 5 and up until early August 10, not a single Qassam missile landed from the Gaza Strip on the southern Israel towns of Sderot or neighboring West Negev kibbutzim. Their daily nightmare since last year was more or less in abeyance for six days. Suddenly too the stream of anti-Israel invective and threats dried up in the mouths of the ruling Fatah and its al Aqsa Martyrs (Suicides) Brigades, the Hamas, and the other Palestinian purveyors of mass terror. Furthermore, while Israelis argued the rights and wrongs of allowing Palestinian police officers (many of whom moonlight as terrorists) to patrol West Bank streets bearing arms, those officers began were already out fully armed on the streets of Jenin and Qalqilya without waiting for Israeli permission. debkafile's Palestinian sources hold up two keys to these mysteries, both held by Yasser Arafat:
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 31, 2004
Russian-made S-5 unguided aircraft rockets were part of the Egyptian haul earlier this month of a large shipment of missiles, stopped before they were smuggled to the Palestinians through the Rafah tunnels. The S-5 would be an important boost to the Palestinian arsenal; some may still defeat attempts to stop them and reach the Gaza Strip - either through the smuggling tunnels or by other routes, especially after Israeli troops are pulled back. debkafile reveals the Palestinians are planning to convert these Soviet-era 20-25-km range rockets into surface missiles capable of hitting southern Israel's key cities of Beersheba, Ashkelon and Ashdod. The rockets were originally Soviet-designed for use by the Mi-24 helicopter, the Russian equivalent of the American AH-64 Apache, in Afghanistan. In Palestinian hands, they would upgrade the missile threat beyond that posed by the hit-or-miss home-made Qassams, even the improved Nasser version.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 28, 2004
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The fateful June 30 judgment by Israeli High Court Justices Aharon Barak, Mishael Heshin and Eliahu Matza, that saving Palestinians from hardship must take precedence over saving Israeli lives, foredoomed to failure the security barrier's efficacy in separating Palestinian terrorists from their chosen targets in the most heavily populated parts of Israel. The alacrity of prime minister Ariel Sharon and defense minister Shaul Mofaz to comply with this ruling - as though it were a judgment from heaven - has stamped Israel's four-and-a-half year conflict against Palestinian terrorism with the mark of its government's weakness.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 27, 2004
Sunday, July 26, as pro-reform Palestinian legislator Nabil Amer was nursing the wounds inflicted by Yasser Arafat's gunmen, a phone call came through to his room at the Amman university hospital from none other than Arafat. The Palestinian leader inquired about his health and offered to pay his hospital expenses. Amer did not bother to reply. Sitting beside his bed was a fellow Hebronite, Rafiq Natshe, once Palestinian legislative council speaker, for many years PLO ambassador in Saudi Arabia and a highly respected figure in the Palestinian community. Known also as Abu Shakar, he is the head of the leading Natshe family of Hebron. Since Amer belongs to the largest Mt Hebron clan, which is centered on the large village of Dura, Natshe's frequent hospital visits are ominously charged: the two great clans of the southern West Bank have decided to make common cause against Arafat.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 17, 2004
Yasser Arafat waited until the Gaza Strip was relegated to the status of a write-off to be dumped by Israel, with the Egyptians and Britain maintaining an interim security presence until the Palestinians were deemed fit to rule a reformed, terror-free administration. Arafat himself was seen as a spent force. However, 48 hours before Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon launched coalition negotiations for a government lineup committed to evacuating the Gaza Strip, Arafat pounced. One, two, three abductions were staged in the Gaza Strip in a 10-hour period on Friday, July 16. By nightfall Saturday, Arafat was in absolute command of the territory.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 11, 2004
The Palestinians timed one of their last effective terror attacks for the day before the international court at The Hague began hearing the Palestinian petition against Israel's defense barrier. Sunday, July 11, two days after the court ruled the barrier illegal, the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the suicide arm of Yasser Arafat's Fatah, closed the circle by detonating a medium-sized bomb in rush hour traffic at a Tel Aviv bus stop, killing a 20-year old Israeli girl soldier and injuring another 40 commuters, 4 of them seriously. debkafile's political analysts believe that the negative pro-Palestinian opinion handed down against Israel's security fence was not inescapable or pre-ordained. The Israeli government's stubborn decision not to present its case tilted it in the Palestinians' favor. Instead of protesting fruitlessly outside the courthouse, the victims of Palestinian terror, not all of them Israeli citizens, should have been inside depicting the Palestinian authority's campaign of suicidal terror and genocidal motives as the rationale for the non-violent barrier.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 30, 2004
Three Israeli high court judges led by chief justice Aharon Barak handed down a landmark ruling Wednesday, June 30, which said explicitly that the welfare of ten West Bank Palestinian villages is more important than the security of Israeli citizens. The court accepted a Palestinian petition claiming the defense barrier separated villagers from their land, schools and jobs, and ordered the Israeli defense ministry to reroute 30 kilometers out of 40 kilometers of the fence designed to keep Palestinian suicide killers out of the capital. This stretch runs northwest of Jerusalem from Givat Zeev to Nataf. The IDF proposal to cut four gates in the fence was not accepted. The court affirmed in principle that the barrier's purpose was to save lives rather than a political land grab and was not therefore illegal. No demands were made of the Palestinians with regard to renouncing support for terror. The director of the defense ministry barrier project said the court had handed down "a very bad judgment for Israel and made a mockery of the victims of the Palestinian Authority and terrorist organizations."
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 15, 2004
Pushing hard against his failing health, isolation and weakened position in the Palestinian and Arab world, Yasser Arafat has gone into hyperactive mode to dodge international heat for reforms in the Palestinian security forces, fend off Egyptian dictates and, most importantly, to trip up Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan. debkafile's intelligence and Palestinian sources reveal that a top-level Palestinian delegation has been in Damascus since the end of last week waiting to be received by Syrian president Bashar Assad. Their mission is to heal the twenty-year breach with Arafat that Bashar inherited from his father Hafez and so pave the way for establishing a Syrian-Palestinian front - with possible Iranian backing - to defeat Sharon's plan and keep the Egyptians out of Palestinian affairs.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report May 24, 2004
Most of the Palestinian armed terrorists based in Gaza Strip's Rafah fled north to Khan Younes during the May 22-23 weekend pause in the large-scale Israeli operation launched seven days ago. Some even dropped their weapons in their haste to get out. The IDF buildup of infantry and armor in and around Rafah Sunday night, May 23, was effected to take advantage of the unusual scarcity of armed terrorists in the town and make sure it stayed that way. The plan now is to keep Rafah encircled and its streets clear of armed men, much like the West Bank towns of Ramallah, Jenin, Tulkarm and Nablus. There, large Israeli contingents are deployed on the perimeters, poised to stage incursions in response to intelligence alerts of terrorist operations in the making. This formula has cut down terrorist attacks against Israeli targets in recent months. The difference in respect to Rafah will be that the surrounding IDF troops will be on the alert for intelligence on the location of tunnels. Raids will then be staged to blow them up.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report May 23, 2004
Israel's Rafah Operation, now in its sixth day, differs substantially from the 2002 Jenin battle in its strategic and existential scope. This time it is not just about the Palestinians and Israel, or even short-term security. The IDF is fighting in Rafah against the Palestinian appetite for expansion, the drive to extend its claim on the Gaza Strip to include the Israel-Egyptian border zone abutting on Sinai.
This internationally recognized frontier was embodied in the peace treaty the two countries achieved after Egypt renounced war. Demolishing everything this accord stands for is the underlying objective of the Palestinian smuggling tunnel system and their constant harassment of Israeli border patrols securing the Philadelphi border route. Documents Israeli troops found at the outset of Operation Rainbow expose Palestinian determination to push Israel out of its positions on this international border and sabotage a key clause in the first peace accord Israel signed with an Arab nation.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report May 19, 2004
Israel's large-scale Israel military operation in Rafah, which was launched Tuesday, May 18, in the terrorist hotbed of Tel Sultan, did not start out on the Philadelphi Route marking the Egyptian-Gazan-Israeli international border. It began attacking the lawless core of the entire Rafah frontier region where illegal trafficking has run out of control. The tunnels running transversely under the border from Egyptian Sinai into Rafah have sprouted an extensive multimillion crime racket capable of placing quantities of illegal high-powered weapons in the hands of Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip and West Bank and reaching destinations across the Middle East. The tunnels also carry from Sinai, where Egyptian border control is lax, the usual contraband including drugs and prostitutes. In the absence of legitimate jobs, Rafah inhabitants, including those who fled their homes ahead of the Israeli advance, make their living from the tunnels and are paid well for the use of their homes as exits or as havens for terrorists.