Jerusalem, Israel – Over the weekend, during operational activity in the Beit Hanoun region of the Gaza Strip, the Israeli army infantry’s crack Givati Brigade reconnaissance unit troops discovered eight Kassam rocket launchers equipped with stopwatches, one of them ready for launching.
“We went into the Gaza Strip in the middle of the week. We got a mission to search, and to look for rocket launchers threatening Sderot,” said a deputy company commander in the Givati Brigade. “During the activity at night, we found eight Kassam rocket launchers that were ready to be aimed at the city of Sderot. One of the launchers was already loaded, with a Kassam rocket on it, and ready to be used against the city of Sderot.”
The troops, from the Givati Brigade together with Engineering and Armored Corps troops, entered the northern Gaza Strip, the Beit Hanoun region, early Wednesday morning and remained in the field until Friday at noon. The goal of the operation was to locate bases for rocket fire at Sderot and to find tunnels. In the central Gaza Strip, in the region of the UNRWA El Murazi refugee camp, the troops completed their mission early Friday morning and left the area.
The Palestinians claim that the IDF operation in the Gaza Strip, which ended at approximately 1:50 am on Friday morning, lasted approximately 22 hours, during which 11 Palestinian terrorists were killed. Nine of those killed were members of the Iz a Din al-Kassam Battalions, Hamas’ “military” wing. The tenth was Obeidah el-Kassam, a supporter of Hamas, and the eleventh was a terrorist from the Al-Quds company of Islamic Jihad.
Will There Or Won’t There Be War Between Israel And Syria?
Indicative signs there will be war:
1. Kuneitra Roadblocks Removed: After 40 years, Syria has removed most of the military roadblocks between Damascus and Kuneitra, on the way to the Golan Heights. Out of the many roadblocks, which were geared to secure traffic to Damascus, only two remain active. Al-Hayat, which reported the Syrian development, quoted an Israeli source who said that he believed the removal of the roadblocks was geared to allow hundreds of guerrillas to move freely in the direction of the Golan Heights in order to carry out terror attacks against Israel.
2. Public Statements: Syrian public officials have not concealed of late the fact that the military option is on the table. “If the matter were up to the Syrian public, war would have been launched long ago,” said MP Mohammed Habash. President Bashar Assad noted that “armed resistance” – a laundered euphemism for terror attacks – was liable to break out. “Liberating the Golan is in our hands and it depends on our determination,” said Assad a short while after the Second Lebanon War. “We, as a state, can choose either the political or the military route, but with respect to resistance – that is a matter for the public’s decision.”
3. Arms Race: The Syrian arms race has gained additional momentum since the war last year. The Syrian army has been given various weapons systems from Iran. The Syrians purchased from Russia a large number of advanced anti-tank weapons.
4. Operational Readiness: According to Israeli intelligence, the Syrian army is working now to raise its troops’ readiness and has been cleaning forward outposts. Furthermore, according to some reports, the Syrian army held maneuvers that involved moving missiles in the direction of the border.
5. Frequency Of Military Exercises: The Syrian army has been training at a faster pace and in far larger numbers than in the past. Israeli officials say that the scope of Syrian training and preparations is the largest since 1973.
The Lesson From The Yom Kippur War
On the eve of the Yom Kippur War in 1973, the IDF Intelligence Branch defined 30 “indicative signs” about war. Even though all of those indicative signs were identified well in advance, Israel was nevertheless caught by surprise.
Among the indicative signs that were taken note of were: the deployment of surface-to-air missiles in Syria, intensive training along the banks of the Suez Canal, and the most famous sign of all: The evacuation of the Soviet advisers from the area and their return to the U.S.S.R.
One of the decisions that were made in the context of learning the lessons of the Yom Kippur War was to establish a special unit that would be responsible for presenting positions that run contrary to the IDF Intelligence Branch’s assessment so as to preclude the possibility of becoming blinded by a preconception.
Leading Israeli investigative journalist Ronen Bergmann has confirmed that General Ali Reza Askari, who disappeared in Istanbul last February and about whom many guesses were published about what had happened to him, defected to the West and is being held by the United States at a well-guarded intelligence compound, a high-ranking American official has told Yedioth Ahronoth. The official adds that during the many interrogations that were held with him, the general shed new light upon a series of subjects and affairs relevant to the most classified of the Iranian regime’s secrets, to which he had direct or indirect access.
Bergmann reports that according to the American official, the defection of the general, who is considered one of the highest-ranking and prominent intelligence officials in Iran since the revolution, was made possible following a complicated intelligence operation as part of which the CIA made contact with the general, which led to a connection between Askari and Western intelligence personnel in Istanbul. He even succeeded in getting some of his relatives out of Iran, and now they are together with him in the security compound where he is being held.
Bergmann posits that General Askari has given the most important information about the Iranian nuclear plan. He said that there is another, secret track that until now has been unknown to the West and in the framework of which the Iranians have succeeded in making significant progress.
Until now, it was known that the Iranians are building two nuclear reactors in Bushehr and in Arak and enriching uranium by means of centrifuges in a place called Natanz. The general added that parallel to these tracks, Iranian scientists have also made progress on another track based on relatively old technology for enriching uranium by using laser beams with the addition of various chemical improvements that make the technology more advanced.
According to Bergmann, the Iranian general gave details of a series of efforts that Iran is making in order to conceal this track from the eyes of the West’s intelligence agencies so that if international pressure or a military operation should disrupt the two known tracks, Iran will be able to continue in the secret track until it builds the first Shiite atom bomb.
In Bergmann’s view, General Askari served in a series of high-ranking positions in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. This is the group responsible for providing physical security and protecting the intelligence of Iran’s nuclear project. This is where Askari’s information comes from. It should be remembered that he served as the assistant to former president Khatami and as a member of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council. The detailed information that Askari gave about the Iranian nuclear project has caused a great deal of concern over the past several months among decision-makers in several Western countries and among the few who deal with the Iranian subject in those states in which the material has been fully disclosed. It had been suspected for some time that the Iranians were trying to obtain a nuclear bomb by other means, and bits of intelligence even matched those assessments, but no one suspected that there had been such great progress that places Iran closer to the atom bomb than anyone had believed before Askari’s defection.
Currently, Western intelligence officials are busy analyzing the information that Askari has given and reassessing the amount of time that it will take Iran to obtain a nuclear bomb. The American official says that the intelligence that Askari provided is also behind the statements that American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made last Friday, when she mentioned the grave danger from Iran.
A senior U.S. government official told Bergmann that when the analysis of the material and the questioning of Askari are completed, it is possible that the material will be used for public-relations purposes, in order to prove that Iran has been lying all along. The official said that the current working assumption is that the Iranians realize that Askari has apparently defected and have taken preventive measures on the assumption that he will tell everything he knows.
David Bedein can be reached at Media@actcom.co.il. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com
©The Bulletin 2007