Saturday, May 10, 2008

Syria steps in to back Hizballah’s conquest of Beirut districts

From DEBKAfile, May 9, 2008, 6:19 PM (GMT+02:00):

At least 11 people were killed Friday, May 9, Day 3 of fierce clashes between Hizballah and pro-government forces, the worst since the 1975-90 civil war. At noon, Syrian Social Nationalist Party’s units entered Beirut to support Hizballah’s advancing occupation of Sunni West Beirut districts.

DEBKAfile’s Middle East sources report that Thursday night, army chief Gen. Michel Suleiman refused to obey prime minister Fouad Siniora’s order to declare a state of emergency for the crisis created by Hizballah’s declaration of war against the government. The general warned that if the government enacted an emergency, he would order the troops to return to barracks....

....Hizballah and fellow Shiite Amal fighters were thus able to seize control of most of pro-government Sunni West Beirut in clashes that have spread to other parts of the Lebanon while the government was left unprotected.

The urban warfare shut down Lebanon's port and all but closed the international airport, with burning barricades on major highways in Beirut....

...Hizballah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah warned Thursday night that the only way to stop the violence was for the “black gang” ruling the government to withdraw its decisions to close his military telecommunications network and restore Hizballah loyalists to key positions at Beirut international airport.

Kibbutznik killed by mortar shell from Gaza

From Ynet News, 10/5/08, by Shmulik Hadad:

Two mortar shells fired by Palestinians from northern Gaza Strip land in Kibbutz Kfar Aza Friday evening, killing one man, 48, and injuring three others. Hamas claims responsibility for attack. Several hours later, IDF strikes in Gaza, reportedly killing two Hamas operatives

Jimmy Kdoshim, a 48-year-old father of three was killed in Kibbutz Kfar Aaza Friday evening after a mortar shell fired from Gaza hit his house in the kibbutz. Two mortars fired by Palestinian gunmen landed in the kibbutz, one fell close to the local community hall and the other landed on a house.

Three people were injured in the attack. A soldier was moderately injured by shrapnel and evacuated by helicopter to Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon. Two other people sustained light injuries and several others suffered shock.

Hamas' military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, claimed responsibility for the mortar attack.

People in mosques across Gaza were heard cheering and calling "Allahu Akbar" following reports of the deadly attack.

Several hours following the attack, the IDF struck in the southern Gaza town of Rafah. Palestinian sources reported that two Hamas security men had been killed. The IDF confirmed striking in the area....

Friday, May 09, 2008

Barricades birthday

From The Australian by Daniel Pipes May 09, 2008 [my own emphasis added - SL]:

... for all its achievements, the Jewish state lives under a curse ...a multi-pronged peril that includes nearly every means imaginable: weapons of mass destruction, conventional military attack, terrorism, internal subversion, economic blockade, demographic assault and ideological undermining. No other contemporary state faces such an array of threats; indeed, probably none in history has.

The enemies of Israel divide into two main camps: the Left and the Muslims, with the far Right a minor third element. The Left includes a rabid edge (International ANSWER - Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, Noam Chomsky) and a more polite centre (the UN General Assembly, left-liberal political parties, the mainstream media, mainline churches, school textbooks).

In the final analysis, however, the Left serves less as a force in its own right than as an auxiliary for the primary anti-Zionist actor, which is the Muslim population. This latter, in turn, can be divided into three distinct groupings.

First come the foreign states: Five armed forces that invaded Israel on its independence in May 1948, and then neighbouring armies, air forces, and navies fought in the wars of 1956, 1967, 1970, and 1973. While the conventional threat has somewhat receded, Egypt's US-financed arms build-up presents one danger and the threats from weapons of mass destruction (especially from Iran but also from Syria and potentially from many other states) present an even greater one.

Second come the external Palestinians, those living outside Israel. Sidelined by governments from 1948 until 1967, Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organisation got their opportunity with the defeat of three states' armed forces in the Six-Day War. Subsequent developments, such as the 1982 Lebanon war and the 1993 Oslo accords, confirmed the centrality of external Palestinians. Today, they drive the conflict, through violence (terrorism, missiles from Gaza) and even more importantly by driving world opinion against Israel via a public relations effort that resonates widely among Muslims and the Left.

Third come the Muslim citizens of Israel, the sleepers in the equation. They benefited from Israel's open ways to grow in numbers and to evolve from a docile and ineffective community into an assertive one that increasingly rejects the Jewish nature of the Israeli state, with potentially profound consequences for the future identity of that state....

...Israel, having survived countless threats to its existence over the past six decades, and having done so with its honour intact, offers a reason for its population to celebrate. But the rejoicing cannot last long, for it's right back to the barricades to defend against the next threat.

Just Like Us! Really?

From The Weekly Standard, May 12, 2008, by Robert Satloff, the executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy [my own emphasis added - SL]:

..."Who Speaks for Islam?" is written by John L. Esposito, founding director of Georgetown University's Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, and Dalia Mogahed, executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies. As the authors state at the outset, the book's goal is to "democratize the debate" about a potential clash between Western and Muslim civilizations by shedding light on the "actual views of everyday Muslims" -- especially the "silenced majority" whose views Esposito and Mogahed argue are lost in the din about terrorism, extremism, and Islamofascism.

This majority, they contend, are just like us. They pray like Americans, dream of professional advancement like Americans, delight in technology like Americans, celebrate democracy like Americans, and cherish the ideal of women's equality like Americans. In fact, the authors write, "everyday Muslims" are so similar to ordinary Americans that "conflict between the Muslim and Western communities is far from inevitable."

...The question often revolves around a disputed data point: Of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims, how many are radicals? If the number is relatively small, then the fear of a clash is inflated; if the number is relatively large, then the nightmare might not be so outlandish after all.

... The answer to that all-important question, the authors say, is 7 percent. That is the percentage of Muslims who told pollsters that the attacks of September 11, 2001, were "completely" justified and who said they view the United States unfavorably ...

More than half the book is an effort to distinguish the 7 percent of extremist Muslims from the "9 out of 10," as they say, who are moderates and then to focus our collective efforts on reaching out to the fringe element..... The not-so-hidden purpose of this book is to blur any difference between average Muslims around the world and average Americans, and the authors rise to the occasion at every turn.

Take the very definition of "Islam." From Karen Armstrong to Bernard Lewis -- and that's a pretty broad range -- virtually every scholar of note (and many who aren't) has translated the term "Islam" as "submission to God." But "submission" evidently sounds off-putting to the American ear, so Esposito and Mogahed offer a different, more melodious translation -- "a strong commitment to God" -- that has a ring to it of everything but accuracy.

....These problems would not matter much if the book gave readers the opportunity to review the poll data on which Esposito and Mogahed base their judgments. Alas, that is not the case. Neither the text nor the appendix includes the full data to a single question from any survey taken by Gallup over the entire six-year period of its World Poll initiative.

.... we have to rely on Gallup's good name -- the "integrity, trust and independence" .... Public comments by Mogahed at a luncheon I hosted at the Washington Institute on April 17 show exactly what that is worth.

Here's the context: As the event was about to close, Mogahed was pressed to explain the book's central claim that radicals constitute 7 percent of the world's Muslim population. A questioner focused on the critical distinction between the 7 percent of respondents who said the 9/11 attacks were "completely justified" and the other 93 percent. How many of those 93 percent, Mogahed was asked, actually answered that the attacks were "partly," "somewhat," or even "largely" justified? Were those people truly moderates?

In her answer, transcribed below, Mogahed refers in pollster code to numbers ascribed to the five possible answers to the poll question about justifying 9/11. Although she and Esposito never discuss the details of this question in their book, they did expound on them in a 2006 article in Foreign Policy magazine, which described a five-point scale in which "Ones" are respondents who said 9/11 was "totally unjustified" and "Fives" those who said the attacks were "completely justified."

In that article, she and Esposito wrote: "Respondents who said 9/11 was justified (4 or 5 on the same scale) are classified as radical." In the book they wrote two years later, they redefined "radical" to comprise a much smaller group -- only the Fives.

But in her luncheon remarks, Mogahed admitted that many of the "moderates" she and Esposito celebrated really aren't so moderate after all.

MOGAHED: ...the book is not a hard-covered polling report....It's meant for a general audience... people who were Fives, people who said 9/11 was justified, looked distinctly different from the Fours . . . At first, before we had enough data to do sort of a cluster analysis, we lumped the Fours and Fives together because that was our best judgment.

QUESTIONER: And what percent was that?

MOGAHED: I seriously don't remember but I think it was in the range of 7 to 8 percent [actually, 6.5 percent].

QUESTIONER: So it's seven Fours and seven Fives?

MOGAHED: Yes, we lumped these two and did our analysis. When we had enough data to really see when things broke away, here's what we found: Fives looked very different from the Fours, and Ones through Fours looked similar. .... And that is how we decided to break them apart and decided how we were to define "politically radicalized" for our research.

Yes, we can say that a Four is not that moderate . . . I don't know. . . .You are writing a book, you are trying to come up with terminology people can understand. . . . You know, maybe it wasn't the most technically accurate way of doing this, but this is how we made our cluster-based analysis.

So, there it is -- the smoking gun. Mogahed publicly admitted they knew certain people weren't moderates but they still termed them so. She and Esposito cooked the books and dumbed down the text. Apparently, by the authors' own test, there are not 91 million radicals in Muslim societies but almost twice that number.

They must have shrieked in horror to find their original estimate on the high side of assessments made by scholars, such as Daniel Pipes, whom Esposito routinely denounces as Islamophobes. To paraphrase Mogahed, maybe it wasn't the most technically accurate way of doing this, but their neat solution seems to have been to redefine 78 million people off the rolls of radicals.

The cover-up is even worse. The full data from the 9/11 question show that, in addition to the 13.5 percent, there is another 23.1 percent of respondents -- 300 million Muslims -- who told pollsters the attacks were in some way justified. Esposito and Mogahed don't utter a word about the vast sea of intolerance in which the radicals operate.

And then there is the more fundamental fraud of using the 9/11 question as the measure of "who is a radical." Amazing as it sounds, according to Esposito and Mogahed, the proper term for a Muslim who hates America, wants to impose Sharia law, supports suicide bombing, and opposes equal rights for women but does not "completely" justify 9/11 is . . . "moderate."

Could the smart people at Gallup really believe this? Regardless, they should immediately release all the data associated with their world poll and open all the files and archives of their Center for Muslim Studies to independent inspection. With a dose of transparency and a dollop of humility, the data just might teach something useful to the world's six billion citizens.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

A broom and a flag

In honour of Israel's Independence Day - A moving story about the great Hassidic Rebbe of Sadigora from » May 6, 2008 by MICHAEL FREUND:

... When the Nazis took over Vienna, where the rebbe lived, they sought to humiliate the Jews by forcing the great sage to sweep the streets of the city to the taunts and laughter of Austrian onlookers.

... but while he swept, he recited a silent prayer: "Master of the Universe, may I yet merit to sweep the streets of the Land of Israel."

The Nazis then gave him a large flag and forced him to hoist it over a tall building. This time the rebbe intoned, "Master of the Universe, may I yet merit to raise the flag of Israel over a high place in the Land of Israel."

After surviving the war, the rebbe was determined to fulfill his vision. And so, each year, on Independence Day, he would rise early, take a broom in hand, and proceed to sweep the streets of Tel Aviv in honor of God's answer to his prayer.

And then the elderly rabbi would ascend to the top of Tel Aviv's Great Synagogue, and raise a large Israeli flag proudly for all to see.

So the next time you find yourself down in the dumps, wondering about [Israel] ... think back to the Rebbe of Sadigora, with a broom in one hand, a flag in the other, and a heart full of gratitude to God for the miracle that is the modern State of Israel.

UNRWA: Refuge Of Rejectionism

From a GLORIA Center report, May 8, 2008, by Barry Rubin, Asaf Romirowsky, and Jonathan Spyer . (brief excerpts from the Executive Summary only - follow the link to the full report. )

On the surface, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) seems a humanitarian group helping Palestinian refugees. In reality, it actually helps destroy the chance of Arab-Israeli peace, promotes terrorism, and holds Palestainians back from rebuilding their lives.

Unique in history, UNRWA's job is to keep Palestinian refugees in suspended animation--and at low living standards--until they achieve the goal set for them by the PLO and Hamas: Israel's extinction. In the meantime, their suffering and anger is maintained as a weapon to encourage them toward violence and intransigence.

UNRWA schools become hotbeds of anti-Western, anti-American, and anti-Semitic indoctrination, recruiting offices for terrorist groups. UNRWA's services are dominated by radicals who staff and subsidize radical groups while potentially intimidating anyone from voicing a different line. UNWRA facilities are used to store and transport weapons, actually serving as military bases. [refer to this previous JIW posting on this subject and to this brief comparison of UNWRA with UNHCR]

In this process, UNRWA has broken all the rules that are supposed to govern humanitarian enterprises. Consequently, UNRWA is the exact opposite of other refugee relief operations. They seek to resettle refugees; UNRWA is dedicated to blocking resettlement. They help refugees to live normal lives so that they can move on with their existence; UNRWA's role is to ensure their lives remain abnormal so they are filled with anger and a thirst for revenge that inspires violence and can only be quenched by a victorious return. They try to create stable conditions for refugees; UNRWA's mission is to enable radical political activity and indoctrination by armed groups which ensures a continual state of near chaos.

The time has come, especially given the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip, which also signals a Hamas takeover of the UNRWA facilities there, to reevaluate the role of should be dissolved and replaced by something better....

...People often wonder why violence and instability persists and why the Arab-Israeli conflict is so seemingly impossible to resolve. One important part of the answer is that UNRWA perpetuates the problem...

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Downer: "stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Israel "


Very brief excerpt:

...The Australian and American Jewish communities have a lot in common. In both cases Jews have found in our countries the peace and tolerance which was denied them over the centuries in Europe and the Middle East: but they have not only found freedom and tolerance in Australia and America, they have contributed mightily to our two societies.

...In many ways, Australians and Americans are the most natural of allies. Our countries were settled by peoples fleeing persecution and discrimination and who sought the opportunity to achieve prosperity away from the class based elitism of the old world. We grew to love a life of individual freedom and to place equal value on every person.

We confronted and still confront three great adversaries over the last 100 years. We fought the bloody and heartless totalitarianism of fascism and we won. We fought the intolerance, cruelty and incompetence of communism and we won. And today we fight the fanaticism and ideological insanity of Islamic extremism - and we must win that fight as well....

...These people are haters and many of them are killers. ...

...Our great countries stand in their way.

This is a tough fight because we are confronting people who have no concern for human life. No act of barbarism is beyond these people.

To win we need to be clear eyed. This war is not popular with everyone, it's expensive and it's costing the lives of our young men and women.

But please, I implore you, contemplate the alternative: Victory for Al Qaeda in Sunni Iraq, the return of the Taliban in Afghanistan, Hamas in total control of both Gaza and the West Bank, a Hezbollah-dominated government in Lebanon and what then? ....

...And let's think about democratic, freedom-loving Israel. For those of us who live in Australia or America it is hard to conceive of life in a tiny country a fraction the size of our own, living cheek by jowl with people who want to destroy you....

....Hamas and Hezbollah believe in the destruction of the Israeli State. That is bad enough. But behind them lies the power, the finance and the weapons of Iran. When President Ahmadinejad says he wants to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, he means it. He believes there should be no Jewish State of Israel.

Demands that Israel negotiate with those who wish to destroy it are unreasonable and worse: those demands weaken Israel's diplomatic strength and help to undermine community support for Israel in Western countries.

Indeed I will go further: there has been a constant stream of criticism of Israel particularly from Europe and elements of the United Nations for each and every one of the defensive measures it takes. Building a security barrier is wrong, destroying terrorist bases is wrong, attacking terrorist leaders and planners is wrong, trying to stop missile attacks on villages in Northern and Southern Israel is wrong! It doesn't leave Israel with too many options!

These criticisms have been particularly vehement in much of the Western media. That has had an effect on public opinion which has become increasingly hostile to Israel.

But Israel is a democracy. No Israeli leader can turn his or her back on the struggle against those who wish to destroy Israel. The world needs to respect that.

We also need to send out again and again a simple and clear message to the international community that peace in the Middle East can never come until Israelis are allowed to sleep in peace.

That message needs to be transmitted not just in Europe and America. Asia needs to hear and understand that message as well.

...Ladies and Gentlemen, these are tough times.We have to prevail over Islamic extremism. Liberal democracy has, once more, to triumph. But it won't happen by wishing and hoping: it will only happen through courage and action.

....make no mistake, we stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Israel in its struggle to secure peace and freedom.


Israel now fears Iran could have nuclear bomb by mid-2009


With Iran racing forward with its nuclear program, Israel now believes the Islamic Republic will master centrifuge technology and be able to begin enriching uranium on a military scale this year...

The new assessment moves up Israel's forecasts on Teheran's nuclear program by almost a full year - from 2009 to the end of 2008. According to the new timeline, Iran could have a nuclear weapon by the middle of next year.

Iran, a senior defense official said on Tuesday, had encountered numerous technical obstacles on its way to enriching uranium but was now on track to master the technology needed to enrich uranium within six months.

Israel is also concerned that Teheran is developing a cruise missile that can evade interception by the Arrow, the IDF's anti-ballistic missile defense system. Iran is suspected of having smuggled Ukrainian X-55 cruise missiles and using them as models for an independent, domestic project. A cruise missile, which flies at low altitudes to dodge radar detection and interception, could be used to carry a nuclear warhead.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Tuesday that Israel had the ability to create the tools needed to ensure its continued existence. Hinting at Iran, Olmert said that nothing in the world could undermine or bring an end to Israel's existence....

Last week, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz said during a visit to the US that Teheran would likely achieve control of the technology to enrich uranium for an atomic bomb within a year.

... a recent IDF Military Intelligence assessment showed that the Islamic Republic could go nuclear before the end of the decade....

AP contributed to this report.

Explosive situation in Lebanon as government confronts Hizballah

From DEBKAfile, May 6, 2008, 11:20 PM (GMT+02:00):

Lebanon’s pro-Western Siniora government has declared illegal Hizballah’s private telecommunications network installed in southern and eastern Lebanon and the southern Shiite suburbs of Beirut.
DEBKAfile reported some weeks ago that the network is military and was installed by Iran to prepare its Lebanese proxy for war with Israel.

...Trouble is expected Wednesday when the pro-Hizballah protesters start marching along a route which runs their traditional strongholds of the ruling March 14 majority alliance led by Saad Hariri and Walid Jumblatt’s Progressive Socialist Party....

Gaza headmaster was Islamic Jihad rocket-maker under UN protection

From Reuters, Mon May 5, 2008, by Adam Entous:

RAFAH, Gaza Strip, May 5 (Reuters) - By day, Awad al-Qiq was a respected science teacher and headmaster at a United Nations school in the Gaza Strip. By night...he built rockets for Islamic Jihad.

The Israeli air strike that killed the 33-year-old last week also laid bare his apparent double life and embarrassed a U.N. agency which has long had to rebuff Israeli accusations that it has aided and abetted guerrillas fighting the Jewish state.

In interviews with Reuters, students and colleagues, as well as U.N. officials, denied any knowledge of Qiq's work with explosives. And his family denied he had any militant links at all, despite a profusion of Islamic Jihad posters at his home.

But militant leaders allied to the enclave's ruling Hamas group hailed him as a martyr who led Islamic Jihad's "engineering unit" -- its bomb makers. They fired a salvo of improvised rockets into Israel in response to his death.

Qiq's body was wrapped in an Islamic Jihad flag at his funeral, pictorial posters in his honour still bedeck his family home this week, and a handwritten notice posted on the metal gate at the entrance to the school declared that Qiq, "the chief leader of the engineering unit", would now find "paradise".

That poster was removed soon after Reuters visited the Rafah Prep Boys School, run by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees. Staff there said on Monday that UNRWA officials had told them not to discuss Qiq's activities...

...Spokesman Christopher Gunness said UNRWA, which spelled its teacher's surname al-Geeg, was looking into the matter...

...An Israeli intelligence source told Reuters that Qiq was involved in developing rockets and mortars.

Yet Qiq...[had] eight years' experience of teaching at UNRWA schools...

Israel has long alleged that militants use UNRWA vehicles and facilities. The United Nations has denied those charges, although some UNRWA employees have had prominent political roles in groups like Hamas -- such as teacher Saeed Seyam, who was interior minister in the Hamas-led government elected in 2006....

Aussie Rules

Follow the link to see an IBA video of the commemoration of the Battle of Beersheba, October 1917

photo courtesy of the Australian War Memorial
(Also see our previous posting on this subject "Diggers Honoured in Beersheba")

Israel remembers its 22,437 fallen

From JPost, May 6, 2008 by ETGAR LEFKOVITS:

Israel pauses Tuesday night to mourn its fallen soldiers, as the nation marked Remembrance Day and honored the memory of those who have lost their lives in defense of the state.

A one-minute air-raid siren wailed across the country at 8 p.m. Tuesday night, followed by the start of ceremonies in memory of fallen soldiers and the victims of terror attacks across the country.

The official state ceremony marking the start of Israel's Memorial Day began immediately after the siren at Jerusalem's Western Wall Plaza, in the presence of President Shimon Peres, Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, and bereaved families.

"For sixty years we have been having what previous generations of Jews never had - a national home. These soldiers have a wrought a miracle in human history. During six wars they fought, and Israel won. They helped make this country a peace-seeking, just state," Peres said at the start of the ceremony.

"We want to end wars and continue the Zionist movement's vision. We want to shake our neighbors' hands, but we know, when necessary, to pull the trigger," Peres said.
Peres went on to mention the various forces whose fallen are being commemorated: The IDF, the police, the border police, the Shin Bet security agency, the Mossad and other security agencies....

...The Defense Ministry said that since 1860, when the first Jewish settlers began establishing Jewish neighborhoods outside the Jerusalem city walls, 22,437 men and women have been killed in defense of the Land of Israel.

Sixteen Israeli civilians were killed in terrorist attacks in the first four months of the year, bringing the total of civilian terror-related deaths to 1,634 since the creation of the state 60 years ago, National Insurance Institute Director-General Esther Dominissini said Monday.

Remembrance Day will draw to a close Wednesday night at 8 p.m. with the traditional torch-lighting ceremony at Jerusalem's Mount Herzl marking the sudden transition from sadness to joy with the start of Israel's 60th Independence Day.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Austria: Land of Dungeons and Suppressed Memories

Follow this link to see an updated version of the 3 May posting on this subject.

Israel gives fuel to UNRWA in Gaza

From Ynet News, by Reuters 6 May 2008:

...Israel delivered fuel on Monday to a UN aid agency in the Gaza Strip, a day after the organization said fuel shortages would force it to halt food deliveries to many refugees in the Palestinians enclave.

Peter Lerner, spokesman for Israel's military coordinator for Gaza, said the fuel was piped into the Gaza Strip "as requested" by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which provides aid to about a third of Gaza's population.

UNRWA spokesman Christopher Gunness said the fuel would be enough to continue their food delivery operations for approximately 20 days....

Gaza has been facing a fuel shortage because of Israeli restrictions on supplies and a strike by Palestinian fuel distributors in protest at those restrictions.

MI6 and Mossad to discuss Iran

From The Sunday Times (UK Times online), May 4, 2008, by Uzi Mahnaimi:

THE head of MI6, Sir John Scarlett, is to visit Israel later this month as Britain forges closer links with Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service. Iran’s nuclear programme is expected to be high on the agenda in an intelligence-sharing process described by Israeli officials as a “strategic dialogue”. It is building on long-standing cooperation between MI6 and Mossad, both of which have extensive spy networks in the Middle East.

Scarlett, 59, is likley to be briefed by Meir Dagan, 63, the head of Mossad, on Israel’s latest information about the Iranian nuclear programme. It is understood that Israel has made a breakthrough in intelligence-gathering within Iran.

There is mounting concern in Israel that Iran’s nuclear capability may be far more advanced than was recognised in a declassified assessment by the US National Intelligence Estimate last December, which concluded that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons development programme in 2003 in response to international pressure.

One source claimed the new information was on a par with intelligence that led Israel to discover and then destroy a partly constructed nuclear reactor in Syria last September.

Israeli officials believe the US will revise its analysis of Iran’s programme. “We expect the Americans to amend their report soon,” a high-ranking military officer said last week.

Israel’s foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, briefed Gordon Brown and David Miliband, the foreign secretary, on Israel’s findings during talks on the Middle East in London last week. Israeli intelligence officers, en route from Washington where they had been outlining their latest information to American officials, joined Livni for the briefing.

It is thought that if Israel were considering military action against Iran over its nuclear programme, it would want to ensure it had diplomatic support in London and Washington because of the danger of triggering a wider Middle East conflict.

“We’re doing a lot of things about Iran,” Ehud Barak, Israel’s defence minister, said last week. “We say we shouldn’t rule out any option. Not ruling out options means action, but the worst thing to do at the moment is to talk [about it].” Whitehall officials said Scarlett’s visit was “routine”.

An early Israeli general election is becoming unavoidable

From DEBKAfile, May 5, 2008, 10:50 PM (GMT+02:00):

DEBKAfile’s political sources report that circles closest to Ehud Olmert, prime minister and leader of the Kadima party see little hope of him surviving the political fallout from the new, as-yet unpublished police investigation against him.

Tuesday, May 6, is seen as marking the critical point in the inquiry, after which the police and general prosecution will move quickly to draw up an indictment.

Whether or not Olmert escapes conviction at the end of the road, his position as prime minister is becoming untenable ahead of the legal battle to clear is name.

Our sources do not credit the reports that Monday, May 5, visiting US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice leaned hard on Olmert to mark President George W, Bush’s May 14 visit with a declaration defining the final frontiers of a Palestinian state acceptable to Israel. They say Rice is fully aware he is in no state for radical decisions that would finalize Israel’s state borders as well.

Israel’s parties have begun looking ahead to an autumn 2008 general election. A vacuum is beginning to form in the conduct of Israel’s most pressing security and other matters because of the prime minister’s shrinking authority.

Foreign minister Tzipi Livni as acting prime minister would step into Olmert’s shoes to head a caretaker government until elections, if he stepped down or was otherwise barred from carrying out his duties. In prospective Kadima primaries, transport minister Shaul Mofaz and others would challenge her for the party leadership.

Labor leader, defense minister Ehud Barak, is believed to be exploring a pact with Livni to form a new party bloc to fight Likud. New party factions may spring up. There are no clear answers as yet on the manner of Olmert’s departure or its short-term impact on the shape of the government coalition.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Beit-Hanoun family killed by Hamas explosives

From The IDF Web site, 02 May 2008:

... The inquiry group, appointed by the GOC Southern Command, Major General Yoav Galant, to investigate the circumstances of the incident in Beit Hanoun in which unassociated civilians were hurt on April 28th, 2008, has finished its work and submitted its conclusions.

Conclusions rising from the investigation point out the following:

A. Four armed gunmen firing at the soldiers were spotted in the area carrying back packs loaded with ammunition and various weapons.

B. The attacks against the gunmen were accurate and the gunmen were hit.

C. The secondary explosions triggered by the weaponry and ammunition carried by the gunmen were bigger than the ones caused by the ammunition used by the IDF.

D. The possibility that the family was hit by other IDF fire was eliminated since this was the only incident recorded that day in which attacks were carried out in the area.

E. The professional opinion of the IDF states that the family was hit during the explosion of the second missile that ignited the secondary explosions or from objects that had flown towards them from the strength of the explosion.

Between the 28th and the 29th of April, 2008, IDF forces operated against terror threats in Izbet neighborhood in Beit Hanoun in order to search the area and to arrest wanted Palestinians. ... Four gunmen ...were spotted carrying back packs loaded with ammunition. One gunmen carrying one of the back packs was targeted and hit from the air. As a result a strong secondary explosion accrued. Immediately after the explosion the second gunmen was targeted and hit as well causing an even bigger explosion.

Both explosions were significantly stronger than those caused by the IDF attacks against them. .... It should be emphasized that the armed gunmen were operating near by the family's house, therefore endangering their lives. The IDF wishes to express sorrow for any harm to unassociated civilians caused due to terrorist organizations that operate from populated centers, using them as human shields.

To watch the IDF operation in Beit-Hanoun click here