Crossfire War – Rapid Fire News=Tehran – Beirut – Damascus Watch – West Asia – North – Northeast Africa Theatre: Tehran – Riyadh – Tripoli – Khartoum – Baghdad – El Arish – Nablus – Gaza – Damascus – Beirut/Jerusalem – Cairo – Amman – Paris – Rome – London – Washington; Hezbollah Fighting Two-Front War – Fighting in Beirut Between Rival Groups Worsen – Intelligence Services of Some Arab Governments Assisting Jerusalem – Israel Conducts Major Overnight Air – Ground Attack Outskirts of Gaza Airport – Kosovo Declares Independence – Belgrade Ignores It
Night Watch: RAS AL-NABEI – One of the greatest weapons in Israel’s arsenal has long been the serious instability of the governments and countries around them, which has always been a major factor in Israel’s continued existence and growth since its re-establishment in 1948 and perhaps in its entire storied history.
The more Islamic governments fight each other or wars within a bordering country the more secure Israel is, as Jerusalem only has to concentrate on the most serious immediate threat and avoid over extending itself militarily. One of the more glaring examples was the civil war within the Palestinian community between Hamas/Fatah as they fought last year over a Palestinian state I have characterized as a fragmentation grenade.
But other countries aren’t much different especially to Israel’s north – Lebanon which experienced a fifteen year civil war, 1975-90, and by all news accounts is in the beginning of another one despite all the recent anti-Israel statements by Lebanon’s entire political leadership on both sides of the Parliament. [ALJAZEERA]
Once again Lebanon’s combative politics inside the government in Parliament and Cabinet have begun to spill over into the streets even before the demonstrations three Sundays ago when seven people were killed. It seems street battles have been going on for weeks, just not reported in the media, but Al Jazeera reports yesterday, Saturday, there were perhaps as many as fourteen people injured during fights between supporters of Saad Hariri’s Future Movement and Hezbollah in three of Beirut’s neighborhoods.
Perhaps the news media no longer believes this is newsworthy but yesterday’s confrontation was too large to be ignored. The areas were: Ras al-Nabei, Mazraa and Barboor with the combatants only using sticks and stone throwing with shops and cars set on fire. Lebanese soldiers intervened firing shots into the air and so far only the army has been firing. There were some news reports of members of the Shia group Amal, an ally of Hezbollah, were involved but that has been denied by Amal’s leadership.
Rula Amin of Al Jazeera observed tensions were rising, “local residents are not sure if the army will intervene to stop clashes every time an incident occurs. People are worried that daily skrimishes will turn into real battles.” They know Lebanon and how proud the political leaders and their followers are of how heavily armed they all are so I will not be surprised if the military leadership does not intervene that often however bad the fighting becomes including armed conflict. The army may be ordered to only protect areas not engaged in this new civil war.
Hezbollah’s involvement divides their attention though they are large enough for a two front war it will still weaken their effort against Israel. I suspect Hezbollah-Tehran-Damascus have planned to use the war with Israel, knowing Israel’s massive response, will continue to weaken Lebanon making it easier for Hezbollah and its coalition to control the country afterward, or I should say what is left of the country.
Damascus – As another example of serious divisions within the rank and file of Islamic leadership-followers, Xinhua reports Ahmed Yousef, an adviser to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, is accusing intelligence agencies of some Arab governments of sending information to Jerusalem that will help Israel assassinate the Hamas leadership.
This is something Israel has threatened to do ever since the Qassam rocket and mortar barrages increased dramatically in the past several months, only to be briefly interrupted by Hamas’ new disputes with Cairo. Yousef said the information on the unit’s leadership in Damascus concentrated on, “the movement, the places of residence and sort of cars used by Damascus based Hamas leaders.” Consequently the political chief of Hamas Khaled Mashaal and his Deputy Mussa Abu Marzouq have survived “several assassination attempts”. [XINHUA]
Yousef refused to name the intelligence agencies but three come to mind right away; the Palestinian Authority (PA) led by Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, West Bank, whose enormously corrupt Fatah party was defeated in elections two years ago and in street battles in Gaza last June – Egypt’s intelligence services, since they realize Hamas is at a near state of war with the administration of Egypt President Hosni Mubarak – Jordan which is now being threatened by Hamas since they have announced plans to mass Palestinians on the West Bank/Jordan border.
Fatah’s intelligence services are far to corrupt to be that well informed and have not had close, daily contact with Hamas for at least two years and I cannot see Egypt’s intelligence services as being that well informed about a group based in Damascus. It would depend on how effective and informed Egyptian agents are in Syria, but they have only recently taken Hamas seriously and never had close contacts with them.
Amman, however, I suspect is extremely well connected and informed based on the serious warnings as to regional civil wars made by His Majesty King Abdullah II for at least the past year and though he has not done much to support the Palestinian cause materially he probably has had his intelligence services maintain constant surveillance on the leadership of any extreme group or government in the region. That is why if I had to choose a capital in West Asia to monitor World War III my first choice would be Amman.
Rafah – As another example of the concentric circles of conflict revolving around Israel, Xinhua/MENA report Egypt is investigating a rocket that hit a building on Egypt’s side of the Rafah crossing Sunday. They don’t know who fired it. It could have been Hamas as it prepares to force the terminal open again or it could have been the result of the heavy action near Rafah during Israel’s large air-ground raid on the outskirts of Gaza Airport overnight Sunday. [XINHUA]
Gaza Airport – Israel Prime Minster Ehud Olmert prefaced his remarks at his weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday with this statement, “A war is going on in the south almost daily. Terrorist leaders are part of the war and we will not ease up on them and we won’t stop the war until life for southern residents returns to normal.”
The latest example of his government’s new resolve was the large air-ground operation Saturday night/Sunday morning in south Gaza near Rafah with the heaviest action on the outskirts of Gaza Airport. INN reported the operation was led by an undercover Israel Defence Force (IDF) Special Forces unit backed by tanks, bulldozers and aircraft.
Most of the fire they encountered seemed to have come from the Palestinian Resistance Committees (PRC) which may have lost three members. The bulldozers were used to clear areas that had been used for Qassam rocket fire. Arrests of suspects were made and also in the West Bank cities of Nablus, Jericho, Hevron and Ramallah. [INN]
At a committee meeting the Prime Minister approved a proposal to fortify houses 3 miles (4.5 km) from Gaza increasing their resistance to rocket-mortar attacks. Though the Qassam has a range of seven miles no weapon is effective at maximum range whether a bullet, ballistic missile or a laser.
Pristina/Belgrade – B92 reports at 15:00 (3 pm) CET Sunday the ethnic Albanian Parliament in Pristina declared the Kosovo province independent from the Serbia government in Belgrade. The following is part of the televised statement of Serbia Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica in response, “Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of a false state is the final act of a policy that started with the NATO aggression against Serbia in 1999. Never has the truth about why Serbia was savagely destroyed by NATO bombs been clearer, NATO’s military interests lie behind the proclamation of this false state.”
Prime Minister Kostunica continued by stating Washington had disgraced the European Union (EU) by forcing the EU to abandon the principles it was founded on and Europe “which has lowered its head” will be responsible “for all the serious consequences that Kosovo’s independence carries with it.” [B92]
The independence statement was read by Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, a former guerrilla leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which began attacking Serbian police in 1997 to take advantage of Serbia being at war with either NATO or other provinces in the former Yugoslavia that had declared and received recognition for their independence in 1991-92.
The leading members in NATO, based in Brussels, decided to make a power projection in the former Yugoslavia and Serbia was the most powerful country as a result of the division, therefore they were targeted more. First Yugoslavia was dismembered now Serbia. But Serbia has since re-armed, mostly with massive assistance from Russia and Belgrade signed two security agreements in 2006, one with Iran and the other with Greece. Last year Athens led the formation of a Tripartite Pact with Sofia-Bucharest that supports Belgrade.
In Thaci’s statement he said Belgrade will have its interests in Kosovo represented only through Kosovo institutions in Pristina the capital, but in Belgrade’s “Action Plan” Serbia has prepared to establish Serbian institutions in Kosovo that will most likely be attacked setting off the fourth war in the region since 1991. Pristina is now in the process of establishing the ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs.
US Embassy (Belgrade) – One of the more immediate responses has been several hundred young men now blocking access to Washington’s Embassy in Belgrade. B92 reports the demonstration was supposed to have been peaceful but cars have been demolished and stones and lit flares are being thrown at police protecting the building. They are protesting the policy of the Bush administration which has been an irresponsible outspoken advocate of Kosovo independence.
Protesters have stated they will block the building permanently. I suspect the police are not too eager to risk their lives in protecting the embassy of a government that wants to dismember their country. Belgrade will probably shut down the embassy as the violence becomes worse. Serbia has been saying for some time they will sever relations with any government that recognizes Kosovo. [B92]