Today Watch is a selection of global events with a prophetic focus and of biblical interest. The latest inclusions will be posted at the top of the page as it is updated.
The Azaria trial and the rift over orders to shoot
Seven months ago, Sgt. Elior Azaria was put on trial before a three-judge panel of the Jaffa Military Court. He was charged with manslaughter for shooting dead in March last year a Palestinian terrorist, who had attacked soldiers with a knife and was already shot and injured.
Release of the videotape which showed the terrorist lying prone on the ground but still alive when Azaria came on the scene made the case a cause célèbre.
The trial turned on the question of whether the terrorist was immobilized or still posed a threat. The popular controversy on this question led to Moshe Yaalon’s resignation as defense minister, after he argued that Azaria, then 19, was out of line and should stand trial for murder.
He was supported by the incumbent chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenkott.
Azaria’s family mounted a popular campaign to justify his actions, claiming that he acted in the conviction that he was saving lives. His conduct was backed by many uniformed men through the social media, and a number of former generals volunteered to testify in his defense.
DEBKAfile’s military analysts note that the controversy reflects long efforts to introduce politics – or a brand of political correctness - into IDF decision-making. Soldiers are under orders to shoot terrorists in the heat of an attack – that is not in question, but since the Azaria affair, the army under Gen. Eisenkott, is working on refinements, such as when it is permissible and when it is not.
Both Yaalon and Eisenkott went overboard in their attempt to improperly influence the course of the military trial sub judice by public statements disparaging the accused soldier.
Last week, in pursuance of this campaign, the former defense minister appeared before 1,000 18-year olds about to join the army for three years of compulsory service. First, he rehashed the events leading up to Azaria’s action and his own resignation.
On March 24, he said, two terrorists came up to the Gilbert checkpoint at Tel Romeida in Hebron and started stabbing a soldier and officer who were manning it. But then, Yaalon burst out: “If we don’t preserve our human values, the IDF will be no better than Daesh!” the implication being that Azaria was no better than an Islamist State killer.
This was a desperate attempt to prejudge the trial and sway the three military judges, just in case they were persuaded that Azaria was not trigger-happy but had shot the prone terrorist in the belief that as a soldier it was his duty to protect the immediate environment from further menace.
The chief of staff had his say on Tuesday, Jan. 3, the day before the court was to hand down its verdict. He declared that he had a duty to “preserve IDF values.”
Our military analysts have searched in vain the IDF military codebook for a definition of “IDF values” among the often contradictory orders of when to open fire. They wonder how a young conscript serving at a checkpoint -and knowing he is the target at any moment for a sudden knifing, shooting, bombing or vehicular attack - can be expected to decide on the spot which “military values” to apply.
In his basic training, he is taught that his duty as a soldier is to fight the enemy and protect civilians.
Confusion at the vital moment of an attack could cost precious lives.
However, Yaalon and Eisenkott have made it crystal clear that, regardless of the verdict handed down by a court after a long trial and exhaustive questioning of a flock of witnesses – both for the defense and the prosecution – they are determined to perpetuate the divisive, politically-tainted controversy in the country and its armed forces.
ISIS strikes in Berlin, Jordan – and Mosul too
The city of Berlin and the Jordanian Crusader town of Karaka are 3,000km apart, but the distance did not stop Islamic State killers from taking 26 lives, inuring 18 others, some very seriously,in the two countries, and causing the Israeli Dalia Elkayam to disappear.
In Berlin, German security is out in force to hunt the terrorist who rammed a hijacked Polish truck into a throng of Christmas gift seekers. They are trying to find a needle in a haystack with no clue as whether he operated alone or was part of a gang ready to strike again, a method of operation that recalls the multiple Paris atrocity which claimed 132 lives before it was over.
In Jordan, the terrorists followed up on their first shooting attack on police and the taking of tourists hostage by three days of gun battles with security forces in the alleys of Karak. Four soldiers were killed by ISIS terrorists barricaded in a building.
These episodes are not over and done with in Germany and the war against ISIS in southern Jordan has only just begun.
In both countries, they are seriously shaking the ruling establishments, however diverse their systems and geography: Chancellor Angela Merkel is standing for a fourth term in the coming election in the face of an outcry against her open-door immigration policy, while the throne of King Abdullah II is at risk if he fails to crush the Islamists.
Merkel’s policy has brought a million refugees to Germany, whereas Abdullah has given refuge to 650,000 distressed Syrians. Unlike the chancellor, the king has finally sealed his kingdom’s borders to further entry, with American and Israeli military and intelligence assistance.
The European and Middle East rulers find themselves in the same boat. They are exposed to an organized Islamic terror offensive with no notion of when and how the deadly strike will come.
This is nothing but a colossal failure of the global war on ISIS.
With no bars on its momentum, the Islamic State on Tuesday, Dec. 12, the same day as its outrages in Germany and Jordan, also hit two fronts in the Mosul region of Iraq – one to punish the pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi militia near Tal Afar and the other, Iraqi army forces holding some of the southern and eastern outskirts of Mosul.
The US-backed army offered little or no resistance.
Nonetheless, they Obama administration stuck to its standard refrain, refusing to credit ISIS with the attack in Berlin without corroboration, even after its claim of responsibility - meaning that US intelligence’s failure to identity the perpetrators exculpates ISIS. So Washington can continue to bury its head in the sand.
In Jerusalem, too, the government ignored the fighting against rampant Islamic terrorists raging for three days in southern Jordan, just 20km away from the Israeli border – as though it happened on another planet..
Indeed, Israel suddenly finds itself with a new strategic dilemma. Threatened with ISIS and other terrorist groups from its Golan border in the north and its Sinai border in the southwest, Israel is now beset from its southeastern border in Jordan.
Trump picked Tillerson for tough new Iran policy
Rex Tillerson, Chairman an CEO of Exxon Mobil, was named this week as the next administration’s Secretary of State to execute the tough foreign policies charted by president-elect Donald Trump, including his decision to stiffen the nuclear accord signed with Iran as soon as he moves into the White House on Jan. 20.
DEBKAfile reports this exclusively from New York and its intelligence sources.
While campaigning for the presidency, Trump called the accord “the worst deal” ever.
According to our sources, a special team is already working on revisions of the accord which the US and five other global powers concluded with Iran in 2015 in the hope of retarding Iran’s nuclear weapons program by a decade.
As new president, Trump will issue Tehran with a unilateral demand to accept those revisions as pre-condition for the continuation of relations between the US and Iran. He does not intend consulting America’s co-signers, Russia, China, Germany, Britain and France, or asking them for their endorsement of the revamped accord.
The teams preparing the Trump administration’s Iran policy were put in place last week by Tillerson and designated national security adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.
No members of the incumbent NSC, State Department, Pentagon or Treasury, who managed the Obama administration’s Iran policy, was invited to take part. The teams were instead chosen from among scientists, military leaders and intelligence officials who opposed the nuclear accord with Iran.
Also attached were former administration officials hired by Exxon for their extensive knowledge of Iran’s oil trade and their close ties with oil circles in the Gulf Emirates, which like Israel, fought hard to pre-empt the nuclear deal with Iran.
Our sources have also learned that if Iran rejects the revised accord, the president elect has a list of new economic sanctions drawn up which are a lot tougher than the sanctions regime imposed by the Bush and Obama administrations.
The incoming president will have a fight on his hands to get the Tillerson appointment through the Senate in the face of objections raised by Republican lawmakers over his ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
However, Trump hopes to turn those ties to his advantage. He trusts that Tillerson is just the man to sell the new administration’s Iran policies to the Russian president.
Read more about Trump’s plans for his secretary of state in the coming issue of DEBKA Weekly (for subscribers) out on Friday. Dec. 16, 2016.
Israel jets mark go-it-alone policy on Syria
Arab media carried conflicting reports wich described Israeli warplanes striking in and around Damascus overnight Tuesday, Nov. 29, with “four long-range Popeye” missiles fired from Lebanese air space on the government-held town of Al-Saboorah, a western suburb of Damascus, near the highway to Beirut.
A Lebanese newspaper reported that a Syrian army ammunition depot was destroyed in one of the raids, while other strikes hit and damaged a Hizballah arms convoy bound for Lebanon on the Damascus-Beirut Highway. There was also speculation, later denied, that one of the air strikes aimed at assassinating a senior Hizballah figure.
None of these reports were confirmed by Israel or any other official source.
Even so, Israel’s reported military action against enemy targets in Syria is bound to have repercussions in the next 24 hours, since, whatever took place, broke out of the secret overarching understandings on Syria reached provisionally this month between US President elect Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Those understandings hinged strongly on joint US-Russian cooperation in the war on the Islamic State in Syria, supported by the coalition fighting for the Assad regime, namely, the Syrian army and its allies, the Lebanese Hizballah and foreign Shiite militias under the command of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
As the sub-text of the “big power” understandings, an outline was drafted between the next US administration, Moscow, Jerusalem, Amman and the UAE on arrangements for stabilizing Syria’s southern borders with Israel and Jordan.
Talks on these arrangements were first disclosed in an exclusive DEBKAfile report on Nov. 21, after they had already produced the unheralded return of the UN observers to the Golan demilitarized zone outside Quneitra.
But then, Sunday, Nov. 27, Russian warplanes staged a sudden series of airstrikes against Syrian rebel concentrations in the very region under discussion, southern Syria. After a three-month pause in these attacks, Moscow appeared to have waited for major Syrian government progress in Aleppo, to go against those understandings and send Russian jets into action over Jasim and Daraa in order to wipe out the rebel forces holding out in the South. Heavy casualties were sustained by those forces.
The Russian action was seen by the incoming Trump administration and Jerusalem as presaging the next danger-fraught step: To round out the raids, the Syrian army would come flooding into the South, along with Hizballah and other Shiite militias fighting under Iranian Revolutionary Guards command.
Tuesday saw two further ruptures in the trilateral understandings on Syria.
Assad announced he was gearing up for a decisive victory in Aleppo, notwithstanding a request from Trump’s advisers to Putin to hold back from the final step and refrain from retaking every last eastern district from rebel hands..
This was followed by an unforeseen statement by Erdogan: “The Turkish military launched its operations in Syria to end the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.”
This sentiment pivoted sharply away from the secret Trump-Putin understandings endorsed by the Turkish leader that was contingent on Assad remaining in power.
Although Erdogan is notorious for his wildly unpredictable decision-making, it is more than likely that before going public on his radical change of heart on Assad, he was in touch with the new national security team taking shape in Washington. If that was the case, then Donald Trump was using Erdogan to notify Putin that the entire architecture of their understandings on Syria was now at risk.
If the Arab media reporting on Israeli air attacks on Syrian military and Hizballah targets in Damascus from Lebanese air space are confirmed, Jerusalem will be shown to have followed Ankara in backing away from those short-lived, understandings, opting instead for an independent policy in its own security interests with regard to Syria.
Egyptian pilots flying Russian choppers in Syria
Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi’s secret decision to intervene militarily in the Syrian war on the side of the Syrian President Bashar Assad is revealed here by DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources. The precise details of that intervention vary from source to source.
1. According to one version, a group of Egyptian helicopter pilots – 18, according to one estimate - landed secretly a few days ago at the Syrian Air Force base in Hama and were pressed at once into service for strikes against Syrian rebel forces.
Some sources describe the Egyptian flight crews as taking over the cockpits of Russian attack/reconnaissance Kamov Ka-52 helicopters, with which they were familiar, having trained on them since the end of 2015.
2. Others say that the Egyptian airmen flew those helicopters from Egypt to Syria over the eastern Mediterranean.
3. There is also a claim that their arrival was preceded by a preliminary inspection of the Syrian front lines by two major generals from the Egyptian general staff operations division, who later submitted their recommendations to the Egyptian president. It is not clear if they met the Russian commanders in Syria during that trip.
4. Others say the Egyptian generals headed a military delegation, which has set up a permanent mission in Damascus.
But every one of those sources agrees that, one way or another, Egypt has secretly entered the Syrian war in support of the Bashar regime – a development which has raised a firestorm in Arab capitals.
Saudi Arabia is particularly incensed over El-Sisi’s move. For years, Riyadh granted Cairo billions of dollars in aid, hoping this was an investment for procuring the Egyptian army as the stalwart protector of the kingdom and the Gulf emirates against Iran.
But towards the end of last year, Riyadh was affronted when the Egyptian ruler turned down an appeal for ground troops to support the Yemen campaign against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. An eye-opener came when Egypt showed sympathy for Assad’s fight against extremist Islamist groups in the rebel movement, especially those associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, which El-Sisi has outlawed in Egypt as the sworn foe of his regime. Then, when Cairo supported Russian pro-Assad diplomacy at the United Nations, Saudi Arabia abruptly cut off financial assistance to Egypt and discontinued its oil shipments.
Donald Trump's election this month as the next US president has already become the catalyst of a major reshuffling of Middle East alliances and stakes.
Some of its rulers, including El-Sisi, see the landscape changing and may be gambling on Trump reaching a deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin for joint military operations in Syria against the Islamic State and other Islamic terror groups, including the Al-Qaeda affiliate, the Nusra Front. The new bandwagon about to roll appears to favor Bashar Assad and his army.
The US president elect’s take on the Syrian ruler is expected to be markedly different to that of outgoing President Barack Obama, who castigated Assad, but held back from fighting him on the battlefield.
DEBKAfile reported exclusively on Nov. 21 that clandestine talks between Jerusalem, Amman and Damascus were afoot for the restoration of the demilitarized zone on the Golan and steps to stabilize their common borders in southern Syria.
Those talks are taking place with the knowledge of the Trump transition team and the Kremlin. They have already produced results in the return of UNDOF observers to their former posts on the Syrian Golan.
There are grounds to speculate now that the deployment of Egyptian aviators to Syria may be one more product of the secret inter-power diplomacy swirling in recent weeks over Syria’s bloody and intractable five-year war.
Israel wildfires spread south. Arsonists nabbed
As firefighters battled unrelenting wildfires for the fourth day - from the Galilee, through Haifa and up to the Jerusalem Hills - the first flames leapt up early Friday, Nov. 25, outside Kiryat Gath in the southern Lachish district.
In the Jerusalem Hills, the firefighting planes taking off at first light to extinguish the flames threatening Beit Meir spotted dark figures constantly rekindling fires when they were dampened. Police gave chase and captured two of the arsonists. The residents were evacuated when the fires hemming them in came under control.
Altogether 10 suspects are now in custody, three were caught on the loose in Galilee in possession of fire accelerants.
The disaster has claimed more than 100 people injured, most from smoke inhalation, but no fatalities, thanks mainly to the heroic efforts of the fully-stretched out firefighters and volunteers, many of whom have not slept for three nights.
Azerbaijan joined half a dozen countries sending planes to support Israel’s fleet of aerial fighters. The giant 747 Super-tanker which can carry 94,000 liters of water arrives from Colorado, US, Friday night. Thursday night, eight fire engines with teams, volunteered by the Palestinian Authority went into action over Haifa and the Jerusalem Hills.
More than 80,000 people in Haifa and other stricken places spent another wretched night away from their blackened homes and towns. Although the government promises financial aid as needed, and offers pour in to put up the homeless in kibbutzim and the formerly missile-stricken towns in the south, the refugees don’t know when they can go back or, in many cases, rebuild their homes.
They were not comforted by the reassuring statements issued Thursday by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Home Security Minister Gilead Erdan, from which they could infer that the government was taken by surprise by the arson offensive, which accounted for at least half of the outbreaks.
A controlling hand was almost certainly behind the individuals or groups who ignited and reignited hundreds of fires up and down the country. They exploited the exceptionally windy and dry weather to sow acres of charred destruction across Israel. But no warning of the impending disaster came from the Shin Bet domestic security service or Military Intelligence (AMAN).
One of the former Shin Bet heads, Israeli Hasson commented that this was the first time Palestinian extremists had used a “weapon of mass destruction.”
Obama hits Trump tie with Putin, Erdogan on Syria
Half a dozen long convoys of trucks carrying US arms, hurriedly put together by US military headquarters in Baghdad, have crossed the border in the last three days on their way to the Syrian Kurdish PYD-YPG militia, DEBKAfile military and intelligence sources report exclusively Monday, Nov. 14. The deliveries were expressly ordered by President Barack Obama in a radical turnaround from his five-year refusal to supply Kurdish fighters with American weaponry, least of all anti-air and anti-tank missiles.
More arms convoys are being organized for the same destination.
What caused President Obama’s sudden and belated change of heart about arming the Syrian Kurdish fighters? Our sources report six motives:
1. To get in the way of the deal for Syria that president elect Donald Trump is developing with Presidents Vladimir Putin and Tayyip Erdogan. Obama has chosen Syria as the first arena to disrupt the incoming president’s foreign and security policies.
2. DEBKAfile’s Moscow and Ankara sources report that the accord taking shape between Trump and the Russian and Turkish leaders would have the Turkish army, with Russian air support, mount an offensive to retake Raqqa from ISIS. The Russians and Iranians would meanwhile wind up the battle to defeat the Syrian rebels still holding out in eastern Aleppo.
3. The timeline they have sketched for the conquest of Raqqa is mid-January 2017 in time for Donald Trump’s inauguration as president and well ahead of the defeat of ISIS in Mosul, Iraq. The Trump’s strategic team reckons that the Obama plan to retake Mosul is heading for fiasco, because the Iraqi army after four weeks of fighting is still held back by ISIS resistance from breaking through into the city.
Trump is therefore hoping to steal the march on Obama in the war on ISIS by seizing Raqqa before he steps into the Oval Office. Obama, aware of this, has determined to throw a spanner in his successor’s works.
4. The president elect has posted retired US officers to Kurdish provinces in Syria and Iraq as his emissaries for on-the-spot- reporting.
5. Armed with US heavy weapons, the Syrian Kurdish militia, which numbers 45,000 troops, is capable of upsetting the Turkish army’s role in the conquest of Raqqa - that is if Erdogan decides to divert the military forces he has deployed in Syria and Turkey to the anti-ISIS operation.
He might be dissuaded from this step when he realizes that a Kurdish army, substantially upgraded with US weapons, is sitting in northern Syria just across the Turkish border.
6. Our military sources don’t rule out the possibility of Turkey and Russia, whose spy planes are tracking the arms convoys for the Kurds, deciding to bomb them before they reach their destination. The Trump team of strategist advisers is no doubt in hectic consultation on this course with Moscow and Ankara.
The US votes amid split FBI, dented nat security
In the wake of America’s elections on Nov. 8, its leading law enforcement agency the FBI (along with its national media) face painful scrutiny over the FBI director James Comey’s five months of public decisions in the heat of the election campaign on the issue of the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s careless handling as Secretary of State of official emails through a private server.
In July, he cleared her of criminal charges. Then, on October 28, Comey announced a review of the case in the light of new materials found in the 650,000 emails, discovered on the laptop shared by Clinton’s senior aide Huma Abedin and her estranged husband, former congressman Anthony Wiener.
Then, Sunday, two days before the election, the FBI chief delivered his second bombshell. He announced that he had not changed his original, July, judgment not to prosecute the Democratic candidate.
In the aftermath of the three decisions, a long FBI investigation is ahead into Hillary Clinton’s conduct. However, the FBI itself faces a full-scale congressional probe to find out what went on the Edgar J. Hoover building behind its director’s humiliating twists and turns.
The top law-enforcement agency, which normally holds its investigations in strict secrecy, has for five months become a source of leaks about its internal disputes, which acted as lighter fuel for the most unconventional and unpredictable US presidential campaign in living memory
In the past, scrutiny of America’s secret bodies was carried out by bipartisan committees. However, in today’s corrosively divisive climate, a panel will find it almost impossible to rise above partisan politics to reach agreed conclusions.
DEBKAfile’s intelligence experts recall the solution to another sort of dilemma over another covert organization’s woes in the late 90s. It was put forward by Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan in the case of Aldrich Ames who served the Russians as a CIA mole for many years before he was caught in 1994.
Moynihan explained that since there is no way to plumb the secrets surrounding a given affair in these clandestine agencies, the only way to cleanse them is to shut them down for good and dismantle them.
That advice is not applicable today. No one is proposing to shut down the FBI and build it anew.
At this point, two things are becoming clear:
1. The federal investigation into Clinton’s past in relation to her emails and her improprieties with regard to the Clinton foundation will not end on Nov. 8.
2. The FBI is driven by bitter internal wars; some, but not all, are related to the Clinton case. This was strongly implicit in Comey’s three public appearances in the past five months.
It would be wrong to accuse him of protecting the Democratic candidate as her rival Donald Trump did after Comey latest decision to exonerate her.(Trump: "Hillary Clinton is guilty, she knows it, the FBI knows it, the people know it and now it's up to the American people to deliver justice at the ballot box on November 8.")
What the Comey struggled to do was to cover up the feuds dividing the bureau, while at the same time preserving its reputation as an unbiased apolitical non-player between the rival camps.
Judging from past experience in other covert organizations in America and other democracies, including the Israeli Shin Bet, the FBI Director could not hope for success. He is now criticized by the two rival US political camps for bias. Furthermore, the inside battles in the bureau are no less savage than overt wars. The FBI must therefore brace itself for unwelcome publicity in the months to come, as the case of Clinton’s emails unfolds and emerges as the tip of a highly damaging iceberg.
These battles may also be revealed as touching on unsuspected regions and exposing hitherto unknown scandals..
If Hillary wins the election, she will lose no time in getting rid of James Comey and replacing him with a pawn whom she can trust to work fast to cover up the rifts dividing the bureau’s top staff and shelve her own misdemeanors..
Donald Trump as president is also likely to pick a new FBI chief, whom he can count on to make good on his election promise for a thorough investigation into Clinton’s actions in the email and foundation cases.
Neither candidate has much chance of resolving the FBI’s internal crisis without root canal treatment that could consume years. For now, a radical overhaul of the FBI would be too dangerous, because it would compromise America’s main guardian against the constant threat of Islamic terror. At the same time, its capabilities for combating terror are hobbled by its internal disputes.
Things Fall Apart for Abbas and Hamas
Senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (left) and PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Photos: Wikimedia Commons.
Things are starting to fall apart in both the PA and Hamas-controlled territories.
In Gaza, Hamas quietly arrested and reportedly tortured one of its own senior leaders, Mushr al-Masri, on alleged charges of embezzlement and treason.
Reports say that al-Masri was briefly transferred to a hospital because of the beatings he endured, only to return to prison.
News reports also say that Hamas has arrested a number of its own members in recent months on charges of collaborating with Israel, and some of these people have been executed. The official cover story is that they were killed “while performing tasks of jihad.”
In the West Bank, however, things look even worse for the PA.
The pro-Fatah Palestine Press Agency reports that the increasing number of clashes between various armed groups, and between these groups and PA security forces, are all part of attempts to position each group ahead of any power struggle if Abbas dies or otherwise leaves without a strong successor.
There have also been armed clashes between Fatah armed groups and other armed gangs, who are making money on illegal drugs and arms, in the Balata camp and elsewhere. The PA security forces are reportedly providing weapons to some armed groups to buy their loyalty in case things go south quickly.
Unemployed youths in the camps are also susceptible to being recruited to these armed groups. The residents are very worried that a civil war will break out as soon as Abbas is gone if he doesn’t designate a clear successor who is accepted by the people — a prospect that seems dim.
The planned Fatah conference in November may make things worse if it doesn’t address these issues. And the increased pressure from Egypt and Gulf states on Abbas to get his act together is putting everyone on edge.
There are big problems in the territories, and things could explode sooner rather than later.
Mosul assault – a military Tower of Babel
Sunday night, Oct. 16, Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, supported by a bevy of generals, announced that the military operation to recapture Mosul from its two-year occupation by the Islamic State had begun.
Three formally approved participants are taking part in the operation, DEBKAfile’s military sources report:
1. American special operations, artillery and engineering units - equipped with floating bridges for crossing the Tigris River – plus the US air force for massive bombardment to crush enemy resistance.
2. Iraqi army armored divisions, special ops forces, regular troops and anti-terror police units.
3. The Iraqi Kurds’ Peshmerga.
The Iraqi prime minister pledged formally that only Iraqi fighters would enter Mosul, i.e. no Americans, Kurds or other non-Iraqi forces.
It was a pledge that neither the Iraqi Sunni and Shiite combatants nor the Kurdish and Turkmen fighters trusted him to uphold, after similar promises went by the wayside in the US-led coalition battles fought in the past two years to retake the Iraqi towns of Ramadi, Tikirit, Baiji and Fallujah from ISIS.
The first forces to enter those cities were by and large pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiite militias, especially the Bader Brigades and the Popular Mobilization Units, under Iran’s supreme Middle East commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Nonetheless, despite the ravages they wrought in those Sunni cities, US air support was forthcoming for their advance, while in Washington US officials pretended they were helping Iraqi government army units.
With regard to the Mosul campaign, Obama administration officials and military officers, like the Iraqi prime minister, insist there will be no repetition of the Iranian-backed Shiite invasion and conquest of yet another Sunni city, where a million inhabitants still remain.
They don’t explain how this will be prevented when those same pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiite forces are already massing northeast of Mosul, near the Iraqi-Syria border, and standing by for the order to advance into the city.
Tehran quite obviously has no intention of being left out of the epic capture of Mosul.
Neither is another uninvited party, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. He too has positioned a Turkish military concentration in Iraq, in defiance of strong objections from Washington and Baghdad. Turkish troops stand ready to move forward to do Erdogan’s will and achieve three strategic goals:
a) To actively frustrate Kurdish Peshmerga entry to Mosul, although its 15,000 fighters out of the 25,000 invasion force are a vital element of the spearhead thrust into the city. Ankara has warned that if Kurds set foot in Mosul, Turkish troops will follow.
b) To block the path of Syrian Kurdish YPG militiamen from entering Iraq and linking up with their Iraqi brothers-in-arms.
c) To provide backing, including Turkish air support, for the Iraqi Turkmen militias still present in the Turkmen quarter of Mosul.
DEBKAfile’s military sources count six assorted military groupings taking part in the liberation of Mosul. They have nothing in common aside from their determination to drive the Islamic State out.
They are utterly divided on the two main aspects of the offensive: How to achieve their common goal and what happens to Mosul after the Islamist invaders are gone.
The underlying US rationale for embarking on this high-wire operation is President Barack Obama’s aspiration to achieve Mosul’s liberation before his departure from the White House in January, in the hope that this landmark success will provide a major distraction from his administration’s failed policies in Syria.
The Islamic State might have been expected to take advantage of the prior warning of the offensive for a stand in defense of the Iraqi capital of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi’s caliphate and so exploit the conflicting interests of the invading force.
But ISIS leaders decided against waiting for the combined offensive. Indeed, according to DEBKAfile’s sources, thousands of jihadis made tracks out of the city two or three months ago, relocating the bulk of their combat strength and institutions in two new locations: in the western Iraqi desert province of Anbar at a site between the Jordanian and Saudi borders and eastern Syria. Several hundred fighters were left behind in Mosul to harass the US-Iraq-Kurdish armies as they advance into the city and exploit the invaders’ discord to retain a foothold in Mosul.
Russia & Turkey carve anti-US enclaves in Syria
US President Barack Obama told Pentagon and military chiefs he met Friday, Oct. on Oct. 14, that instead of arming anti-Assad rebel groups in Syria, Washington was going back to negotiations with Moscow for cooperation in achieving a cessation of hostilities in the Syrian war.
US Secretary of State John Kerry therefore scheduled his umpteenth meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for Saturday in Lausanne. This time, the foreign ministers of Turkey, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and possibly Qatar, tagged along.
Beyond the high words, recriminations and the unspeakable horrors attending the battle for Aleppo, Obama never seriously considered providing the anti-Syrian rebels holed up in Aleppo with the anti-air weapons they need to shoot down the Russian and Syrian warplanes blitzing them – any more than UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s statement that it was time for British military involvement in the Syrian war was for real.
Above all, Britain is short of the military heft for backing up hypothetical intentions.
The options for serious Western intervention in the Syrian war are constantly diminishing for the reasons outlined here by DEBKAfile’s military sources:
1. American missiles have no way of reaching Syrian rebel groups, certainly not those still fighting in eastern Aleppo. Neither Russia, nor Turkey, whose army now controls 5,000 sq. km of northern Syria, would let them through to that destination.
2. Had Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan chosen to do so, he could have simply ordered his army to open up a route for the supply of missiles to the rebels who are hemmed in in Aleppo by Russia, Syrian, Iranian and Hizballah forces. He is withholding that order because the military deals he concluded with President Vladimir Putin last week in Istanbul override any concerns he may have for the fate of those rebels or Aleppo’s population.
3. Those deals in a word sanctify the Turkish “security zone” in northern Syria which is covered by a no-fly zone for all but Russian and Turkish flights. They also provide for the Syrian rebels retreating from the various Syrian war zones, including Aleppo, to be taken in and absorbed in the Turkish enclave. Erdogan would thus become the senior patron of the Syrian opposition rebel movement, barring only the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front and other Islamic extremist groups. This would enable him to steal from the United States, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Qatar their sponsorship roles and their influence in the anti-Assad movement.
4. Ankara’s military alliance with Moscow is steadily eroding Turkey’s ties with the United States as well as NATO. Matters have gone so far that the two capitals or in advanced discussion of the supply of Russian air defense missiles to the Turkish army.
DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources reveal that under discussion is the installation in Turkey of a system of advanced Russian missiles linked to the Russian anti-air missile shield under construction in Syria.
Turkey would thus become the first member of NATO to arm itself with a Russian anti-air missile shield.
How was this allowed to happen?
According to our sources, Putin and Erdogan are moving fast to cash in on President Obama’s repugnance for military intervention in Syria and his waning powers at the tail end of his presidency.
a) Neither is configuring Syrian President Bashar Assad into their calculations. They are going forward with their plans while ignoring him and his drastically diminished army as factors worth consideration.
b) Their objectives are similar and interlocking: Both are intent on developing their respective enclaves in northern Syria, Moscow for a long-term military presence in the country: likewise, Ankara.
Up until now, the Obama administration stood firm against the two goals, which is why Washington and Moscow were unable to achieve any real cooperation over a secession of hostilities in the war-torn country; even when Kerry and Lavrov struck a truce accord on Sept 9, it never held up beyond a few hours.
Most recently, Putin and Erdogan tried signaling the US president that their sole ambitions with regard to Syria’s future lie in the two military enclaves now under construction.
Obama saw this as a sufficient basis to continue withholding advanced arms from Syrian rebel groups and to go for another round of diplomacy with Russia – with Turkey hitching a ride this time on the opposite side of the table..
Palestinian shoots 2 Israelis dead. Probe ordered
Details of the inquiry into the deadly Palestinian shooting spree that claimed two Israeli lives and injured 6 others in Jerusalem Sunday, Oct. 9, are under a court gag order. However, this attack was clearly different from the run-of-the-mill terror plaguing Israel for the last two years, which its security services have usually prevented in good time or cut short before the damage spread.
The two victims were Police Elite Unit (Yasam) officer Yosef Kirma, 29, who was survived by his wife, parents and two brothers, and Levana Malichi, 60, who was mourned by a husband, three daughters and 6 grandchildren.
The gunman was not an anonymous knife-wielding lone youth, but well known to the police and security authorities as Musabah Abu Sabit, 39, from Silwan, who fitted the classical profile of a hardened terrorist.
Abu Sabit had been in and out of Israeli courts and prisons, charged with grievous bodily harm to police officers, taking illegal military training, torching vehicles and other violent acts.
He was due to start serving another four-month jail sentence on the day of his shooting rampage in Jerusalem. This terrorist was also prominent in extremist Palestinian circles as “the Lion of Jerusalem.” He was photographed marching with the flag of the Hamas terrorist group and caught as a activist for the outlawed violent anti-Israel Islamist Murabatun movement.
Abu Sabit did not operate underground. His hate-filled inflammatory messages with self-images appeared in Facebook, the latest one two days ago.
Homeland Security Minister Gilead Erdan’s stated to the media after the attack that no specific warning had preceded the attack and charged Facebook with responsibility for reopening its pages to Palestinian incitement.
Neither claim accounted for the security authorities having missed the vital clue to the coming attack.
That miscue will not doubt be uncovered by the inquiry. But the questions remain.
Abu Sabit moved between three sites of attack, shooting an MI6-type automatic rifle, a feat demanding the aptitude of a commando or special operations fighter. Where was he trained? Did he pause between attacks, or did he have an accomplice at the wheel? If he did, what happened to him? Is he the object of a manhunt? The weapon was worth roughly $10,000. How did he obtain it and the ammo he used?
A terorist operation of this kind would be hard to conduct by a lone killer. It would be typically aided and abetted by a group, each member of which would have a special function. So was this the work of a network which the Shin Bet Security Service missed?
After he was banned from Jerusalem, the gunman was able to return. How come? Were there no tabs on his movements?
The bravery, speed and enterprise demonstrated by the special police and border police officers in reaching and tackling the gunman minutes into his attack were exceptional. They offer a classical model for any anti-terror force anywhere. But Yosef Kirma paid the price.
DEBKAfile reported earlier Sunday.
Two of the eight injured victims of a Palestinian gunman's attack Sunday, Oct. 9 in Jerusalem have died of their injuries. He conducted a shooting rampage from a moving car through three sites in northern Jerusalem: the light rail station opposite French Hill, the Shimon Hatzadik Tomb and a main Jerusalem thoroughfare, ending in a shootout at the Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrach. There, he was surrounded by police and an elite counter-terror force. In the ensuing shootout, he was killed, after injuring two police officers, one of whom has since died. The gunman was a 39-year old resident of Silwan, a district opposite the Old City of Jerusalem.
This was the most serious attack in the latest upsurge of Palestinian terror starting ahead of the Jewish High Festivals. He was able to drive between three sites near National Police Headquarters, shooting all the way, without being stopped. In the final shootout, residents at Sheikh Jerrach were heard shouting Allahu Akhbar! from their windows.
Israeli Police Commissioner Ronnie Alsheich described the attack as serious with multiple victims - but not a surprise. Palestinian terrorists are wont to strike when Jewish festivals are at hand. The attack Sunday came three days before Yom Kippur Eve. He called on the public to carry on with their normal lives while remaining vigilant and informing the police of anything out of the way.
Nothing has changed, he said, but security forces operate day and night to prevent the ever-present terror menace. There is no reason to cancel visits to Jerusalem. Commissioner Alsheich praised the way the police handled the terrorist shooting rampage at three sites, noting that from beginning to end, the incident took no longer than 3-4 minutes.
At the same time, DEBKAfile’s counterterrorism sources note that two weeks ago, the same gunman, suspected of plotting a terrorist attack, was issued with an order distancing him from Jerusalem.
Although the police commissioner said no advance warning of a terror attack had been received, DEBKAfile’s counterterrorism sources report that the same gunman, known to the police as Mussabah Abu Sabit, 39, from Silwan, a Hamas follower and activist in the anti-Israel Muslim Al Aqsa campaign, was given an order two weeks ago banning his presence in Jerusalem.
This raises three questions:
1. How was he able to reach Jerusalem for his murderous shooting spree?
2. Did the police fail to execute the ban?
3. After being expelled from Jerusalem, wouldn’t he have presented the same terror threat from his next destination in another part the country?
4. Were any devices employed to keep track of the potential terrorist’s whereabouts?
Israel Braces for Obama's Parting Gift to Palestinians
When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was re-elected last year, the White House threatened to reconsider long-standing U.S. policy to veto U.N. Security Council resolutions on Israel's presence in the West Bank. At issue was a last-minute interview in which Netanyahu said there would be no Palestinian state as long as he was prime minister. He took back that statement after the election. Nonetheless, the White House directed policymakers to draw up a set of options for how Obama could "preserve the two-state solution," according to one U.S. official privy to the process.
So far, nothing has come of Obama's threat. Indeed last month, Obama signed an agreement with Israel to extend the U.S. subsidy of its military for another ten years. In foreign policy, Obama is focused on the collapse of U.S. policy in Syria, which has become an even greater humanitarian emergency in the last month with the Russian and Iranian-led siege of Aleppo. Politically, the White House is working to elect Hillary Clinton as Obama's successor.
Yet with a little more than three months left of his presidency, Israeli officials privately say they worry Obama intends to try to level the playing field between the Palestinians and Israelis before he leaves office. The threat of a last-minute speech, executive order, or U.N. action has stirred some of Israel's friends in Washington. Last month, for example, 88 senators signed a letter to Obama urging him to restate "long-standing U.S. policy" to veto one-sided anti-Israel resolutions at the U.N.
The Obama administration has not made such a statement. This week, however, White House spokesman Joshua Earnest "strongly condemned" Israel's approval of 98 new housing units in the West Bank settlement of Shilo. A CBS correspondent noted that this phrasing is "usually reserved" for terrorist attacks.
The U.S. has opposed Israeli settlement construction in the land it won in the 1967 war since the 1970s. Under Obama, however, the public denunciations of Israeli settlements have often been delivered at the highest levels of the government and in particularly harsh language.
So far, though, Obama has not sanctioned Israel for settlements, preferring instead to censure. This is where the options from 2015 could come into play. U.S. officials who have been briefed on them tell me they run from the substantive to the symbolic.
On the milder end would be a speech Obama would deliver outlining his parameters for a two-state solution. This approach is similar to a speech Bill Clinton gave at the end of his presidency that laid out such parameters. In Obama's case, the speech could disclose the concessions Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas were willing to make in negotiations that fell apart in 2014.
The options also include tougher measures such as support for a new U.N. Security Council resolution that would supersede U.N. Security Council resolution 242, which was drafted in 1967. That calls on Israel to withdraw from the territory it won in the Six Day War, but calls on that territory to be returned to Israel's neighbors, not an independent Palestinian state.
Other policy options include changes to the U.S. tax code to target U.S. charities that support West Bank settlements today. Last month, J Street, the self-anointed "political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans," began a new campaign to get the Internal Revenue Service to withdraw the tax-exempt status for charities that "entrench or expand Israeli settlement activity" in the West Bank.
Another option in the 2015 policy memo would have the U.S. recognize a Palestinian state or upgrade its diplomatic presence.
All of these policies are likely to meet stiff opposition from Israel's government and its friends in Washington. Obama has faced this kind of opposition before. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee opposed his Iran nuclear deal and yet the White House managed to get just enough Democrats to put the bargain through Congress, even though the president did not ask the Senate to ratify the agreement as a treaty.
That was in 2015, though, when Obama still had more than a year left in office. It remains to be seen how many Democrats will oppose him if he tries to punish Israeli settlement activity in the final weeks of his presidency.
US, Russia on brink of military showdown in Syria
There is a sense in Washington and Moscow alike that a military showdown between the US and Russia is inevitable – direct this time, not through proxies, like the downing of a Russian warplane by Turkish jets last year. When the big powers are in direct confrontation, minor players step aside and run for cover.
When President Barack Obama Friday, Sept. 30 attended the funeral in Jerusalem of the Israeli leader Shimon Peres, he must have realized he was only 514km as the crow flies from Aleppo, the raging crux of the escalating big-power conflict.
The moment after the ceremonies ended the president and his party, including Secretary of State John Kerry and his security adviser Susan Rice, made haste to head back to Washington to navigate the crisis.
The first step toward a direct showdown was taken by the United States.
By now, it is no secret in Moscow, or indeed in any Middle East capital, that the American A-10 air strike of Sept. 17 against a Syrian military position at Jebel Tudar in the Deir ez-Zour region of eastern Syria was intentional, not accidental, as originally claimed. Scores of Syrian soldiers died in the attack.
The fact that President Obama instituted a secret inquiry to discover which link in the American chain of command ordered the attack pointed to his suspicion that a high-up in the Pentagon or possibly the CIA, had ordered the air strike, in order to sabotage the US-Russian military cooperation deal in Syria, which Secretary Kerry obtained after long and arduous toil.
The concessions he made to Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in those negotiations, especially his consent for extensive sharing of intelligence, were found totally unacceptable in the US Defense Department, its military and intelligence community.
The Russian-Syrian reprisal came two days after the A-10 strike. On Sept. 19, an emergency aid convoy was obliterated on its way to the desperate population of Aleppo. Moscow and Damascus denied responsibility for the deadly bombardment, but no other air force was present in the sky over the embattled city.
On the ground, meanwhile, an unbridled onslaught on rebel-held eastern Aleppo was launched Wednesday by the Russians, Syria, Hizballah and pro-Iranian Shiite militias under the command of Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers.
The fall of Aleppo, Syria’s second city after Damascus, would give Bashar Assad his most resounding victory in the nearly six-year civil war against his regime.
On Sept. 29, Kerry threatened Moscow that “the United States would suspend plans to coordinate anti-Islamic State counter-terrorism efforts if Moscow does not stop attacking Aleppo.”
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov answered with a sneering: “Once again there was a certain emotional breakdown yesterday against the backdrop of the Obama administration’s unwillingness to fulfill its part of the agreements.”
This was a strong hint of the knowledge in the Kremlin that someone in the US administration was holding out against the implementation in full of the cooperation deal agreed upon and was therefore responsible for its breakdown.
The United States is left with two options:
Either stand idly by in the face of the Russian-Syrian-Iranian onslaught on Aleppo, or shelve the coordination arrangements for US and Russian air operations in Syria, with the inevitable risk of a clash in the air space of Syria or over the eastern Mediterranean.
Shimon Peres: A life spanning Israel’s history
Shimon Peres was born Szymon Perski, on 2 August 1923 in Wiszniew, then Poland now Belarus. His family migrated to Palestine in 1932 and settled in Tel Aviv. He served as 9th president of Israel from 2007 to 2014 capping a biography that spanned the life of the state of Israel from its earliest days and before.
In 1945, Peres married Sonya Gelman, who preferred to remain outside the public eye. They had three children. She died on 20 January 2011, aged 87.
All of Peres' relatives who remained in Wiszniew in 1941 were murdered during the Holocaust, many of them burned alive in the town's synagogue.
Shimon Peres was twice Prime Minister, member of 12 governments and a member of the Knesset for half a century. As a politician he started out with the ruling Mapai party, moving on to the breakaway Rafi, later the Alignment (extended Mapai), then the Labor party which succeeded the Alignment and finally Kadima, the party founded by the late Ariel Sharon.
An outstanding feature of his political career was the dichotomy between his reputation abroad as an outstanding statesman and his controversial standing at home, which tripped him up in many of his bids for election to party and national leadership.
With David Ben Gurion at Kibbutz Sde Boker. 1969
In 1953, David Ben Gurion appointed him Director General of the new Defense Ministry, putting him charge of vital arms purchases for the fledgling IDF and the forging of the new state’s relations and alliances with foreign nations. He was successful in establishing close ties with France and securing massive amounts of quality arms. In those years, too, he was instrumental in establishing the Dimona nuclear reactor and designing the tripartite accord with France and Britain that led to the 1956 Suez campaign prompted by Egypt’s nationalization of the Suez Canal.
His politics shifted radically over the decades. A “hawk” in his early days as a protégé of David Ben-Gurion and Moshe Dayan and an early supporter of Jewish settlement on the West Bank after the 1967 Six-Day War, he later evolved into a “dove” who advocated territorial compromise.
With David Ben Gurion and Moshe Dayan
Peres gained his first cabinet appointment in 1969, rising in 1974 to become minister of defense in the government formed by the late Yitzhak Rabin, having been Rabin’s chief rival for the post of prime minister after Golda Meir resigned in the aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
In 1977, he again lost to Rabin in the vote for party leader.
And in 1977, he led the Alignment (based on Labor) to its first ever defeat in an election that finally brought the perennial opposition Likud party to power with Menachem Begin as prime minister. When neither Alignment nor Likud was able to muster a majority in the 1984 elections, they set up a unity government with the premiership rotating between the two leaders – Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Shamir.
After his first stint as prime minister, he led his party out of government in 1990.
In early 1992, he was defeated in the first primary elections of the new Israel Labor Party (formed by Rabin to consolidate the Alignment into a single unitary party).
As foreign minister in the Rabin administration, Shimon Peres was the live wire behind the secret negotiations with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat which culminated in the 1993 Oslo Accords. This deal stirred high controversy at home but won great acclaim abroad, winning Peres, Rabin and Arafat a Nobel Peace prize.
The Oslo Accords, which granted the Palestinians limited self-determination in their main cities and reciprocal recognition between Israel and the PLO, also allowed Arafat to return from Tunisian exile.
The accord began to unravel after the failure of the Camp David Summit in 2000 and the subsequent outbreak of the Al Aqsa Intifada at the end of that year.
After Rabin's assassination in 1995, Peres served as Acting Prime Minister and Acting Defense Minister for seven months. In those short months, he tried to maintain the momentum of the peace process but was stalled by the flaming buses blown up by Palestinian terrorists.
In 1996, he was narrowly defeated for the second time by a Likud leader, this time it was Binyamin Netanyahu, in the first direct elections for prime minister.
On 30 November 2005, Peres quit the Labor Party to support Ariel Sharon and his new Kadima party.
On 13 June 2007, he was elected President of the State of Israeli by 58 out of 120 members. During his six years as president, he won some of the popularity that evaded him during his long quest for electoral office as well as international esteem.
Russian-Syrian Aleppo tactics await the South
In scores of air raids launched early Friday, Sept. 23, Syrian and Russian bombers pulverized Syrian rebel strongholds in eastern Aleppo, while, on the ground, Syrian military, Hizballah and pro-Iranian Shiite militia forces hammered those targets in one of the most destructive onslaughts yet seen in the nearly six-day Syrian civil war.
Cries of “annihilation!” came from rebel commanders, as they came under intense aerial bombardment, combined with a fierce ground assault, backed by heavy Russian T-90 tanks and artillery. Dozens of people including children are trapped in the rubble
This offensive, say DEBKAfile’s military sources, has the twin objective of rooting the rebels out of eastern Aleppo and also driving out the app. 120,000 Sunni Syrian inhabitants penned in shrinking rebel-held neighborhoods, amid dire shortages of food, medicines, water and basic supplies.
The Russian command in Syria and the Syrian General Staff are working to a tactical plan, our sources disclose, that is intended to push the Sunni civilian population as well as the rebels out of the city towards the Turkish border. If this plan plays out - it is still being coordinated with Turkish military and air force chiefs – then the refugees displaced from Aleppo will wind up in a security zone, which the Turkish army is busy carving out, living under Russian-Turkish rule in northern Syria.
DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources add that if this master plan is realized in northern Syria, it will soon be transferred to the south as a template for the Russian-Syrian military tactics in areas abutting Israel.
On Thursday, Sept. 22, DEBKA disclosed that the Russians, the Syrian army, Hizballah and pro-Iranian militias are concentrating strength around Quneitra on the Syrian Golan, ready for a massive offensive to obliterate the Syrian rebel presence near the borders of Israel and Jordan.
This region too is largely populated by Sunni Muslims, a community of around 120,000, like that of eastern Aleppo. However, here, the plan is to drive the civilian population onto the Israeli and Jordanian borders. The IDF and Jordanian army are bracing to handle the refugee crisis, which Russia and Syria are about to manufacture.
For the background leading up to these events, read DEBKAfile’s earlier report of Thursday, Sept. 22.
Six steps by the Assad regime in the last few days, reported by DEBKAfile’s military sources, point to preparations for a massive Syrian army offensive, backed by Hizballah, pro-Iranian Shiite militias and Iranian Rev Guards officers, for clearing the strong rebel presence out of the Syrian Golan.:
1. The arrival in the Quneitra area of the armored brigades of the 4th Division, which is the elite unit of President Bashar Assad’s armed forces and reserved strictly for battles of the highest strategic importance for the regime.
2. The Syrian brigades came with advanced Russian T-90 tanks that were detached from the Aleppo front in the north. Those tanks will be deployed for the first time just 8km from the Israeli border.
3. Hizballah too has contributed its elite fighting unit, the Radwan Force, which has arrived in Quneitra in the last few days to take part in the coming offensive.
4. Also concentrated there are pro-Iranian Shiite militia forces, under the direct command of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.
5. The Syrian president Assad took the unusual step of appointing a senior Druze officer, Brig. Gen. Osama Zhar a-din, as the Golan front’s new commander. The motive behind this is an attempt to drive a wedge between the IDF troops posted on the Israeli Golan and the Druze inhabiting the local villages, while also sowing discord between the Druze serving in Israel’s armed forces and their Jewish brothers-in-arms.
According to our military sources, the current Syrian and allied lineup just across the border from Israel is not deployed this time to attack Israel, but for a clean sweep of all the Syrian rebel forces holding sectors of the Golan-Israeli border.
The pro-Assad forces are expected to weigh in with artillery shelling and heavy aerial bombing to force the local Syrian population of 140,000 to 160,000 to flee. This scenario would confront Israel and the IDF with the possibility of tens of thousands of Syrian refugees clamoring for sanctuary.
6. Our intelligence sources add that Iran, Hizballah and Syria have decided to henceforth hit back at any Israeli air or artillery strikes against a Syrian target on the Golan. This was decided at high-level three-way consultations in Damascus on Sept. 15, two days after Israeli aircraft attacked the headquarters of Syria’s 90th Brigade at al-Shaar, near Quneitra, in reprisal for the Syrian shells that strayed across the border.
Assad informed his allies that he will not put up with any more Israeli attacks on Syrian regional commands.
‘US is defending ISIS’: Russia convenes UNSC meeting after US coalition strike on Syrian army
“If previously we had suspicions that Al-Nusra Front is protected this way, now, after today's airstrikes on the Syrian army we come to a really terrifying conclusion for the entire world: The White House is defending IS [Islamic State, formerly ISIS/ISIL],"Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Rossiya 24.
“We demand a full and detailed explanation from Washington. That explanation must be given at the UN Security Council,”Zakharova added.
The Foreign Ministry has demanded full and detailed explanation from Washington over the incident in Deir ez-Zor, in which 62 Syrian troops were killed and over 100 injured.
Moscow stressed that it is concerned by the US airstrike targeting the Syrian army units which had been destroying Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants.
The ministry added that the Russian side had never been notified of US plans to carry out bombings in the Deir ez-Zor area.
"Immediately after the airstrike by coalition planes, Islamic State militants launched their offensive,” said the chief of the Russian Reconciliation Center in Syria, Lieutenant General Vladimir Savchenko. He added that the Russian air force intervened immediately to halt terrorist advances and have conducted at least 10 airstrikes on Islamists’ positions since 7:00pm local time.
“[US coalition] strikes have cleared the way for ISIS fighters to take over Deir ez-Zor city now,” confirmed Syrian Minister of Defense Fahd Jassem al-Freij. “It is only because of Russian Air Force support [that] the offensive of the terrorist group was stopped. We request that the air support for the Syrian armed forces be continued by the Russian air force in order to destroy the terrorists.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry stressed that US air strikes against Syrian government forces jeopardize the Syrian ceasefire deal reached between Moscow and Washington on September 9.
Earlier on Saturday Russia’s Defense Ministry said that four strikes against Syrian positions had been delivered by US-led coalition aircraft – two F-16 jet fighters and two A-10 support aircraft.
The Syrian military called the bombing a “serious and blatant aggression” against Syrian forces, and said it was "conclusive evidence" that the US and its allies support IS militants.
US Central Command later issued a statement, saying that the US-led “coalition would not intentionally strike a known Syrian military unit.” It promised to look into the incident.
However, an unnamed US military official told Reuters that he was "pretty sure" that the targets hit in US-led coalition air strike on Saturday had been Syrian forces.
According to the official, the bombings in Deir ez-Zor were carried out using US intelligence, which was being gathered for days. The US attack stopped as soon as Russia notified the American side that they had been hitting the Syrian military, the source added.
A senior Obama administration official told AP that the United States expressed “regret” for the unintentional loss of lives of Syrian forces, with the message to Damascus allegedly having been relayed through Russia. The official, who requested anonymity, added that the US will continue to pursue compliance with the ceasefire previously agreed upon with Russia.
Leaked Records from Clinton’s Doctor
– She is Dying (VIDEO)
– She is Dying (VIDEO)
Also, it has been made known that Chelsea Clinton’s apartment has the same address as an in home healthcare facility (and hospice care)
From the Americanmirror.com
Chelsea Clinton’s apartment shares address with home healthcare agency
Following Hillary Clinton’s now infamous public collapse, where her campaign originally said she was “overheated” but then later revealed she is suffering with pneumonia, the former Secretary of State was not taken to the hospital.
Instead, Hillary went directly to her daughter Chelsea Clinton’s apartment in New York City, which ironically shares an address with the home healthcare agency known as “Metrocare Home Services Inc.”
A quick Google maps search shows that the home healthcare address brings up the location that Hillary did in fact exit from after her collapse.– source
A lesson in forgiveness from the Lord:
I confess that when I first put this video up on my Word Press, my attitude was not right with the Lord. He convicted me of my need to forgive Hillary and to pray for her salvation. This does not mean that I am no longer angry at things she has done. It DOES mean that I have no right to withhold forgiveness from anyone – the Lord forgave me of all of my offenses.
I pray that Hillary will be saved before she dies.
Ofek-11’s failure would hamper Israel’s intel ops
The launch initially looked like a success, but about 90 minutes later, engineers realized that while the satellite had entered orbit, not all systems were functioning or responding to instructions.
It is still difficult to determine the extent to which Ofek 11 systems are not functioning. Efforts by the IAI, which was selected to build and launch the Ofek series, are continuing.
Israel is one of 12 countries able to independently launch satellites into space. Because of geographic, military and other limitations, its satellites can only be launched in a westward direction over the Mediterranean Sea and against the direction of earth’s rotation. Such launches demand an extra-powerful rocket, such as Shavit 2, and an extra light payload, like Ofek.
Ofek 1, the first in the series was launched in 1988, followed by Ofek 2 in 1990. Both were designed to test the design. The country’s first spy satellite, Ofek 3, went into orbit in 1995, and was followed by Ofek 5 in 2002, Ofek 7 in 2007 and Ofek 9 in 2010.
Ofek 10, launched in 2014, was equipped with synthetic aperture radar that provided 3D images of objects in almost any type of weather, as well as cameras with a resolution of about 70 megapixels, capable of identifying the license plates of any car on the road.
In general, Israeli satellites have functioned efficiently once in orbit. But there were some failures – the most prominent being Ofek 4, Ofek 6 and the Amos 6 communications satellite, that was destroyed last month by an explosion on the launch pad in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
If the Ofek 11 mission fails, it will not only mean hundreds of millions of dollars down the drain, but also indirect losses, incurred by the need to close airspace and territorial waters for the launch, as well as the wasted efforts of deploying fighter and reconnaissance planes as accompaniments and placing medical, rescue and hazardous material disposal units on alert.
The primary users of Israel’s spy satellites are IDF intelligence’s 9900 unit, which collects visual intelligence (VISINT), analyzes satellite imagery and locates intelligence for operations; the IDF’s 8200 unit, which develops and operates signal intelligence (SIGINT) and other systems; and special operations networks including the “Sayeret Matkal” unit, air force and navy intelligence, the country’s security and intelligence services, and the Foreign Ministry.
The lack of a satellite, an eye in the sky, to monitor vital points in the Middle East - such as the Sinai Peninsula, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Hizballah’s weapons supply routes, and Islamic State movements and positions -- would divest Israel of a major strategic resource for supporting national intelligence and air force operations.
Failed Syrian rebel drive spills shells on Golan
The latest round occurred Wednesday night, Sept. 13, the day after a fragile truce was due to go into effect in the Syrian war.
According to DEBKAfile’s military sources, the Israeli air raid against a Syrian army artillery battery was misplaced. The shells came from the rebel side of the battle.
At the same time, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman may have used the stray shells as a pretext to strike the Syrian position and get at the pro-Iranian Hizballah unit posted in the Quneitra area directly opposite Israel’s Golan border.
As for the battle, our military sources report that the Syrian Al-Qaeda branch, the rebel Jabhat al Nusra, re-branded as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, launched it five days ago. The militia’s purpose was to create a land bridge between its forces deployed south of Quneitra and its units positioned to the north of the key town, by seizing Tel al-Ahmar from Syrian forces.
In the heat of battle, rebel shells strayed across the border into the Golan.
Israel’s relations with the various Syrian rebel groups holding positions or fighting near its borders have had their ups and downs. The main problem is that whenever the Druze villages in the vicinity - currently surrounded by rebel forces - are under threat, especially Al Khadar, their Syrian and Israeli leaders turn to Israel with a demand to intervene and save them.
Israel has always resisted their pressure.
Had the rebel militia been able to capture Tel al-Ahmar, just 5km from the Israeli border, it would have attained control of the strategic “Red Hills,” which command the main Syrian Golan town of Quneitra and the highway link from southern Syria to Damascus.
But the rebel offensive failed and cost the Al-Sham Front heavy casualties, some of whom were evacuated to Israel for medical treatment.
Some of Israel’s reactions were puzzling.
Although the shells spilling over from the battle onto the Israeli side of the border came from the rebel side, the Israeli air force Tuesday, Sept. 13, focused its raid on Abu Qaouq northeast of Quneitra. It is from there that Syrian artillery provides support for the Syrian army defenders of the strategic Tel al-Ahmar.
However, the policy pursued by the Netanyahu government is that the government in power is responsible for any aggressive acts emanating from its territory – even though the Assad regime does not rule large parts of Syria, including, in this case, the strip between Quneitra and Israel’s Golan border.
It is also hard to see why an Israeli military spokesman stated that Syrian army S-200 missiles were fired at the Israeli aircraft as they struck Syrian positions – and missed. Damascus trumpeted the false claim that Syrian missiles had shot down an Israeli jet and a drone. Instead of denying the fictitious incident outright, or ignoring it, the IDF’s statement gave the Assad regime a badly-needed propaganda boost
Hizballah units regroup on Israel’s Golan border
Monday night, Sept. 5, Iranian state-controlled media shed light on this movement, reporting that the combined force had “completed preparations necessary for an extensive operation in southern Syria,” adding, “Hizballah aims to put an end to the presence of armed men in the area close to the border.”
Western and Mid East sources have toldl DEBKAfile that the triple army is in high spirits after last week’s successful operation in Aleppo. By snatching back parts of the city they lost in mid-August, the Syrian army and its allies managed to cut off the rebels’ supply lines from Turkey.
It was then that some Hizballah units were detached from the Aleppo arena and redirected to the Quneitra front in southern Syria to face the Israeli border.
Those sources report that the incoming troops were sighted this week when they arrived at Madinat al-Baath and Khan Amabeh, the main Syrian army bases on the Syrian Golan. They came with tanks and heavy artillery. Seen for the first time in the Quentra sector were heavy, self-propelled KS-19 artillery batteries, which are Russian anti-air guns adapted to ground warfare. They have a range of 21km and a firing capacity of 15 shells per minute.
The newly-arrived Hizballah force appears to have set the capture of Syrian rebel-held al-Hamdiniyah 2km from the Israeli border, as its first objective.
DEBKAfile’s military sources note that the Iranian media attached photos of Israel’s security force opposite Quneitra to their reporting on the new move, thereby framing the target of the Syrian-Iranian-Backed Hizballah build-up.
This fast-approaching development poses two tough questions:
1. Will Israel lie down for the avowedly hostile Hizballah and Iran to occupy territory along its eastern border?Israel officials have repeatedly emphasized that these forces would not be allowed to take up positions on the Golan border, a message Russia most certainly passed on to Damascus.
If Hizballah and its allies go through with their planned offensive, Israel will have to consider serious military action to prevent them from reaching the border fence, i.e., an operation on a scale quite different from the small-shot IDF reprisals for rockets or shells straying across into the Golan from fighting on the other side.
2. Will the advancing Iranian-led force have Syrian air cover? If it does, the Israeli Air Force will also be involved in aerial combat over the Golan.
How Syria, Ukraine crises tie in with US elections
Obstacles and sticking points summed up the umpteenth bid on Sunday, Sept. 4, by US Secretary of State John Kerry to agree with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on a way forward in the Syrian conflict, or even on a short humanitarian truce.
President Barack Obama blamed President Vladimir Putin for refusing to bring all his clout to bear on Assad to force him to accept US truce terms, especially a halt in Syrian aerial bombardment.
The profound rift between the American and Russian leaders was sharply marked, but it also arose from the deep divisions among the cooks who are stirring the Syrian conflict.
Much has been made of the hopelessly fragmented anti-Assad rebel movement into some 1,000 militias, and the divisions in the Iranian and Hizballah camp backing the Syrian dictator. But very little is heard about the controversies among the bodies in charge of US policy for Syria, namely, the White House, the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency.
This internal dissent, which is strongly reflected on the battlefield, is one reason why Obama vetoed any further cooperation with Russia in the Syrian conflict – and not just the “gaps of trust” remaining between the two powers.
Even less attention has focused on the internal debates in the Kremlin among the presidential office, the foreign ministry and the generals on the handling of Russia’s formidable military intervention in the conflict.
This week, the two leaders took widely diverse steps to ratchet up the “cold war” between them.
Putin had his defense minister launch the large-scale 10-day Caucasus 2016 military exercise -- from Crimea on the Ukraine border – involving Russia's Black Sea and Caspian fleets and 12,000 troops.
This step was taken against the background of the strong interface sustained in recent years between the Ukrainian and Syrian crises in times of high US-Russia friction.
Moscow’s military intervention in Syria, now exactly a year old, was bracketed from the word go with Russian domination of the Crimea and the Black Sea. For every military or political falling-out with Washington over Syria, a crisis developed over Ukraine.
Therefore, the commander of the Caucasus 2016 exercise is none other than Col.-Gen. Alexander Dvornikov, who up until July was commander of Russian forces in Syria.
The Obama administration has wielded its own second-strike capability against Moscow.
The probe is led by Director of Intelligence James R. Clapper.
The administration has thus gone way beyond the accusations thrown out in late July by the Democratic Party campaign and some Republican leaders that Russian intelligence was meddling in the campaign by hacking Democratic Party emails for disclosures to embarrass their candidate Hillary Clinton. There were also subsequent discoveries of interference in the computers of two state polling centers.
Taking all these events together, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the “cold war” between Russia and the United States had stepped out from Ukraine to Syria and landed squarely in the middle of the US presidential election campaign.
Whether or not Russian intelligence was put to work to achieve this, Putin appears to be content with the outcome.
The second part of this DEBKAfile exclusive analysis is to be published here on Wednesday Sept. 7.
Was Israel’s satellite sabotaged on US rocket pad?
A day after Israel’s Amos-6 communications satellite was lost in a highly unusual explosion/fast fire of the SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and its Amos 6 satellite payload at Cape Canaveral, some Israel aerospace industry experts are beginning to suspect sabotage. They are keeping their suspicions to themselves pending an investigation in which NASA ad the US Air Force will be taking part.
An explosion or fire occurring during a standard pre-launch static test prior to the engine igniting may be unique. These Israeli experts can’t recall any space satellite disasters happening at that particular stage.
Immediately after the event, SpaceX founder Elon Musk said an “anomaly happened around the upper-stage oxygen tank wile propellant was being loaded into the vehicle.”
Two days later, Saturday, Sept. 3, Musk attributed the loss to a “fast fire” rather than an explosion.
Representatives of Spacecom owned by Israeli Eurocom and Israeli Aerospace Industry, which manufactured Amos 6, their largest satellite to date, don’t expect to be invited to take part in the investigation.
Those circles resent Elon Musk’s reference to an “anomaly,” which they see as a euphemism to disguise the cause of the mishap.
American experts are speculating about a large, black. unidentified object picked up by video footage hovering in the sky at the moment the fireball rose over the Cape Canaveral launching pad.
Some are suggesting it was a large bird which happened to be flying past; others say the object is much too big and too fast for any known bird.
In Israel, some informed sources suggest that the reason for the Amos 6 satellites destruction is far from technical and may never come to light.
They cite the only previous SpaceX failure, which occurred in June, 2015, when a Falcon 9 rocket carrying supplies to the International Space Station exploded just a few minutes after launch. The company set up an inquiry team composed of 11 staff members and one FAA official, but never released details of its findings.
Three causes for the Amos 6 loss are postulated by Israeli sources:
1. The stiff competition among the companies of the eight nations that manufacture satellites. The last in the Amos series of communications satellites, produced at a cost of $200 million, was the most sophisticated produced so far. Some international competitor may have decided to push Israel out of the contest by destroying its newest product. This has indeed set Israel’s satellite industry back for years.
2. The other motive may be connected with the fact that Amos 6 was to have been Facebook’s first satellite. CEO Mark Zuckerberg had announced that Amos 6, scheduled for launch into geostationary orbit on Sept.
3, would have opened large parts of sub-Saharan Africa to direct internet.
Its loss has forced Zuckerberg to put his plan on hold.
This plan went well with the largely covert Israel drive in the last three years to expand its ties across the Africa. The Facebook project fitted in well this policy an added dimension and spurt.
3. Spacom had just signed a $285 sale contract with Beijing Xinwei Technology that was contingent on its successful launch into orbit of Amos 6 Saturday. One of Israel’s competitors may have been after the Chinese contract.
Who killed Al-Adnani? US, Russia or maybe ISIS?
The claim was worded so as to indicate that Russian intelligence had pulled off a major feat by a hit that took out 40 high-profile operatives.
This claim came 24 hours after a US official said that a Predator drone rocket had hit a car believed to be carrying Adnani near Al-Bab, and that the results were “being assessed” – even though ISIS itself reported that the terrorist leader, tagged as senior spokesman, “was martyred while surveying the operations to repel the military campaigns against Aleppo.”
The Pentagon sources called the Russian version “lies” and “a joke.”
The distance between al-Bab and Maaratat-Umm Khaush is only 28km, but the gap between the American and Russian claims is less immeasurable.
Fighting has escalated around the city in recent weeks, with rebels breaking a siege by government forces and Syrian and Russian warplanes bombing rebel-held areas.
The competing Russian and American claims of a successful aerial-cum-intelligence action against a high-profile ISIS founder-member break new ground in the war on Islamic terror.
Al-Adnani, who was born in 1977 in the northern Syrian town of Banash, was responsible in the past two years for orchestrating terrorist atrocities in Tunisia, Paris, Brussels, Orlando, Nice, Sinai Peninsula and Istanbul, as well as suicide bombings in Baghdad.
Far from being a joke, the cold war dividing Moscow and Washington appears to have spread to the war on Islamist terror and infected the Syrian arena.
The early collaboration between the two powers in the Syrian conflict has broken down. This was admitted on Aug. 26 in Geneva, after US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov failed to agree on further military and intelligence cooperation.
Ironically, it is noted by DEBKAfile’s intelligence and counterterrorism sources, that both powers’ clandestine services received intelligence on their target’s movements from the same source.
This would be par for the course in the harsh world of jihadist terror organizations, such as Al Qaeda from which ISIS sprung.
When Osama bin Laden, whom US special forces killed in 2011, felt the need to cull the Al-Qaeda leadership of high-profile operatives who had outlived their usefulness or were suffering from fatigue, he would get rid of them by arranging for US intelligence to be tipped off about their whereabouts.
In one notable instance of this purge, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, senior planner of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, was turned in to the CIA in 2003.
If this is what happened to Al-Adani, DEBKAfile’s counterterrorism sources link it to the recent reappearance on the Islamist terrorist scene in Syria three weeks ago of the veteran Al-Qaeda master-terrorist Saif al-Adel with a group of followers.
Al-Adel is rated one of the world’s most dangerous terrorists, with long experience of planning and executing mass-casualty operations stretching back to the 1980s. He is “credited” with the large-scale assaults on the East African US embassies in 1998 and a string of murderous strikes in Saudi Arabia in 2003, some of which hit US targets.
It is not yet known how Al-Adel and his gang reached Syria and for what purpose. They are only known to have crossed the border from Iraq. It is presumed by intelligence watchers of terrorist insider politics that, after deciding that Al-Adnan was a spent asset, ISIS leaders found his replacement.