Commentary and analyses on terrorism, intelligence, security, and military and political affairs in the Middle East.
According to a Palestinian report, their Minister for Settlement Affairs, Ziad Abu Ain, died in hospital Wednesday after being beaten up by an Israel soldier at Turmus Aya in the northern West Bank.
A group of at least ten ISIS operations and intelligence officers, led by a senior commander, has arrived in Sinai and taken charge of the local Ansar Beit al-Maqdas jihadis, thereby opening up a dangerous new front against Egypt and Israel, in proximity to the Suez Canal, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, debkafile reports. Since Ansar pledged allegiance to IS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdad considers Sinai a province of his Islamic caliphate. His forward command in Sinai is directed to move from targeting Egypt to fighting the “Egyptian-Zionist alliance.”
Responding to Russia’s demand of Israel to “explain” Sunday's air strike over Syria, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Tuesday: “Israel has red lines and won’t let them be crossed.” Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said: “Anyone who tries to arm our enemies should understand that we will go anywhere to defend our security.” He added: “Those seeking to harm our people and dislocate their lives will pay dear.”
DEBKAfile reports that a large Hamas delegation landed in Tehran Tuesday to finalize a deal for repairing the Palestinian extremists’ falling-out with Iran and the Assad regime and get financial and arms assistance back on track. It is headed by Muhammed Nasser, right hand of the Hamas political chief Khaled Meshaal, Maher Abdullah and Jamal Ismail, members of External-Hamas’ military staff, as well as Osama Hamdan, the organization’s representative in Lebanon.
The report from the Senate Intelligence Committee will be the first public accounting of the CIA’s use after 9/11 of what critics call torture on al Qaeda detainees held at “black” sites in Europe and Asia. The committee on Tuesday was expected to release a 480-page redacted executive summary of the 6,000-plus-page report compiled by Democrats on the panel. The report refers specifically to three detainees who are described as undergoing torture, including “waterboarding” and sleep deprivation, for several years.
Security has been tightened at US military bases and embassies worldwide in case damning information about CIA interrogations triggers attacks. The Senate panel alleges that the harsh interrogations failed to produce unique and life-saving intelligence — a conclusion disputed by current and former intelligence officials, including CIA Director John Brennan. It is also expected to accuse the CIA of repeatedly lying to Congress, the White House and the public. A Republican minority report is also set to be released, as well as a rebuttal from the CIA.
The Senate report cites the involvement of 54 countries in CIA rendition tactics. Fears are raised that the exposure of foreign bodies and individuals associated with those tactics may place them at risk of revenge attacks by Muslim extremists, including al Qaeda. Former CIA heads warn that publication of the report will irreversibly damage America’s reputation and world influence and deter former collaborators from ties with US intelligence.
Tekoa dwellers were instructed to stay indoors Tuesday as heavy military contingents poured in to hunt for terrorists feared to have infiltrated their West Bank settlement. Two Palestinians were detained earlier found loitering outside Tekoa’s perimeter fence. One carried a knife.
There were conflicting reports on the condition of an Israeli stabbed early Tuesday at the Chabad-Lubavitch world headquarters in New York, after being repeatedly stabbed by an African-American male who entered the Brooklyn Crown Heights building. He has been reported in serious but stable condition. The attacker was shot by police when he refused to put down his weapon and evacuated to hospital under arrest. He subsequently died of his injuries.
DEBKAfile reports that the head of Hizballah’s logistic administration was killed in the Israeli air strike near Damascus international airport Sunday. The officer was apparently supervising the transfer to Lebanon of advanced weapons from a deport at the base of the 103rd brigade of the Syrian army’s 4th Division.
The Russian weapons systems Israel jets bombed Sunday are identified by DEBKAfile’s military sources as the highly mobile Buk mobile, radar-guided surface-to-air missile (SAM) system with all four main components — acquisition and targeting radars, a command element, missile launchers, and a logistics element — mounted on tracked vehicles; and the Pantsir-S1 which is effective against cruise missiles as well as aircraft. Our sources add that the two pieces of hardware were concealed in a depot near Damascus international airport inside a shipment of Iranian surface missiles.
US military sources revealed Monday, Dec. 8, that Israel’s air strikes near Damascus the day before wiped out Russian hardware including missiles dispatched post haste to help Syria and Hizballah frustrate a US no-fly zone plan for northern Syria. The Kremlin has warned that any no-fly zone over Syria would be treated as direct US intervention in the Syria war, and incur Russian military intervention. The advanced anti-air missiles and radar Moscow sent Syria and Hizballah to back up this warning were destroyed by Israel. Damascus threatens Israel with “unimaginable harm.”
On the Israeli parliament’s last day of business before the March 17 general election, the Netanyahu government rushed through a series of laws opposed by the ministers he sacked last week. Instead of zero VAT on first apartments, proposed by ex-finance minister Yair Lapid, prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu promised a law to eliminate VAT on price-controlled basic foods and double the grants to discharged soldiers. He also called again for a regional peace process with the Arab League “to separate from the Palestinians.” Electioneering is already in full spate.
The Canadian embassy shut down in the Egyptian capital Monday citing “unsettled security conditions,” after an IS video featured a Canadian fighter identified as Abu Anwar al-Canadi, formerly John Maguire, an Islamist convert from a place near Ottawa, who referred to the killing of Canadian soldiers and the recent attack on the Canadian parliament. He urged Muslims to follow the example of those attacks. The US and Australian embassies remain open while advising their nationals to be vigilant. The Sinai-based Ansar Beit al-Maqdas recently pledged allegiance to ISIS.
Israel’s air strikes near Damascus international airport and the Syrian-Lebanese border Sunday, Dec. 7, are depicted by Middle East sources as Israel’s first overt military clash with Russia in the course of the Syrian war. Those sources assert that the strikes demolished components of Russian SA-25 or other types of top-line anti-air missile systems that Moscow had shipped in for Syria and the Lebanese Hizballah. The raid came less than 24 hours after Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov shook hands with Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut.
The Saudi, UAE and Egyptian rulers are acting to finally unravel the effects of Barack Obama’s “Arab Spring” and extinguish the Muslim Brotherhood and other elements he supported for overturning conservative regimes. debkafile: These Arab rulers have found a key ally in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who used the chance of an epic breakthrough in relations with leading Arab nations, with immediate and far-reaching effect on Israel’s security and standing in the region. He has not so far exposed this feat in campaigning for re-election.
President Barack Obama and his National Security team headed by Susan Rice have decided to seize on the political crisis besetting the Israeli government and the upcoming general election on March 17 for action to bar Binyamin Netanyahu’s reelection to a fourth term as prime minister.
This decision reverberated through Future party leader Yair Lapid’s assertion Wednesday night, Dec. 3, after he was sacked as finance minister, that Binyamin Netanyahu would not be next prime minister. He laid claim to the premiership himself. The Obama administration has maintained close ties with Lapid.
All the US and Western strike and surveillance flights against ISIS in Syria and Iraq reach their targets through Israeli and Jordanian airspace, US, European and civilian monitors of global air force movements report. This is confirmed by detailed maps released by bodies tracking the movements of military strike and refueling craft across the world. One of two corridors (see attached map) runs north of Tel Aviv through Jordan to Iraq and the second through Golan to Syria. Israel and Jordan are revealed as partners in the US-led air offensive against ISIS.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu preferred Maj. Gen. Yair Golan for the top IDF post to Maj. Gen. Gady Eizenkott, whose appointment was announced Nov. 29. He was dissatisfied with the performance of retiring Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and his deputy Eizenkott in the Gaza campaign, as wanting in assertiveness and the operational and tactical capabilities required for countering Hizballah’s plans to take the coming war forecast for the spring onto Israel’s home ground. Netanyahu hopes Gen. Golan as Deputy C-of-S will make up for those deficiencies.
“We’re going to build the kind of coalition that allows us to lead, but also isn’t entirely dependent on what we do,” said President Barack Obama at a fundraiser in Baltimore Friday, Sept. 12. That was exactly the kind of ambiguous comment which the governments America is wooing to join the coalition find so off-putting. And so, US Gen. John Allen, appointed Friday, Sept 12, to lead the coalition, learned that 10 Arab and Muslim leaders were just as equivocal when Secretary of State John Kerry’s asked them for combat troops.
Barack Obama set out a four-point strategy for fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria, starting with a systematic air campaign in Iraq, followed by Kurdish and Iraqi ground offensives and after they roll ISIS back, US air strikes over is Syrian strongholds.
The Revolutionary Guards air force interception of a chartered plane carrying US troops from Afghanistan was part of a radical contest with the pro-diplomacy president over Iran’s nuclear program and ties with Washington.
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