Crossfire War – Jerusalem – Cairo Watch – West Asia – North – Northeast Africa Theatre: Jerusalem – Cairo/Gaza – Ramallah – Damascus – Beirut – Tehran – Riyadh – Amman; Israel Defense Minister Issues “special Situation Decree” to Idf Southern Command – Warns Egypt of Israel Plan to Immediately Recapture Philadelphi Route Between Southern Gaza – Egypt – to End Weapons Smuggling From Egypt – Sinai – Gaza – West Bank
Night Watch: EL-GEFGAFA – Debka reports within the last 24 hours Israel has warned Egypt that Israeli forces are on standby and prepared to recapture the Philadelphi Route which is 7 miles long, 100 meters wide and extends between the southern border of Gaza and Egypt. Israel used to control the route but withdrew two years ago as they evacuated their citizens and settlements from Gaza. I mentioned at the time Israel withdrew its people away from the line of fire.
What prompted the warning was the discovery by Egyptian security Sunday of 2.7 tons of weapons and explosives in the Northern Sinai town of el-Gefgafa, 60 miles (100 km) southwest of El-Arish. The weapons were destined for the militant Palestinian groups Hamas and Jihad Islami.
What made this latest discovery so alarming is for the first time several dozen Katyusha rockets were part of the consignment. The Katyusha’s warhead is 240 mm, is much more powerful than the Qassam rockets that are currently being fired at Israel and its range is longer, twenty miles. This is of course the weapon Hezbollah used so effectively in last year’s war in south Lebanon. [DEBKA]
If some could be fired from Gaza the major Israeli city of Beersheba could be hit and Israel’s main oil terminal at Ashkelon could be destroyed. Qassams have hit Ashkelon but the rocket is only effective as a weapon of harassment instead of causing major damage.
It is also being reported Jerusalem has informed the government of Egypt President Hosni Mubarak in detail of Israel’s plans to recapture the Philadelphi route and that it is no threat to Egyptian sovereignty and Egypt can avoid the attack if Cairo can secure the route itself but Israel does not believe Egypt will do so. The massive smuggling of weapons from Egypt through Sinai into Gaza could not occur without major support from units within the Egyptian military.
This latest development has convinced Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of Staff of the Army Lieutenant-General Gaby Ashkenazi drastic action has got to be taken now.
Hamas – Jihad Islami are expected to respond by firing all the Qassam missiles in their inventory at any Israeli village in their range. I suspect Tehran will lead the Islamic world in accusing Israel of violating Egyptian sovereignty and have Hezbollah begin launchings of their Katyushas and other missiles from Lebanon.
This is not too dissimilar from 1967 when Israel responded quickly to intelligence reports Egypt-Syria were about to attack. Israel attacked first and won the war in six days. This is the only way Jerusalem can get Tehran-Damascus-Beirut off guard and seize the initiative. Iran was hoping Hamas-Jihad Islami would be able to use the more powerful Katyusha.
Mahmoud Abbas has also been informed of Israel’s planned offensive.