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25 mars 2017 6 25 /03 /mars /2017 18:45
ISIS U-Turns West to Lebanon as Next Target
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 25, 2017, 11:12 AM (IDT)



American


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American helicopters Thursday and Friday, March 23-24, dropped Kurdish and Arab fighters over a region west of the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa. Those forces quickly captured at least five villages and so cut jihadist concentrations in the northwestern Syria off from their Raqqa stronghold. debkafile’s military sourcesreport this operation was the opening shot of the US-led campaign to isolate the Islamic State’s Syrian capital before storming it.

Raqqa’s liberation is not expected to encounter the same fierce ISIS resistance as the US-led Iraqi army is facing in Mosul. That is partly because the town has gradually emptied of fighting forces ever since ISIS chiefs saw that their time was running out. Instead, ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi and his strategists, Iraqi ex-generals, effected a major U-turn: the jihadists fleeing the Syrian and Iraqi fronts, instead of heading for the ISIS bastions in Deir ez-Zour in eastern Syria and Abu Kamal in western Iraqi Anbar province, were given new orders to head in the opposite direction for their next destination: Lebanon.

This is a radical change from their former orders to reassemble in the two towns, which straddle the Iraqi-Syrian border and have commanded the Al Qa’im crossing and ISIS supply routes ever since June 2014. Both towns are located in virtual desert regions through which any approaching enemies are visible from afar. Moreover, the dense vegetation of the Euphrates river banks and nearby forests are effective cover for surreptitious movements against aerial and satellite surveillance.

American and Iraqi intelligence agencies are sure that Al-Baghdad and his top lieutenants are hiding in one of the two towns or in a safe house between them. So why are they are ready to give up these strategic safe havens, after building them up for two years, and suddenly sending their fugitive fighters after new turf?,

  • ISIS leaders see fresh prey in Lebanon’s weak government and army.
  • Lebanon which is chronically beset with conflicts among the Sunni, Hizballah-Shiite and Christian communities offers a vulnerable playing field for ISIS inroads.
  • Lebanon’s second largest town of Tripoli, 85km north of Beirut, a strongly Sunni city with a Mediterranean port, is one promising ISIS target.
  • Another is Sidon, its third largest city, located 40km south of Beirut on the southern Mediterranean coast. An added advantage is its proximity to the Israeli border, no more than 60km north of Naharia, the closest the Islamic State has ever come to a Israeli town.
    Adjoining Sidon, which has a core population of 90,000, is the Palestinian refugee camp-town of Ain Hilwa, among whose quarter of a million inmates ISIS has already planted cells – both overt and sleepers.
  • ISIS leaders now conclude that their Iraqi-Syria border strongholds may prove too hard to secure when, according to their reckoning, they come under American or Russian guns. Foreign powers are less likely to intervene militarily to take on a terrorist organization in unstable Lebanon.
  • They would gain a new vantage point for hitting Syrian, Iranian and Hizballah forces fighting in Syria from the rear.

debkafile’s sources reveal that American and Israeli intelligence services conveyed a warning to the new Lebanese President Michel Aoun earlier this month with details of the ISIS conspiracy to overrun parts of his country, as it did Iraq and Syria three years ago.

 

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24 mars 2017 5 24 /03 /mars /2017 03:36
UK Parliament terror tied to Antwerp attack
DEBKAfile  Exclusive Report  March 23, 2017, 8:32 PM (IDT)

http://www.debka.com/dynmedia/photos/2017/03/22/src/london_terror_act_22.3.2017__Image_2.png

The Westminster attacker, 52-year old British-born Khalid Masoud, was claimed as “a soldier of the Islamic State” Thursday, March 23, after he murdered three people and injured more than forty. Some are still in critical condition. The London Metropolitan Police do not now believe he was acting alone. In pursuit of accomplices, anti-terror police made eight arrests at six addresses in East London and Birmingham on suspicion of “preparation of terror attacks." More arrests are expected.

In Antwerp, Belgium, 24 hours later, a man wearing military-style uniform, was arrested trying to drive at high speed into a crowd before anyone was hurt. He was identified as 39-year-old Mohamed R, a French national of North African origin living in France. Bomb disposal experts found knives, a shotgun and a gas can in his car.

French and Belgian police say the London and Antwerp terror attacks were linked. The second attack was scheduled to take place Wednesday at the same time as the assault at the British parliament, a twin event to "celebrate"the first anniversary of the Islamic State's suicide bombing on the Brussels airport and subway which murdered 32 people.

Khalid Masoud began his rampage of terror Wednesday by plowing into a crowd of pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, then crashing his car into the railings of Parliament Yard and ending with a stabbing attack on policemen guarding the entrance to the House.

He had been known to the police and intelligence services, Prime Minister Theresa May revealed to a shocked House Thursday. She told the MPs he had been investigated some years ago, but was not part of the current intelligence picture, which means he was not under the radar at present.

Police said he had a string of convictions for various criminal offensives unrelated to terrorism.
Masoud, who was shot dead by police officers barring his attempt to storm the British parliament, was a married father of three and a former English teacher. Born in Kent outside London, he is believed to have been living in Birmingham.

Read earlier debkafile reports on the incident.

The terrorist attack that hit London Wednesday, March 22, was all the more shocking in that it came closer than ever before to assaulting a Western government center since Al Qaeda 16 years ago crashed a plane onto the Pentagon in Washington, not far from the White House. This Wednesday, four people lost their lives in London, including a police officer, and more than 40 were injured. The terrorist mowed down pedestrians on the crowded Westminster Bridge and then stabbed policemen who barred him from storming Parliament, before he was shot dead. The British police rate the attack a terrorist incident presumed inspired by the Islamic State, although his identity has not been affirmed.

Careful reconnaissance would have shown him that the entrance to the building serving the vehicles of the prime minister and cabinet members afforded access to the House when it opened for cars. He would also have noticed that, while armed police guarded the House, the vicinity and its famous landmarks, such as Westminster Bridge, were not similarly guarded. Prime Minister Theresa May’s explanation in an address to the nation that night was that England is proud of its traditions of freedom and democracy.
So the terrorist was free to run down dozens of civilians unopposed, before crashing into the railings of the Palace of Westminster and racing to the entrance. His only weapons were a knife and a car. The dimensions of the atrocity had the terrorist carried a powerful firearm are unthinkable.

DEBKA reported Wednesday

Hours after two terrorist attacks at the British House of Parliament Wednesday, March 22, police were still not certain whether they were carried out by a single terrorist, more than one or the work of a terrorist network. A second death was reported of the 20 injured on Westminster Bridge. The assailant stabbed three police officers who prevented him entering the building. One has since died. The assailant was shot and died of his injures. Later, a woman was pulled alive out of the River Thames.

As central London and its transport system ground to a halt, and security police spread over an ever widening net, no one was sure whether the episode was over. Scotland Yard Commander B.J. Harrington said that a full-scale terrorist investigation is underway and called on the public to report with any information and be vigilant.

Cobra, the government’s crisis committee, meets with senior officials from government, counter-terrorism officials and the police present. The meeting will be led by the prime minister. Armed and unarmed police are on duty on the streets of London. Anti-terror police teams are scouring the cavernous parliament building, where lawmakers remain under lockdown along with Downing Street.

The London Eye at the Thames stopped trapping its “guests” within the attraction..

The threat level for international terrorism in the UK was listed at severe. Wednesday was the anniversary of suicide bombings in the Brussels airport and subway that killed 32 people.

debkafile reported straight after the attack.

The UK parliament is in lockdown after an apparent multiple terror attack with at least ten injuries. Several people were struck by a vehicle on Westminster Bridge. The vehicle carried on driving towards Parliament and crashed through the railings into the yard. At the same time, an assailant entered Parliament, stabbed a policeman and was quickly shot by armed police. Parliament was suspended by the Speaker and members were ordered to stay in place. Ambulances are evacuating he at least 12 people injured on Westminster Bridge. One woman has died in hospital.. A police officer bundled Prime Minister Theresa May out of the House. Downing Street is also under lockdown. Scotland Yard is treating this as a terrorist incident until proven otherwise.

Theresa May was rushed into a car 40 yards from the gates outside parliament where shots were fired minutes after the incident occurred, according to footage filmed by a member of staff. She was ushered by at least eight armed undercover police, some with their firearms drawn, into a waiting black vehicle in Speaker’s Court.

There is some speculation that a single assailant may have carried out both incidents. If so, the incident has been contained. If there were two, the second terrorist is on the run.

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23 mars 2017 4 23 /03 /mars /2017 01:48
UK Parliament under terror attack
DEBKAfile  Exclusive Report  March 22, 2017, 8:19 PM

 


Hours


 

Hours after two terrorist attacks at the British House of Parliament Wednesday, March 22, police were still not certain whether they were carried out by a single terrorist, more than one or the work of a terrorist network. A second death was reported of the 20 injured on Westminster Bridge. The assailant stabbed three police officers who prevented him entering the building. One has since died. The assailant was shot and died of his injures. Later, a woman was pulled alive out of the River Thames.

As central London and its transport system ground to a halt, and security police spread over an ever widening net, no one was sure whether the episode was over. Scotland Yard Commander B.J. Harrington said that a full-scale terrorist investigation is underway and called on the public to report with any information and be vigilant.

Cobra, the government’s crisis committee, meets with senior officials from government, counter-terrorism officials and the police present. The meeting will be led by the prime minister. Armed and unarmed police are on duty on the streets of London. Anti-terror police teams are scouring the cavernous parliament building, where lawmakers remain under lockdown along with Downing Street.

The London Eye at the Thames stopped trapping its “guests” within the attraction..

The threat level for international terrorism in the UK was listed at severe. Wednesday was the anniversary of suicide bombings in the Brussels airport and subway that killed 32 people.

debkafile reported straight after the attack.

The UK parliament is in lockdown after an apparent multiple terror attack with at least ten injuries. Several people were struck by a vehicle on Westminster Bridge. The vehicle carried on driving towards Parliament and crashed through the railings into the yard. At the same time, an assailant entered Parliament, stabbed a policeman and was quickly shot by armed police. Parliament was suspended by the Speaker and members were ordered to stay in place. Ambulances are evacuating he at least 12 people injured on Westminster Bridge. One woman has died in hospital.. A police officer bundled Prime Minister Theresa May out of the House. Downing Street is also under lockdown. Scotland Yard is treating this as a terrorist incident until proven otherwise.

Theresa May was rushed into a car 40 yards from the gates outside parliament where shots were fired minutes after the incident occurred, according to footage filmed by a member of staff. She was ushered by at least eight armed undercover police, some with their firearms drawn, into a waiting black vehicle in Speaker’s Court.

There is some speculation that a single assailant may have carried out both incidents. If so, the incident has been contained. If there were two, the second terrorist is on the run.

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22 mars 2017 3 22 /03 /mars /2017 02:44
Israeli drone crashes. Russia fails to de-escalate
DEBKAfile Special Report March 21, 2017, 8:27 AM (IDT)

 

http://www.debka.com/dynmedia/photos/2017/03/21/src/malat_Qunetra480_ENG.jpg

The IDF Tuesday confirmed that an Israeli miniature Skylark drone had crashed over a technical fault Sunday, March 19, in the same Quneitra area of the Golan as the attack which killed a Syrian soldier. Hizballah claimed earlier that the drone was shot down by the Syrian army and published photos of drone fragments with Hebrew writing.
debkafile’s military sources report that the publicity given by the pro-Iranian Lebanese Hizballah to the incident – beating Israel to the draw – seriously pricked Moscow’s efforts, with Damascus’ compliance, to cool the crisis that was developing after Israeli planes struck a Hizballah target near the northern Syrian town of Palmyra last Friday, March 17.

The Russian government, according to debkafile’s Moscow sources, made it clear to Bashar Assad that he had better hold back from a heated response to the Israeli air strikes. If he decided to play with Israeli fire, he was warned, he need not expect Russia to intervene in his defense.

The Syrian ruler, who is fully engaged at the moment fighting off a rebel offensive on eastern Damascus, indicated his compliance with Moscow’s advice by a face-saving comment Tuesday to the Russian Interfax: “Russia has an important role in preventing a future confrontation with Israel,” he said.

However, Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah is playing its own game. His forces are battling through Syrian rebel villages on the slopes of Mount Hermon in a headlong drive to deploy on the Golan border with Israel. He therefore acted to force Assad’s hand and disrupt Moscow’s efforts at de-escalation by publishing the downing of an Israeli drone by Syrian anti-air fire.

It must be said that publication of this incident by Israel directly after the event Sunday would have deprived Hizballah of this initiative.
Moscow finds itself pushed into an awkward corner. While seeking to dampen the flames of an Israeli-Syrian crisis, the Russians are at the same time holding back from interfering to stop Hizballah’s drive for a presence at the Golan town of Quneitra. Therefore, the flames will remain high so long as Hizballah’s advance on its objective continues.

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20 mars 2017 1 20 /03 /mars /2017 22:26
Israeli-Russian clash over Hizballah’s Golan grab
An Iraqi Shiite militia is heading for Hermon to reinforce Hizballah’s advance on the Golan.
Israel after two counter-strikes is warned off by Moscow.

DEBKAFILE

The Israeli drone that targeted the Syrian militiaman Yasser Sayad outside the Golan town of Quneitra Sunday, March 19, reinforced the message first carried by the Israeli Arrow 2 which shot down a Syrian SA-5 anti-air missile Friday. The Israeli ambassador was called twice to the Russian foreign ministry.

Both hits were precise: Sayad was on his way to join the Hizballah forces who are trampling Syrian rebel villages on the Hermon slopes to clear their path to the Golan; and the Syrian SA-5 was intercepted microseconds before hitting the Israeli jets attacking a consignment of Hizballah weapons outside the Syria T4 base near Palmyra, where a Russian contingent is also housed.

After the air strike, Israel’s ambassador to Moscow Cary Koren was summoned to the Russian foreign ministry to hear a warning from Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov to stop interfering with Russian plans for Syria.

Syria’s UN Ambassador Bashar Al Jaafari reflected the Assad regime's sense of empowerment when he said following the Israeli air strikes in northern Syria: “The Syrian response was appropriate and changed the rules of the game.” He claimed that Israel had been sternly warned by Moscow to stop such attacks and therefore its leaders “will think long before taking similar action in future.”

Nonetheless, two days later, the IDF was again in action, this time on the Syrian Golan. A-Sayad was killed outside Quneitra as testimony of Israel’s resolve to continue to wage warfare against the Iranian and Hizballah military presence in Syria and their aggressive push towards its borders.
And Sunday, Ambassador Koren was called to the foreign ministry in Moscow for a second dressing-down, this one, undoubtedly sterner than the first, seeing that Israel had escalated its face-off with Moscow on this issue and raised the stakes for a potential IDF clash with Russian forces in Syria, for better or for worse.
The government in Jerusalem has in fact drawn a strong line against Moscow’s policy of allowing hostile Hizballah and paramilitary Syrian forces, like to Golan Liberation Brigades, to gain control of territory directly adjacent to Israel - from the Hermon range through Qunetra and further west up to Daraa overlooking the Jordanian border as well.

debkafile’s military sources reveal that Jerusalem was further alarmed Sunday by discovering that an Iraqi Shiite militia was on the way, under the command of Iran’s Al Qods chief Gen. Qassem Soleiman, to reinforce Hizballah’s Hermon-Golan offensive. This militia, called the Al-Nojba Movement, consisting of 1,500 Iraqi Shiite fighters, is the pet project of Hizballah’s deputy chief Sheikh Naieem Qassem, who sent officers to train them.

 

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19 mars 2017 7 19 /03 /mars /2017 03:26
Hizballah’s trust in Russia – strategic dilemma for Israel
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 18, 2017

 


Israel


 

Israel finally took a hand in the swiftly moving events looming from Syria over its northern borders by launching multiple air raids against the key northern Syrian air base known as T4 near Palmyra early Friday night March 17.

Those events are spearheaded by the pro-Iranian Hizballlah’s drive to capture the Golan in line with its war of “resistance” on the Jewish state. This fixation came into sharp focus the day after the air strike in a rare admission by Hizballah of the loss of a commander. He was named Badee Hamiyeh and was described as having been killed “in the southern Syrian region of Quneitra near the Israeli-held Golan Heights.” This was the first anyone had heard of any recent battle on the Golan.

A week earlier, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and IDF Intelligence Director Maj. Gen. Hertzl Halevi showed President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin maps depicting the various military movements ongoing in Syria, with the accent on an armored convoy of several hundred Hizballah troops driving out of their Syrian stronghold of Zabadani towards Mt. Hermon. The convoy was clearing a path by overrunning some 30 Syrian rebel villages on the Hermon slopes, which command the Syrian Golan town of Quneitra and the Israeli border.
This evidence demonstrated that Hizballah had developed a single military stratagem for threatening Israel-held Hermon, ruling central Golan and gearing up for battle to restore the entire Golan area to Syrian sovereignty under Hizballah control.

Netanyahu had hoped that Putin would agree to stop the Hizballah convoy and keep his promise not to let Iran and Hizballah deploy on the Israeli border. However, the Russian leader was unresponsive. Not only were Russian commanders in Syria not instructed to restrain Hizballah, they acted to persuade Syrian rebels on the Hermon and the Golan to surrender to he Lebanese Shiite invaders.

And indeed, as the Hizballah advance continued. Its leader Hassan Nasrallah contrived an equation to justify his assault on the Golan. “They brought ISIS to the Beqaa [Hizballah’s Lebanese stronghold] and so the ‘resistance' [Hizballah] went to Syria. They wanted this group to reach Beirut, and so, today, we are in Golan.”

Seeing Hizballah on the move unchecked and gearing up for an expeced showdown with Israel, Netanyahu and the IDF decided to take matters in their own hands. They ordered several air force strikes Friday on the relatively remote strategic T4 air base near Palmyra in northeastern Syria and hit several birds with one stone.

debkafile’s military sources describe T4 as the main terminal for Iranian planes to land day by day and unload war materials for their own forces as well as the Syrian army and Hizballah.This air base also houses Russian attack helicopters and special operations troops, whose presence there was trusted by Tehran and Nasrallah to be an effective shield against Israeli attack.

The IAF air strike Friday proved them wrong.

These developments were the subtext of the video statement by Netanyahu that was broadcast Friday night by Israeli media: “I can assure you that our resolve is firm, as attested to by our actions,” he said. “This is something that everyone should take into account, everyone!.” When he said, “everyone,” he was not just addressing Tehran and Beirut, but Moscow as well.

Israel is not planning action against Russian forces in Syria, but if the Russian army, whether deliberately or unintentionally, grants Iran and Hizballaha military protection, as they counted on having at T4, Israel would not hesitate to disabuse them.

The Kremlin got the message and, a few hours after the Israeli air strikes, Israeli Ambassador Cary Koren was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry. There was no official protest, but Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov firmly informed the ambassador that Moscow would not tolerate any further Israeli attacks on Syrian bases where Russian forces were present.
In the course of the raid, Israel’s advanced anti-missile Arrow system made its first operational appearance. IDF chiefs feared that the Syrian anti-air missiles fired against the Israeli jets might fall on a populated location inside Israel and so decided it was necessary to intercept any incoming projectiles.

Israel’s military experts got into an argument, which will no doubt go on for years, over whether Arrow’s first appearance in this situation was a good or a bad move. However, the deafening bang that the IDF wonder weapon inflicted on millions of Israeli ears, within a radius of more than a 150 kilometers from the Jordan Valley to the Mediterranean, offered an inkling of how much worse it will be in a full-scale conflict.

 

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17 mars 2017 5 17 /03 /mars /2017 12:54

Israeli air strikes in Syria. Reprisal threatened

DEBKAfile Special Report March 17, 2017,

 


The


 

The Israeli military said its fighter jets had struck several targets in Syria early Friday, March 17, and were back in Israeli-controlled airspace, when Syria launched several anti-aircraft missiles toward the Israeli jets. Israel’s Arrow air defense missile intercepted one of the missiles, the army said, but would not elaborate on whether any other hostile missiles had struck Israeli territory. The safety of Israeli civilians and the safety of the Israeli aircraft “were not compromised,” the IDF spokesman stressed.

debkafile’s military sources: The official IDF communiqué raises questions. It does not make sense for Israeli Arrow missiles to be aimed at Syrian ground-to-air rockets fired against the Israeli warplanes. The Arrow would only be used to intercept an incoming Syrian or Hizballah ground-to-ground missile heading for a target in Israel.

That too would explain the huge blast that resounded from the eastern Jordan Valley as far as Jerusalem, 150km away in the small hours of Friday.

This explanation gained credibility from the Syrian army account: “A total of four Israeli jets breached Syrian airspace on Friday morning. They hit a “military target” near Palmyra. In retaliation the jets were targeted by Syrian anti-aircraft missiles, which shot down on Israeli plane over “occupied ground.” Following the breach of the country's airspace, the Syrian Army warned Israel of "direct" retaliation "with all means at its disposal,"

The Israeli Army stressed that none of the IAE planes was harmed. "At no point was the safety of Israeli civilians or the IAF [Israeli Air Force] aircraft compromised," an Israeli military spokesman said.

debkafile’s military sources add: The big T4 Syrian air base is located near Palmyra. If that was indeed the target of the Israeli raid, it would have been the northernmost point in Syria ever attacked by Israeli warplanes.

The fact that fragments of the Arrow missile landed in the north Jordanian village of Anbata in the Irbid district, as revealed by social media, is added evidence that it was launched against a missile fired into Israel. Had the Arrow intercepted anti-air missiles in northern Syria, the fragments falling from the interception would not have reached Jordan or alerted rocket sirens close by in the Jordan Valley on the Israeli side of the border.

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16 mars 2017 4 16 /03 /mars /2017 23:45
Trump’s envoy to Abu Mazen: Crack down on terror
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 16, 2017, 9:45 AM (IDT)

http://www.debka.com/dynmedia/photos/2017/03/16/src/Jason_Greenblatt.jpg

US President Donald Trump and his Middle East peace envoy Jason Greenblatt this week engaged two Arab royals for their opening shots at restarting peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Saudi Defense Minister Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was received at the White House, while Jordan’s King Abdullah II saw Greenblatt in Amman. Both were shown the list of demands the US envoy had handed Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), when he visited in Ramallah on Tuesday, March 14.

The two tracks accentuated the broad Arab-based regional character of the Trump administration’s peace initiative, in contrast to the narrow, bilateral effort which Secretary of State John Kerry working on behalf of President Barack Obama ran into the ground.

Thursday, March 16, the Trump envoy returns to Jerusalem for a summing up of his mission with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

In an exclusive report, debkafile first reveals here the substance of the tough terms presented to Mahmoud Abbas for the US to consent to broker negotiations for a resolution of the decades-long conflict.

1. The Palestinians must return to the negotiating table without pre-conditions – an immovable sticking point until now.

2. Over and above US intervention in the peace process, the Palestinians must also accept a role for leading Arab governments - specifically, Egypt, Saudi, Arabia, Jordan and Arab oil emirates. This is a bitter pill for Abbas to swallow, since none of the four leaders can tolerate him.

On the same day as the Trump envoy’s visit to Ramallah, a conference of the Palestinian leader’s opponents took place in Paris. It was set up by Abu Mazen’s arch-foe, the exiled Fatah activist Muhammad Dahlan. Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah accused Abu Dhabi ruler Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyran of putting up the one-million euros to pay for the event.

3. Abbas must forget about a moratorium on Jewish settlements on the West Bank – although a former Netanyahu government accepted a 10-month freeze. At most, Israel would hold back from establishing new communities in Judea and Samaria during the course of the negotiations.

4. The Trump administration will not be satisfied with verbal statements by Palestinian leaders condemning acts of terror, but insists on aggressive practical steps: Palestinian media must stop broadcasting anti-Israel materials, Palestinian school curricula must be purged of hate Israel propaganda, and the PA must give up naming streets and squares after dead terrorists, thereby treating them as martyrs to a holy cause.
5. The revolving door for captured terrorist suspects must be replaced with proper investigations. Suspects must be held and closely questioned to discover who gave them their orders, name their accomplices and reveal the source of their weapons and explosives, before going on trial.

6. The Palestinian authority must discontinue the custom of remittances to the families of terrorists who were killed or imprisoned, a practice that confers honor on their deeds.

7. Palestinian security forces must be radically overhauled, mainly to end the pervasive practice of moonlighting, whereby uniformed members hold down two jobs and draw two salaries.

8. The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah must stop transferring funds to the Gaza Strip, which serve to bolster the regime of the extremist Hamas rulers. The sums transferred draw off 52 percent of the PA’s total budget.

9. The Trump administration supports a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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15 mars 2017 3 15 /03 /mars /2017 15:13
Russian elite units land on Egypt-Libya border
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 14, 2017, 10:39 AM (IDT)

 

 


Gen. Khalifa Haftar


Gen. Khalifa Haftar

Russian elite units armed with attack drones were detected on Tuesday, March 14 landing at the big Egyptian air base of Sidi Barrani in the Western Desert near the Libyan border, US military sources reported The incoming Russian troops took up position 95 km from the Libyan border and 240km from the eastern Libyan oil and gas terminals at Tobruk port in eastern Libya. They arrived after their Libyan ally suffered a major defeat.

On March 3, Gen. Khalifa Hafter’s Libyan National Army (LNA) militia was attacked in the central region by the rival Benghazi Defense Brigades and driven out of five towns, including the country’s biggest oil terminals at Ras Sidi and Ras Lanuf.

Officials in Washington, Moscow and Cairo declined to comment on whether or not the Russians had acted in coordination the Trump administration.

According to debkafile’s military sources, the Russians an Egyptians appear to be preparing to support a counter-offensive by Hafter’s militia to recover the oil facilities.

For some months now, Moscow, Cairo and Qatar have been working together to bolster Gen. Haftar, who strongly challenges the UN-backed government of Tripoli. His LNA has taken delivery of Russian fighter jets and tanks, while the Egyptian air force has bombed the mostly Islamist militias fighting him, some of them branches of the Islamic State or Al Qaeda.

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14 mars 2017 2 14 /03 /mars /2017 03:28
Before US whacks ISIS-Syria, Al Qaeda is resurgent
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 13, 2017

 

 

The main thrust of the campaign against the Islamic State in Syria ordered by the Trump administration is still ahead, but ISIS forces did not wait in their Raqqa stronghold for the axe to fall. They moved southeast into the Deir ez-Zour region, where they are beating back Hizballah’s elite Radwan Battalion, which has just been deployed there.

But meanwhile a new-old menace has raised its head: Al Qaeda and its Syrian affiliates which are seizing upon the mounting upheaval in the Syria for a fresh wave of terror. Saturday, March 11, two bomb explosions killed 74 pilgrims, most of them Iraqi Shiites, on a visit to an ancient cemetery in the Old City of Damascus. The second explosion was delayed so as to hit full on the Syrian police and rescuers rushing to the scene.

The same Al Qaeda branch planned and perpetrated the large-scale terrorist attack on Syrian government military facilities in the town of Homs on Feb. 25. Two generals were among the scores of dead troops.

Counterterrorism experts are warning US President Donald Trump to tread very carefully in the offensive he is preparing to launch against ISIS in Syria, since this organization’s defeat may well open the door to an Al Qaeda comeback in full and deadly spate to the Syrian arena.

This is what happened in the wake of the Russian-led Syrian victory in Aleppo in January, debkafile’s military and intelligence sources note. After the breakup of defeated Syrian rebel groups, who were forced to leave the northern town and head for neighboring Idlib, hundreds of rebels remained and refused to lay down arms. Instead, they joined Al Qaeda and have made the Islamist terrorist group the most powerful independent rebel force still fighting in northern Syria as well as in the surrounding areas of the main towns, including Damascus, Homs and Hama.

On Jan. 26, Al Qaeda announced its merger with four smaller factions under another new brand name, Ahrar al-Sham. The new outfit attracted many new recruits who had never before been attached to Al Qaeda.

Hashim al-Sheikh aka Abu Jabir, who fought the Americans in the Iraq war under Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, was named leader of the new Islamist terror alliance. Reputed to be a skilled war tactician who never gives up, his appointment attracted another wave of Syrian rebel fighters.

Al Nusra’s first commander, Abu Mohammad al-Joulani, has meanwhile reappeared as head of a group calling itself Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (Liberation of the Levant Organization). Joulani has tried claiming he operates independently of Al Qaeda, although in fact he follows the orders of Ayman Al-Zawahiri to the letter and, according to some sources, is secretly working hand in glove with Hashim al-Sheikh.

An additional source of Al Qaeda’s renewed strength comes from the success of the combined Russian-Iranian-Hizballah forces to smash all the Syrian rebel groups who once fought the jihadist organization. Their disintegration has left Zawahiri’s following in Syria without effective adversaries. But it has Its Achilles heel too in the turf wars among the Syrian branch’s component groups – especially in the northern Idlib Province.

According to our military sources, the Russian, Syrian, Iranian and Hizballah commanders are together weighing an operation for taking control of Idlib. However, there too, if the Syrian rebels, who are fugitive from other fronts, are driven east or the south, Al Qaeda may again turn out to be the winner..

Therefore, even if President Trump and his generals are resolved to focus fully on a military operation to capture the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa – which has meanwhile emptied out of fighter - it is essential to detach enough fighting strength for dealing with the resurgent Al Qaeda. Failing to do so would leave the US forces at the Raqqa front vulnerable to attack from the rear by Al Qaeda, as the Russians and Iranians have found since they conquered Aleppo.

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