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20 juillet 2017 4 20 /07 /juillet /2017 05:46
Russia vies with Israel over aid for Quneitra
DEBKAfile Special Report July 19, 2017

 

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As Russian troops began moving into the Quneitra ceasefire sector opposite Israel’s Golan border on Wednesday, July 19, they found they were in hot competition with Israel over … humanitarian aid for the sector’s rebel-held villages.

Since Israel is adamantly opposed to the Russian presence in the Quneitra demilitarized zone - although it was endorsed by the Trump administration, as debkafile reported exclusively on Tuesday, July 18 - Moscow decided to take it slowly and meanwhile try and win over the Syrian rebel groups whom Israel has succored for years. The Kremlin figured that if these anti-Assad groups could be weaned away from Israel, they might be persuaded to cooperate with the Russian troops in setting up the Quneitra ceasefire zone, and the Russians would not need Israel’s compliance.

On Tuesday, therefore, a Russian military convoy drove into Jabah, a village northeast of Qunetra town and 4km from Israel’s Golan border. Officers described as belonging to the “Russian Defense Ministry’s reconciliation center” alit from the trucks and began handing out food packages to the villagers.

The civilians received necessities and were treated by Russian doctors, a Syrian officer announced. Russian and Syrian officers promised that more humanitarian aid would be delivered to “settlements across the Quneitra province” and Russian doctors would visit all the villages in the ceasefire zone.

Israel, who has been sending aid across these Syrian villages which were cut off by the civil war from basic necessities, has mostly kept its humanitarian program under wraps, except when witnesses reported what they saw to the media. On Wednesday, the IDF officers running the program asked sardonically: “Where were the Russians all these years when Israel alone helped the beleaguered villages across its border?”

After watching the Russian troops hand out packages to the people of Quneitra, the Israeli government and military chiefs decided to challenge the Russian belated propaganda move.

Up until now, Israel has supplied regular humanitarian aid to some 200,000 Syrian villagers living in 80 non-ISIS rebel-controlled villages 15km deep inside the Syrian Golan. Last year alone, Israel sent over half a million liters of heavy fuel, 360 tonnes of foodstuffs, 77 tonnes of clothing and shoes, tens of generators and water system, as well as providing them with medical treatment, including hospital care for sick and injured Syrians and a field hospital on the border.

Wednesday, Israel formalized its assistance program under the title “The Good Neighbor” and disclosed it had been administered since 2016 by a special unit of the Bashan Division which is in charge of the Golan sector.

The IDF released footage of trucks ferrying across the border supplies of medical equipment, medicines, foodstuffs and fuel, as well as pictures documenting IDF medics lifting Injured Syrians off the battlefield for treatment in Israeli hospitals.
According to IDF statistics, at least 3,000 Syrians crossed the border in the past four years for medical treatment. And Israel sent over as needed incubators, respirators and ambulances. In the same period, the IDF conducted 150 assistance operations on Syrian soil.

On their arrival in Quneitra, the Russians found a population that was better fed and cared for than Syrian civilians on any other of the country’s warfronts. They are nonetheless challenging Israel for the locals' hearts and minds.

 

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18 juillet 2017 2 18 /07 /juillet /2017 23:57
Russian troops for Quneitra in defiance of Israel
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 18, 2017, 11:03 AM (IDT)

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Russian army units are preparing to move into the Syrian town of Quneitra in the coming days and take up positions opposite the Syrian-Israeli Golan border, debkafile reports exclusively from military sources. Their function is to police the second zone of southwestern Syria designated for ceasefire by Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin when they met in Hamburg on July 7.

Quneitra is just 5km from Israel’s border and the line of IDF positions defending it.

Israel has notified Washington and Moscow that it is flatly opposed to the presence of a Russian unit on its border. However, the US and Russian officers coordinating the ceasefire’s implementation agreed to recommend going forward with the Russian deployment. The White House and the Kremlin gave the officers’ recommendation the green light, virtually imposing it on Israel against its will.

Their argument is that the first ceasefire zone that was established last week in the Daraa front on the Jordanian border will quickly break down if it is not shored up by a second zone at Quneitra.

But the two zones differ in major respects, our military and intelligence sources emphasize.

The understandings drawn up for Daraa between the US, Russia and Jordan, included a clause explicitly providing for the withdrawal of Iranian and pro-Iranian forces, including Hizballah, to a point 40km west or north of the demilitarized town.

This clause never stood up for one moment. As debkafile first disclosed on July 16, even after Russian and Chechen troops moved into Daraa on Sunday, Syrian and Iranian forces did move out, but an elite Hizballah unit remained. The US, Russia and Jordan decided collectively to let this breach of the ceasefire deal go without response and tried to keep it dark.

While acting to procure Jordan’s acceptance for the new format, the two powers refrained from turning to Jerusalem. They knew they would be greeted with a flat rejection, because of an earlier lapse: The clause providing for a 40km withdrawal of Iranian and pro-Iranian troops from Daraa was left out of the deal for Quneitra - heedless of urgent Israeli demands for its inclusion.

The absence of any Trump-Putin commitment on this score leaves Israel fully exposed to the presence of Iranian and Hizballah forces within mortar range of its Golan border in an area supervised by their ally, the Russian military.

It was this danger that galvanized Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu into broadcasting Israel’s total opposition to the Trump-Putin ceasefire for southwestern Syria during his visit to Paris on Monday, July 17, after his talks with President Emmanuel Macron.

In an apparent bid to calm Israel’s concerns, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made an usual statement for a Russian diplomat: "I can guarantee that we have done everything and the US side has done everything to ensure that Israel's security interests within this framework are fully taken into account," he said later on Monday.

Careful perusal of this comment revealed to our sources that it was made in the context of a previous ceasefire accord for the Russians had made Turkey and Iran “co-sponsors.”  Instead of reassurance, his comment was taken in Israel as a bid to ascertain that the arrival of Russian troops in Quneitra over Israel’s strenuous objections would go smoothly.

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17 juillet 2017 1 17 /07 /juillet /2017 17:48
Israel: Syrian truce plan license for Iran foothold
DEBKAfile Special Report July 17, 2017, 8:39 AM (IDT)

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Israel waited 10 days from Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin’s announcement in Hamburg of their ceasefire plan for southwestern Syria along the borders with Jordan and Syria, before proclaiming its “total opposition” to the plan. On Sunday, July 16, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced publicly, after meeting President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, that the plan was unacceptable.

 An official in the party that accompanied him to the Elysée Palace explained to reporters that Israel objected to a truce that could be used as a vehicle for “perpetuating” Iran’s presence in Syria and on its own border. Iran is not just sending advisers to Syria, the official said, but large-scale military forces to establish in Syria an airbase for Iranian aircraft and a naval base for Iran's navy.

“This already changes the picture in the region from what it has been up to now," he said.

According to debkafile’s military and intelligence sources, Israel was finally galvanized into making an unqualified stand against the US-Russian ceasefire plan by discovering how it was being implemented: When last week Russian troops moved into Daraa in southern Syria to police the ceasefire in that embattled town, the Syrian army withdrew – but the Hizballah forces fighting with Assad’s army did not.
A few days later, Hizballah’s elite Kalibat Radwan brigade was seen digging in at Daraa, 1km from the Jordanian border, and preparing to resume the offensive at a moment’s notice for driving Syrian rebels from the town.

This was despite the assurances Washington and Moscow had broadcast that the departure of Iranian and Hizballah forces from the ceasefire zones would be ascertained. 

Since Quneitra is the next zone scheduled for the application of the ceasefire, Israel requested clarifications from Washington and Moscow. When they went unanswered, the Israeli prime minister proclaimed total objection to the plan before the Daraa template is replicated in an area abutting its Golan border. 

Israel and Jordan are in the same boat in so far as Hizballah is settling in on both their borders. Nevertheless, instead of joining forces against the plan, their ways parted at this juncture. While Israel is up in arms against the US-Russian deconfliction plan, the Hashemite Kingdom has embraced it eagerly and even opened a back channel to senior officials of the Assad regime for its expansion.
The Hashemite Kingdom is impatient to start sending back home the 1.4 million Syrian refugees who fled the violence in their country, as well as restoring trade ties with Syria. If this means living with Hizballah forces on its border, so be it.
This rift developed at a particularly bad moment for the relationship. It was exacerbated by the terrorist attack which, July 14, claimed the lives of two Israel police officers guarding the Lion’s Gate entry to Temple Mount in Jerusalem. While King Abdullah eventually condemned the attack, after first denouncing Israel for temporarily closing the shrine, Jordan’s parliament proclaimed the terrorists “martyrs.”
The king claims the status of Custodian over the Muslim shrines under Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem.

Israel accordingly reopened Temple Mount to Muslim worshippers two days later on Sunday. However, the security measures installed, especially the metal detectors, were used by Palestinian propagandists and Waqf imams, to incite riots outside Lion’s Gate. The imams refused to submit to inspection at the gates, but hundreds of Muslim worshippers disobeyed their orders to exercise a boycott and ascended the mount to pray at Al Aqsa.

However, Israel’s concern about the arrival of Hizballah, Iran’s Lebanese surrogate, on its border, was at the forefront of Netanyahu’s one-and-a-half hour conversation with President Macron Sunday – part of the time one-on-one. After the meeting, the French president said in a joint statement with the prime minister:

"I share Israel's concerns about Hizballah's activity in south Lebanon and about the arms the group has. I want to try and promote a diplomatic move to reduce the severity of this threat."

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16 juillet 2017 7 16 /07 /juillet /2017 02:08
Serious mistake -Temple Mt. opens in stages amid terror probe
DEBKAfile Special Report July 15, 2017, 10:52 PM (IDT)

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Pressure on Israel from the Arab world to reopen Temple Mount and its mosques for Muslim prayer without delay has been strongly countered by the Israeli police and security authorities. They need more time to complete their investigation of the scene of the terror attack, Friday, July 14, in which two Israeli officers on guard were shot dead and a third injured. The three Israeli Arabs who committed the murders where shot dead in the subsequent firefight outside the Dome of the Rock.
The Israeli government also decided that the shrine, which is sacred to three monotheistic faiths, needs better security installed before it is judged safe for worship and visits.

On Saturday, Washington came to the aid of the investigation. Strongly condemning the “heartbreaking act of terror on Temple Mount,” the White House press secretary added: "The attack forced the government of Israel to temporarily close the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif to conduct its investigation," said the statement. "Israel has assured the world that it has no intention to alter the status of this holy site, a decision which the United States applauds and welcomes."
Saturday night, the Netanyahu government Saturday nevertheless ordered Temple Mount opened Sunday “in stages” -  which gives the police and security authorities a little breathing space.

The police have been combing through the “scene of terror,” to reconstruct the crime and discover the secret arms caches hidden there. This undertaking is vast, complex and exceptionally sensitive.

The Temple Mount surface platform is 150,000 sq. meters in area with nine ancient open gates. It stands atop 13 historic periods of construction and destruction, each of which has left layer upon layer of mostly unexplored tunnels, pipes, caves, pits, shafts and debris. Even archeologists working there for decades and the clerical staff of the Waqf authority in charge of Muslim rites there can’t claim to have explored all the warrens hidden under the paved surface.

It is also suspected that there may be secret underground channels running under the Temple Mount wall and leading outside the compound.

The police are meanwhile keeping their cards very close to their vests. They have detained some Waqf officials on suspicion of a connection with the terrorists, without releasing figures, and discovered a quantity of firearms. But the cops, unfamiliar with this unique ancient site, don’t know what they will find. They are after information about the identities of the party which instructed them to hide the two rifles and pistols used by the terrorists and said when they should be handed over. In short, whether a terrorist network exists on Temple Mount.

Relatives of the three terrorists, who belonged to the same clan in the Israeli Arab town of Umm al-Fahm, have been detained in search of information about how they came to perform the first act of terror by Moslems on Temple Mount. Most of the town and other parts of the Arab population are hostile to the investigation.

Israeli Arab community leaders, including their 13 parliamentarians, have refused to condemn the attack, willing only to voice regret for all the deaths inflicted Friday, including the three assailants.

This was resented not only by Israelis at large, but most bitterly by the Druze community, which buried two of its sons, Hail Stawi, 30, from Maghar and Kamil Shanan, 22, from Hurfeish both in northern Israel. They were shot to death while guarding the holy site. 

The Temple terror investigation has exposed troubling animosities in Israeli Arab society.

 

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15 juillet 2017 6 15 /07 /juillet /2017 18:33
Two Israelis murdered in Temple Mt terror attack
DEBKAfile Special Report July 14, 2017, 3:03 PM (IDT)

 

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Israeli security officials and experts have been trying hard to blunt the impact of the terrorist shooting attack on Friday, July 14 at the Lion’s Gate entrance to Temple Mount, in which two Israeli border police officers were murdered and a third injured. However, this event has extraordinary broad and grave resonance – even for Jerusalem which had – and still has – more than its share of terror, because it was perpetrated at a world shrine sacred to billions of people.

The victims were two Border Police who live in northern Israel: Staff Sgts Kamil Shanan, 22, from Hofesh and Hayal Satawi, 30, from Marar, who were part of the detail guarding the shrine.

Owing to a grave intelligence and security lapse, three Israeli Muslim citizens from the Arab town of Umm al Fahm, were able to reach the broad plaza for an act of terror designed for a shock-effect to a degree unmatched since the Palestinian 2000 intifada.

The three gunmen were finally shot dead in a firefight with the police outside the shining gold Dome of the Rock in the Temple Mount compound.
Even a cursory look at the way this attack developed shows that Israel’s security services failed to draw the necessary lessons from the Palestinian attack on June 16 outside the Old City’s Damascus Gate. Then, too, it was a shooting attack in which three terrorists took part. One of them stabbed a female border guard officer to death.

So the writing was already on the Old City’s wall. However, the Islamic State’s claim of responsibility was brushed aside, although it was no longer possible to dismiss the attack as a “lone wolf” crime, as official spokesmen have maintained since the current wave of terror began two years ago. Their failure to correctly analyze the Damascus Gate attack gave the Temple Mount killers on Friday the advantage. Indeed they were several steps ahead of ahead of Israel’s law enforcement and anti-terror agencies.

Nonetheless, a new euphemism, “self-sacrifice terrorism,” was coined to explain the event, instead of a thorough investigation to pin down the hand behind the attack, which was obviously planned in detail.

The three-man team of gunmen was able to enter Temple Mount armed with two Karl Gustav rifles and a pistol. They had their photos taken with their weapons several hours before opening fire on the Israeli security detail.

This was the first time Muslim extremists have been known to mount a shooting attack at a holy place respected by Muslims, although it is sacred to all three of the world’s great monotheistic faiths, Jewish and Christian, as the historic site of the Jewish Temples. While still shooting, the three gunmen withdrew from the entrance into the broad plaza and headed for the mosques, the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa.

The surviving border police officers gave chase after the killers, engaged them in a gun fight outside the Dome of the Rock and shot them all dead.

Their courage saved the day. Had the terrorists managed to barricade themselves in one of those shrines, Israel would have been confronted with the appalling predicament of dealing with armed terrorists holed up in a Muslim shrine, without igniting flames across the Middle East and beyond.

The funerals of the two police staff sergeants take place while a claim of responsibility for the outrage is awaited in suspense.  debkafile’s sources detect ISIS hallmarks in the attack. It took the Islamist State 24 hours to assume responsibility for the Damascus Gate killing last month.

At all events, this would not be the first time the Islamic State has struck in Israel and is most likely not the last.

Another Israeli Arab, Nashat Milhem from Kfar Arara, killed two Israelis at an outdoor café in Tel Aviv on January 8, 2016. Six months later, on June 8, another terrorist murdered three Israelis. ISIS struck for the third time at Damascus Gate a month ago, stabbing to death Hadas Malka, a policewoman of 23.     

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14 juillet 2017 5 14 /07 /juillet /2017 06:18
Terror on Temple Mt. 3 Israelis shot
DEBKAfile Special Report July 14, 2017, 8:07 AM (IDT)

 

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Terror on Temple Mt. 3 Israelis shot

Armed Palestinians burst out of the Temple Mount Plaza early Friday and opened fire on Israeli police guarding Lion’s Gate, the main entrance leading into the plaza of the holy site. Three police officers were injured, two critically. Other officers chased the three terrorists into the Temple Mount plaza.  A fire fight ensued near the gold-domed Dome of the Rock, the first to take place on the Temple Mount.  The three gunmen were shot and killed. 

The attack Friday represented a major escalation of Palestinian terror, their first on Temple Mount where tens of thousands of Muslims hold regular Friday prayers and which is held sacred by Jewish and Christians as the site of the Jewish Temple. The shrine was quickly cleared and worshippers turned away. All the gates to the Old City were closed to vehicles and pedestrians, and the walled town placed under curfew. There is a massive police presence in the area.

An in-depth major investigation seeks to discover how the terrorists were able to smuggle guns - two rifles and a pistol - into a world shrine, undetected by police and the security cameras at the site, for targeting Israeli police.
Temple Mount will remain closed for the investigation for some days until new security regulations are installed.  
This was the second shooting attack by Palestinian terrorists in Jerusalem in the last month. At Damascus Gate, a policewoman was stabbed to death last month during a Palestinian shooting-stabbing attack. 

 

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13 juillet 2017 4 13 /07 /juillet /2017 00:47
Russians enter Daraa, Syrians/Hizballah move out
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 12, 2017, 3:56 PM (IDT)

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Russian troops stepped into southern Syria for the first time Wednesday, July 13, when they entered the embattled town of Daraa to start enforcing the partial ceasefire agreed by Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in Hamburg on July 7.  debkafile’s military sources report this exclusively.

The Russians, including military police and Chechen paratroopers, were sighted getting out of the vehicles of their convoy and taking up positions in the center of Daraa. As they moved into the town, our sources report that tank units of the pro-regime Syrian army’s 5th Armored Division were seen driving out, along with Hizballah.
Their withdrawal cut short the Syrian military’s Operation Big Dawn against the Syrian rebels in Daraa, which breached the ceasefire Monday, July 11 - less then 24 hours after it went into force.

The Russian deployment in a southern Syrian border town Wednesday was the first step in their posting along Syria’s Israeli and Jordanian borders, as agreed between Washington and Moscow. President Trump had assented to this arrangement to bolster the first stage of the Syrian ceasefire going into effect in the de-confliction zone of the southwest.

Jordan also assented, in the interests of de-escalating tensions on its border with Syria.

The Russian troops and Chechens in Russian military police uniforms were armed only with light weapons. On July 5, Putin’s special envoy for Syrian affairs, Alexander Levrentiev, said that the Russian troops deployed in Syrian ceasefire zones would be lightly armed for self-defense. Most would consist of Russian military police. This description was intended to cover the presence of Chechen paratroops, who were seconded to the Russian police force for this mission.
Israel has so far objected to any Russian military presence along its borders with Syria, even in the capacity of ceasefire monitors, preferring Americans to police the truce in the Qunetra region. If that proved unfeasible, then Israel would leave the Syrian rebels controlling this area in place.

But our sources predict that, after the arrival of Russian troops in Daraa to preserve the ceasefire, both Washington and Moscow will lean hard on Jerusalem to accept Russian troops at Quneitra too, that is, opposite the Golan.

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12 juillet 2017 3 12 /07 /juillet /2017 06:36
New Labor leader must get the party behind him
DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis July 11, 2017, 2:23 PM (IDT)
 
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It was quickly apparent from Avi Gabay’s overlong, meandering acceptance speech after winning the Labor primary Monday, July 10, that the new party leader is no Emmanuel Macron. He is short of the charisma for sweeping the masses off their feet. A pleasant man of 50, who honestly entertains the best of intentions, he was greeted with delight by his overwhelmingly youthful supporters, although he betrayed his lack of political experience by certain moves:

  • His first speech, broadcast live as his introduction to the general public, was much too long and repetitive. While stressing his commitment to a positive campaign for unseating the incumbent Netanyahu government, he let certain negative notes slip out.
  • He gave no hint to the views he holds on foreign and security affairs, which top the priorities confronting any Israeli leader, although he is believed vaguely to be a moderate centrist on the Palestinian issue. His most prominent campaign backer against his rival, the oldtimer Amir Peretz, was the former prime minister and ex-Labor leader Ehud Barak.
    Barak is associated with failures in both capacities and sticking with him would unnecessarily encumber the new leader.
  • Gabay made the generous gesture of offering the defeated party leader, Yizhak Herzog, the post of opposition leader in the Knesset. Maybe too generous. Gabay, although a former minister of environment in the Netanyahu cabinet, was not elected to the Knesset and can therefore not serve as opposition leader. However, instead of choosing the horse that lost the race, he should have brought in a bright new talent from among the 24 Labor lawmakers.
  • His solemn pledge to do away with the party’s endemic factionalism is over-ambitious. Minutes after the vote, a Gabay faction was taking shape while its rivals remain firmly in pl\ace.
  • With all eyes on him  Gabay should have chosen the people on the podium at his side as symbols of his message and markers of the team for helping him reach national power against the ruling Likud. Instead, he let himself be mobbed by a motley bunch of hopefuls and has-beens, offering an unconvincing tableau of a winning lineup.

From this uncertain beginning, Gabay may given time yet prove he has the stamina, brainpower and political touch to correct his mistakes and shortcomings.

His leap into politics was well-judged. Born in Jerusalem, the seventh of eight children of Jewish immigrants from Morocco, Gabay served his mandatory military service in IDF intelligence, reaching the rank of lieutenant, before completing a BA degree in economics and an MBA at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He then worked for four years in the Ministry of Finance before joining Bezeq, Israel’s largest telecommunications company, where he rose to CEO. In 2013, he entered politics to join Moshe Kahlon, a Likud defector, to establish the Kulani party. He served as minister of environment between 2015 and 2016. Then, he suddenly quit Kulani and joined Labor. It took him less than a year to win the election as leader.

In many ways, Avi Gabay epitomizes the intermediate generation moving into position on Israel’s political landscape in the last few years.  Most are outsiders, television personae, high-tech billionaires or business executives, like Yair Lapid who came from TV to establish Future, Eral Margalit, the tycoon whose bid for the Labor lead failed, and Education Minister Naftali Bennett of the right-wing Jewish Home party.

Their path to the pinnacle and removal of the apparently unbeatable Binyamin Netanyahu and his Likud has so far been fraught with obstacles, some of their own making.

In the first place, they lack the patience to develop strategies for the long slog to unseat and replace the prime minister. In the second, these hopefuls don’t seem to realize that they are no more than a bridge generation between the professional incumbents - who mostly jumped into politics from the top levels of the military or security establishment and stuck it out through the political process - and the coming generation which has yet to show its face.
Avi Gabay has some advantages over co-members of this intermediate group. He came to politics as the outsider of a party which craves change after its steady decline in one election after another under a succession of too-familiar leaders.

He is also young enough to make good on his promise of a fresh, seemingly modest, face at the helm of the nation, compared with many of the current contenders whose egocentric performances leave the general public cold. And his background and right-of-center conservative leanings are closely akin to the dominant character of middle-generation Laborites and Likudniks alike.
Gabay has a long way to go before he can make a serious bid to topple Netanyahu. He must first unite the Labor party behind him - no mean task which has defeated many of his far more seasoned predecessors.  But it also behooves Binyamin Netanyahu to take notice of the hunger for change in the country, which is not confined to the opposition Labor party. 

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11 juillet 2017 2 11 /07 /juillet /2017 00:09
New Syrian-Hizballah offensive defies ceasefire
DEBKAfile Special Report July 10, 2017, 5:38 PM
 

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Less than 24 hours after the US-Russian sponsored ceasefire went into force in southwest Syria, it broke down early Monday, July 10, when large-scale Syrian army and Hizballah forces launched a general offensive on Syrian rebel forces in the Al Suweida province. This region was listed with Quneitra and Daraa as one of three demilitarized locations to be covered by the truce.  

debkafile’s military sources report that the Syrian’s army’s 5th Armored Division led the offensive which the Syrian army’s general command designated “Operation Big Dawn,” to mark it as the opening of a new phase in the war in southern Syria.

Our military sources described the attack as focusing on the northern rural areas of Al Suweida province to provide the Syrians and Hizballah with a pretext for claiming they are not part of the town and therefore not part of the ceasefire agreement reached by Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in Hamburg last Friday, July 7.

In the early hours of their drive forward, Syrian and Hizballah troops captured 11 villages and small towns, including Tal Asfar and Al-Qasr, which lie 33km from the town of Suweida, 70km from Daraa on the Jordanian border and 78km east of Quneitra and the Israeli Golan border.

They forced the rebels defending them to retreat; most belonging to the Syrian Democratic Forces, who were trained and armed by the US and Jordan.

According to our sources, Damascus decided to terminate another short-lived ceasefire in the six-year Syrian war when the Jordanian army and intelligence took advantage of the pause in fighting to transfer large quantities of weapons and military equipment to allied Syrian rebel forces defending Daraa. Under no illusions about the sustainability of the US-Russian ceasefire deal, Jordan moved fast to bolster its Syrian allies for the next round of fighting.
The Assad regime, for its part, felt free to resume combat because the Trump-Putin ceasefire deal had not set out demarcation lines as dividers between the opposing armies, leaving that task to US and Russian officers on the ground to take up.

 

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10 juillet 2017 1 10 /07 /juillet /2017 05:58
Syrian ceasefire deal skips Syria, Iran, Hizballah
DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis July 9, 2017, 3:42 PM

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The ceasefire which Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin agreed should go into effect in along southwestern Syria’s borders with Jordan and Israel on Sunday, July 9, is a hodgepodge of unknown factors with vague prospects – even by the rickety standards of that six-year war.

Whether or not it holds is of less concern to Israel than the military presence of Iranian and Hizballah forces on its borders. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made this point at Sunday’s cabinet meeting, after putting those concerns before President Vladimir Putin last Thursday and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson before the Trump-Putin encounter at the G20 summit on Friday.
Both assured him that Israel’s concerns would be taken into account. But neither spelled out what practical form that consideration would take.

The ceasefire deal they forged at Hamburg with great fanfare turns out to be no more than a generic title for a still unwritten piece of work on the prospective military and political cooperation between the US and Russia. Up until the Sunday noon deadline, nothing was heard from Tehran, Damascus or Beirut on if and how they intended to uphold the truce.
Jordan alone is celebrating the ceasefire and claiming it as a major feat. According to spokesmen in Amman, American and Jordanian drones and warplanes will jointly monitor the cessation of hostilities and the rebel-held areas of Daraa and Quneitra will become autonomous rebel-ruled regions, as a model for the rest of the country.
Such reports are without foundation. The Americans and Russians have not yet filled in the details of the new arrangement, such as who will supervise the truce, which troops will police it - or even the demarcation line boundary around the demilitarized enclave.

In preliminary discussions, Moscow proposed deploying Russian military police as monitors. This was rejected by the Americans as tantamount to handing southwestern Syria over to Syrian ruler Bashar Assad. Instead, they proposed posting US or international forces in the Deraa and Quneitra areas (See attached map). But here the Russians dug in their heels, refusing to allow the number of US troops in Syria to increase.
No one knows where Tehran or Damascus stands on this question either. No doubt, once the details are in place, Russian and US diplomats will be scrambling to bring their allies aboard before the ceasefire breaks down.

Given all these uncertainties, the truce announced in Hamburg is not expected to hold water for long. In Syria, there is never any shortage of willing ceasefire-breakers.
Israel has kept a low profile on these deliberations, although the Golan and its northern border are at high risk from the latest turn of the Syrian war, but also from any external deals for its termination.
In reference to the ceasefire, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Sunday: “We are still learning the details of the deal and its connotations for southwestern Syria and Iran’s deepening presence in Syria.  We reserve full freedom of action to do what is necessary in our security interests,” he said, repeating “full freedom of action.” The minister added that Israel is deeply concerned that the Islamists in flight from liberated Mosul may head west out of Iraq. That concern, he said, is shared by Saudi Arabia and other Middle East nations.
Netanyahu and IDF chiefs continually reiterate that the presence of Iranian and Hizballah forces on Israel’s border is unacceptable. But this did not stop Presidents Trump and Putin from coming to terms on a deal that leaves both those forces at Al-Baath on the outskirts of Quneitra, just 3km from Israel’s Golan border, or in parts of Deraa, which is 36km east of the Golan (and 1km from Jordan).
This constant Israeli official refrain by the Netanyahu government is as much practical use as its insistence that Iran will not be allowed to pump advanced weapons for Hizballah to Lebanon through Syria, when in  practice, the Lebanese Shiite group is free to help itself to those weapons in Syria while fighting on its different fronts - whether Israel likes it or not.

 

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