From DEBKAfile, April 21, 2008, 10:48 PM (GMT+02:00):
Surge in Hamas attacks approved at secret Hamas-Syrian-Iranian talks in Damascus.... Gazan Hamas leaders in secret conference with high Syrian and Iranian intelligence officers in the Syrian capital Sunday, April 20, decided to intensify the bombardment and attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip.
Tehran and Damascus believe spasms of violence - not only on the Gaza-Israel border, but also in Iraq and Lebanon - will best serve their purpose at two important Middle East encounters this week, to be attended by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice....
...and from DEBKAfile, April 21, 2008, 10:30 AM (GMT+02:00):
Middle East Efforts by Rice, Carter Spark More Violence....While Syrian president Bashar Assad talked about an exchange of messages with Israel through a third party – Turkey and Norway ... elsewhere in Damascus, Syrian and Iranian intelligence officers were meeting secretly with Hamas leaders and promising them every support for stepped up rejectionist violence.
In particular, they backed Hamas up in its ultimatum to Egypt (and indirectly Israel) to open the border crossings and end the blockade on Hamas-ruled Gaza as the sine qua non for a lull in attacks on Israel and terms for Gilead Shalit’s release.
The impasse reached in Hamas-Egyptian truce talks, the failure of former US president Jimmy Carter’s mediation bids with Hamas and Syrian leaders, together with the presence in the region of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, all contribute to the scaling up of violence.
Tehran and Damascus believe that warfare - not only on the Gaza-Israel border, but also in Iraq and Lebanon – will work best for their interests at two important Middle East encounters this week at which Secretary Rice will be present.
One opening in Bahrain Monday, April 21 will bring Rice together with the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and the six Gulf nations, led by Saud al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia. The next meeting on Iraq security, which takes place in Kuwait on April 22, will be attended by the foreign ministers of all Iraq’s neighbors, including Iran’s Mottaki Manouchehr....
....Orders therefore went out to Iran’s agents, proxies and dependants to keep the pot boiling in those trouble spots.....
As for Hamas, our intelligence sources report that Saturday, April 19, after the Gazan leaders Mahmoud a-Zahar and Siad Siyam...met former US president Jimmy Carter in Damascus...went straight into a conference with their masters. Khaled Meshaal and Mussa Abu Marzuk were there as well as Iranian intelligence officers based permanently in Syria and Syrian intelligence officers who maintain liaison with Hamas. It was agreed that Hamas would not only continue to batter the Gaza-Israel border as in the last ten days, but intensify its assaults against a broader range of targets.
Sunday night, Hamas fired 8 Qassam missiles and half a dozen mortar rounds against Israel civilian locations, their first nocturnal attack of this kind. Shortly before midnight, they directed fire at Israeli farmers who were harvesting the Kibbutz Nir Oz potato crop in bullet-proof vests by night to escape sniper fire from Gaza. Israeli air force strikes followed, hitting armed Palestinian bands. At least 8 gunmen were killed over the week end.
DEBKAfile’s military sources stress that these Israeli attacks and the deaths of its operatives offer Hamas neither disincentive nor impediment for its war preparations.