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.
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 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 July 30, 2003
mg class="picture" src="/dynmedia/pictures/Swall.jpg" align="right" border="0"> Both Mahmoud Abbas and Ariel Sharon did their best to put a good face on their carefully choreographed visits to the White House on July 25 and July 29, respectively. debkafile's Washington sources have confirmed that both came away disappointed. While both received warm pats on the back, progress on the road to peace is clearly bumpy. Palestinian internal security minister Mohamed Dahlan who accompanied the Palestinian prime minister in his talks with the US president last Friday, was busy Tuesday, July 30, sneering at the notion of dismantling terrorist infrastructures as an "Israeli invention". He said he had no intention whatever of arresting terrorists. His remarks preceded his conference with Israeli defense minister Shaul Mofaz on the next two West Bank towns to be turned over to Palestinian security.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 27, 2003
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General Omar Suleiman, head of Egyptian intelligence - best known of late for his ceasefire efforts with Palestinian terrorist factions - arrived secretly in Tehran last Tuesday, July 22. There, he joined a group of his officers who have been cooling their heels in the Iranian capital since early July. (See earlier article: Tehran Plays Hide and Seek over al Qaeda Fugitives.) According to debkafile's counter-terror sources, the Egyptian intelligence chief hopes to fulfill a long-cherished ambition: to lay hands on his most wanted quarry - Showqi al-Istambuli. This Egyptian Jihad Islami-al-Qaeda terrorist may not be the most notorious Islamic network fugitive held in Iran, or as celebrated a catch as al Qaeda commander Saif al-Adal, but he is the one the Egyptians want most.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 20, 2003
Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas reaches the White House on July 25 seriously unempowered by Yasser Arafat, the very man whose authority he was appointed to curtail in order to stamp out Palestinian terrorism. His function is now openly described by Palestinian officials as "Arafat's messenger". The process of incapacitation was capped at was billed as a reconciliation meeting - a sulha - on Wednesday, July 16, under the aegis of head of Egyptian intelligence General Omar Suleiman, the indefatigable peacemaker of Palestinian squabbles. debkafile draws on DEBKA-Net-Weekly No. 117 for the first disclosure from Palestinian sources of exactly what happened at that meeting.
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DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 16, 2003
The truce declared by Palestinian terrorist organizations on June 29 was initially held up by prime minister Mahmoud Abbas and his internal security minister Mohammed Dahlan as evidence that persuasion could work better than confrontation to disarm the terrorists. They asked for a three-week grace period - which was granted and massive releases of Palestinian terrorists in Israeli jails - which was not. More than two weeks have been used up of that period and the two Palestinian leaders have barely gone through the motions of stripping the terrorist groups of their weapons in the areas turned over to their responsibility, the Gaza Strip and Bethlehem. In the 15 days of ceasefire from June 29 to July 14, 10 Israelis were murdered by Palestinian terrorists and the level of attacks on Israeli targets remains high in the southern Gaza Strip.
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.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 2, 2003
Jerusalem was the scene of a piece of show business on Tuesday, July 2. Two prime ministers, Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas stood on their respective lecterns at the Israeli prime minister's office in Jerusalem Tuesday, July 2, and gave a showcase peace performance that was broadcast around the world. Abbas aka Abu Mazen had no qualms about standing at a lectern draped with the Menorah emblem of the Jewish state, while Israeli and Palestinian cabinet ministers, looking like bored guests at a bar mitzvah, sat at a raised table covered with a blue-and-white tablecloth. Both prime ministers followed written scripts: "Our conflict is political and must be solved through diplomatic means," Abbas said - code for an end to the Palestinian uprising. Sharon quoted himself by promising "painful concession for real and durable peace for generations to come." Both leaders played their starring roles to the hilt.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 28, 2003
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For the Palestinians to begin upholding their June 4 Aqaba summit pledges, another strong shove was needed from Washington. It was administered this week in a telephone call from US secretary of state Colin Powell to Palestinian internal security minister Mohamed Dahlan. debkafile's Washington sources report Powell as saying in effect: The Hamas everyone is talking about is made up of no more than 500 to 1,000 armed men. If Dahlan can't get them under control and stop their terrorist activity, "someone else" will take over and finish them off one by one.
A demonstration quickly followed. Early Friday, June 27, a team of the Israeli naval commando Unit 13 raided a Hamas fastness in the southern Gaza Strip, killing three terrorists and capturing another three. The Israeli side lost one fighter, Staff Sgt. Erez Ashkenazi, 21, from Kibbutz Reshafim.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 24, 2003
The Israeli-Palestinian peace front remains stalled in defiance of the US secretary of state Colin Powell's generous assertion of progress towards an Israeli-Palestinian accord for the transfer of security responsibility on the Gaza Strip. He also commended the Palestinian Authority for its hard work to bring into place a cessation of violence on the part of Palestinian terrorist groups. That was on the morning of Monday, June 23. Monday evening, Hamas leaders took back the promise they gave the world media Sunday to say where they stood on a truce within 24 hours. Again, they upped demands. And again, it was said, an answer would be forthcoming tomorrow... maybe. Monday afternoon, a meeting at the Israel-Gaza Strip Erez checkpoint between Israel's military commander of the West Bank and Gaza Strip Lt. Major Amos Gilead and Palestinian internal security minister, Mohamed Dahlan, failed to reduce differences. There might be progress... tomorrow. Gilad said after the meeting: "As long as Arafat pulls their strings, we'll get exactly nowhere."