DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 4, 2003
By great good fortune, a Palestinian plot to blow up a large comprehensive school in the small town of Yokneam east of Haifa was foiled. Israeli intelligence was forewarned of the plot by a Palestinian terrorist picked up in an earlier raid. The entire region north of Tel Aviv abutting the West Bank was placed on the highest terror alert Wednesday, December 3, until the pair of would-be suicide bombers was found cowering in a mosque. The attack was meant to be spectacular. It was timed to show up the real value of any truce worked out by 13 Palestinian terrorist groups' representatives who began their conference in Cairo Thursday, December 4, under Egyptian government aegis. Pinning the blame on Jihad Islami was a form of cover-up to which Israeli officials also lent a hand. What was the point?
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 1, 2003
The unauthorized Geneva Accords launch ceremony, celebrated by a flock of unofficial and private individuals at the Swiss lakeside city on Monday, December 1, have netted handsome profits for Yasser Arafat. He has made the United States, Egypt, Israel and his own Palestinians pay through the nose for letting Fatah members attend as private persons while moderating his rejection of the private peace project by not a whit.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 26, 2003
The unpublicized decision by Jordan's king Abdullah and his prime minister Faisal al-Fayez to grant passports to 150,000 Palestinians from Gaza living in the Hashemite Kingdom could reduce to irrelevance the celebrations surrounding a welter of private alternative "peace accords" and their rationale: Prime minister Ariel Sharon's alleged failure to come up with any political solution for the conflict with the Palestinians. Amman's decision is reported exclusively by debkafile's Palestinian and Washington sources. It is said to be the opening move in a novel Sharon initiative backed by the Bush administration to cut through to an acceptable peace formula on the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 12, 2003
The Palestinian legislative council set their faces to confirm the new cabinet presented by Ahmed Qureia Wednesday out of a sense of fatalism, although many lawmakers openly called it "Arafat's government", deeply disturbed by the control he retained over Palestinian security forces and presence of former administration members accused of corruption. Powerless to stand up to the ageing Arafat, Abu Ala followed his dictation to be sworn in as second Palestinian prime minister after ceding most of the authority needed to arrest the rapid breakdown of Palestinian governance into terror-generated chaos. The keynote speech Arafat delivered to the council was described as the Qureia government's "mandate."
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 5, 2003
Despite his staunch loyalty to Yasser Arafat, Ahmed Qureia looks like suffering the same fate as his predecessor, Mahmoud Abbas - being ground to dust by his boss, according to debkafile's Palestinian sources. To generate a semblance of order, Arafat placed Qureia at the head of a "caretaker government" at midnight of November 4, when the provisional emergency government's 30-day term expired. However, it is hard to gloss over his world record for changing prime ministers, one every three months. Qureia, better known as Abu Ala, was caught napping. A longtime ally, he never expected to be at the receiving end of the treatment meted out to the "American puppet," Mahmoud Abbas, aka Abu Mazen. Nevertheless, he found himself left high and dry as nominal head of a transitional cabinet that has no standing in the Palestinian constitution.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 21, 2003
In Damascus, Syrian president Bashar Assad picked up the gauntlets thrown down by the US - congressional legislation for sanctions against his country - and by Israel, whose government spokesman warned that the October 5 air strike near Damascus would not be the last if the Syrians continued to dabble in anti-Israel terrorism. Far from being deterred, the Syrian ruler called a terror summit to close ranks and launch a fresh onslaught. For the first time, the external Damascus-based head of the Palestinian Jihad Islami, Ramadan Abdallah Shalah, and Hamas chief, Khaled Mashal, came together this week for to launch without delay a joint massive campaign of suicide and multi-casualty attacks in Israel. Iranian, Syrian and Hizballah representatives at the unprecedented get-together consecrated the new coalition. It was Assad's way of showing contempt for Washington and stressing his commitment not only to keep up the flow of anti-American fighters through his country into Iraq, but to top it up with parallel incursions of terrorists into Israel and Palestinian-controlled areas.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 20, 2003
Four days after Palestinian bombers murdered three American security men in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian ambushers shot three Israeli members of the crack Duchifat unit on their nightly foot patrol at the Palestinian village of Ain Yabrud near Ofra in the Ramallah district of the West Bank. They were shot in the back. Before escaping the scene in a prepared getaway vehicle, the three Palestinian assailants went up to the injured soldiers, shot them dead and snatched their weapons. Minutes later, an Israeli force alerted by the gunfire arrived on the scene. Their attempts to resuscitate their comrades were unavailing. Equally fruitless was the air and ground manhunt for the terrorists who needed no more than a couple of minutes to drive away in the dark. This Palestinian attack, like the one in the Gaza Strip, was characterized by precise intelligence and split-second timing that could only have been achieved by several weeks of advance surveillance of their victims' routines.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 19, 2003
US officials in Tel Aviv are complaining about the "mixed" cooperation FBI investigators have encountered from Palestinian Authority security services in their inquiry into the remote-controlled bomb attack in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, October 15, that left three American security men dead and one injured. This was a polite expression of their frustration at being stonewalled by the Palestinian authorities who know exactly whom the perpetrators are. debkafile has obtained their names exclusively from high intelligence and counter-terror sources. The murderous bomb-attack was planned and executed by Yasser Zannoon and Mohammad al-Baba, heads of a Khan Younes militia in the southern Gaza Strip.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 15, 2003
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The explosion that blasted a CIA vehicle outside Beit Hanoun just after an official US embassy convoy entered the northern Gaza Strip through the Erez checkpoint represents a dangerous escalation of Palestinian terrorist aggression. It is a milestone, akin to the August 19 suicide strike against UN headquarters in Baghdad which claimed 24 lives including special UN representative in Iraq Sergio Vieira de Mello. He was the linchpin of American efforts to restore normalcy to the country. Since then, the security situation in Iraq has deteriorated disastrously as international bodies assisting those efforts quietly withdraw themselves and their services from Iraq. The Palestinian assault on an American convoy in the Gaza Strip had the same objective.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 14, 2003
The latest flurry of diplomatic, political and military activity surrounding the Palestinian question is the product of the sharp decline in Yasser Arafat's health. A tense waiting game is now in progress, one surface symptom of which is Ahmed Qureia's hesitant hand on the reins of government. Monday, October 13, he led his emergency cabinet in its first working session while indicating he would not stay on the job beyond a month. Nabil Shaath said a new Palestinian government would be presented in mid-November. At the same time, the Saudi paper Al Watan reported the Bush administration is seeking to set up an "alternative" Palestinian leadership to govern until elections can be held.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 1, 2003
Ahmed Qureia's plan to set up a broad 24-member national emergency government under Yasser Arafat's guidance is dead in the water. It drowned in a wave of disapproval from the United States and the European Union, internal squabbles and open opposition from the outgoing Palestinian security chief, Mohammed Dahlan. Scrambling to salvage what they could, Abu Ala and Yasser Arafat, decided at a secret brainstorming session at Ramallah headquarters early on Tuesday, September 30, to try for a narrow government and have it in place with hours. Even so, US secretary of state Colin Powell said in Detroit that if Abu Ala doesn't make a solid commitment to the road map and clamp down on terrorists, "it is not clear how we can go forward."
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 17, 2003
The story behind the call issued Tuesday, September 16, by Yasser Arafat's adviser, Jibril Rajoub, for a ceasefire is a typically devious one, according to debkafile's exclusive Palestinian sources. On the advice of his European friends, Arafat decided to adjust his short-term game plan; before unleashing his terror campaign, he thought it would be wise to capitalize on some of the diplomatic mileage awarded him after the Israeli government's decision in principle to "remove" him. A Palestinian government under Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala) will now go forward. One of its first acts will be the declaration of a unilateral ceasefire of unlimited duration. The two steps are calculated to make a good impression on the Middle East Quartet when its members meet later this month. They may even be persuaded to pressure Israel to halt its military actions against terrorist leaders, suspend settlement building activity and give up the security fence.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 13, 2003
Yasser Arafat has been basking in the attention showered on him from far and wide following the Israeli cabinet's declaration Thursday, September 11, that he should be removed. Since then, he stands at the window of his battered Ramallah office, beaming and waving the victory sign. Saturday, September 13, he summoned foreign consuls and Israeli peace activists to pay their respects on the 10th anniversary of the failed Oslo Peace Accords (for which he won a Nobel Peace Prize). He told them that the UN Security Council members' warning to Israel not to expel him was an international guarantee for his safety. This has encouraged him to go for a starring solo role on the Palestinian stage and go for a mega-strike that beats everything the Palestinians have thus far inflicted on Israel.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 12, 2003
Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon came marching into an urgent cabinet meeting called on Thursday, September 11, over the latest terrorist crisis and Palestinian threats of escalation, determined not to give into ministers' and popular demands to deport Yasser Arafat. debkafile's political sources report he pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket as the session began and told the worried ministers in effect: There is nothing I want to hear from any of you. I have drafted my own resolution and you will approve it. What he read out was this: "Arafat is an obstacle to peace and Israel will take action to create the conditions for his removal." The ministers were not told what conditions, how the "obstacle" was to be removed or when. Some read the text as a recipe for Arafat's deportation; others for doing nothing at all. None had any idea what they had voted for.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 7, 2003
In the space of a few hours, Yasser Arafat had his chosen candidate for next prime minister, Ahmed Qurai (Abu Ala), approved by ruling Fatah and PLO institutions Sunday night, September 7, and is expected to gain endorsement at the same high speed from the Palestinian legislature. He wanted Mahmoud Abbas, who resigned the post Saturday, September 6, amid a bitter power struggle, replaced fast before the scale of the earthquake entailed in the changeover was fully appreciated in Washington, Jerusalem and Cairo.
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 6, 2003
It took Yasser Arafat 100 days to knock over the linchpin of the Aqaba peace strategy plotted by US President George W. Bush and Israeli premier Ariel Sharon at the Jordanian Red Sea resort; Abu Mazen aka Mahmoud Abbas submitted his resignation on Saturday, September 6, for lack of any other option. Arafat's blow was a double-headed one, striking at two key sections of he Bush administration's master-plan: the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and Iraq.
The statistics of the ill-fated Abu Mazen experiment are horrendous - in 88 days from the June 6 Aqaba summit up until Saturday September 6, 64 Israelis were murdered by Palestinian terrorists and more than 1,000 wounded, i.e. 0.7 dead and more than 10 injured victims per day. It is hard to imagine any government continuing to base its policies - especially one that declares the security of its citizens is paramount - on the regular slaughter of its citizens day after day by a declared enemy.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 3, 2003
Yasser Arafat celebrated the death of the Middle East road map in an interview Wednesday, September 3, blaming Israel and the US. His main butt, Palestinian prime Mahmoud Abbas, declared his supported the US peace initiative, but threatened to quit unless given more powers. Arafat chips away at these powers day after day. Having retained his grip on the bulk of Palestinian security forces, he is now seeking to take over Abu Mazen's diplomatic prerogatives as well. A pretty forlorn attempt to repair the disarray at the top of the Palestinian leadership was initatited earlier this week by Egyptian security chief general Omar Suleiman, architect of the first Palestinian ceasefire that broke down in August.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 31, 2003
Washington's stern warning to Yasser Arafat to beware of toppling Mahmoud Abbas' government at the Palestinian legislative council worked surprisingly well. The council session - called by Abbas himself to report on his first 100 days in office - was put back five days from Monday, September 1, to Thursday. The scheduled confidence vote was then cancelled in the nick of time to save Abbas. Arafat had worked the phone and managed to raise a majority for voting him down. The formal US Note delivered Thursday, August 28, by the American consul-general in Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority, the first since the body was established in 1994, stressed that if Abbas is ousted, the United State will withdraw its support for the road map and a Palestinian state, a process already stalled by the steady escalation in Palestinian violence over the past few weeks.