Crossfire War – RAPID FIRE NEWS=TEHRAN – N’DJAMENA – KHARTOUM WATCH – North – Northeast Africa Theatre: Tehran – Beijing – Tripoli – Riyadh – Khartoum – N’Djamena/Paris – Berlin – Washington; Rebel Coalition Enter Capital with Little Opposition – Fighting Inside Presidential Palace – France – US Attempt to Evacuate Embassies – Hamas Declares Joint Control of Rafah Terminal With Cairo
Night Watch: N’DJAMENA – Conflicting reports are still coming out of the Chad capital N’Djamena as to who is in control of the situation. Chad’s Ambassador to the U. S., Mahamoud Adam Bechir, has told CNN the government was in control and that the rebels were being beaten back, abandoning their vehicles and discarding their uniforms. Earlier there was this account from Tigalta a worker in the Kempinski Hotel in the center of the city, “This morning I was in my room, and I saw many rebel groups entering the city in Japanese cars. They were not fighting. They entered the town feely. They found the population welcoming them-the people of the town.” One of the leaders of Chad’s opposition parties, not part of the rebel coalition, told AP the rebels entered the city at 8 am and firing had died down two hours later. Another account, from Ibni Oumar Mahamet Saleh, said by 12:45 pm there was no gunfire near him but the state radio was off the air. “At the moment we are not hearing any firing…The rebels are in the city. Civilians are in the streets. They are watching what is happening.” [CNN]
There are even conflicting reports as to the whereabouts of President Idriss Deby. Some accounts say he is holed up in the Presidential Palace others say he has fled to Gabon. Rebel spokespersons have said they do not want to kill him but put him on trial. A senior German diplomat said the rebels entered the city from several different directions, gunfire was then heard around the capital but had now died down and that now the Parliament building was being ransacked but he wasn’t sure by whom, either looters or rebels. That seemed to confirm reports of initial heavy fighting around the Palace, Defense Ministry and state radio station.
Massaguet – One of the better-informed foreign missions in N’Djamena is China, which should not be surprising with Beijing’s close contact with the rebel coalition since they assume China would have more access to Chad’s oil reserves under a new government. Both Beijing and Tehran have openly supported Khartoum in its war of displacement against the people of Darfur and also the central government’s war against Sudanese in the south were most of Sudan’s oil is produced. Xinhua reports as soon as fighting began Friday in Massaguet, just 30 miles northeast of the capital; Beijing initiated what is called its emergency response mechanism, which has evacuated 212 Chinese nationals to neighboring Cameroon. Though eighty Chinese nationals remain they are in close contact with China’s embassy and I suspect Beijing’s response is the best indication the rebel coalition will overthrow Deby. France and the U. S. have attempted to evacuate their embassies but by the time they started, the airport was closed. The 1,200 French troops in the city are said to be guarding French and other foreign nationals. There are even conflicting reports as to which side the French are on and I suspect Paris may simply be waiting as to see who wins. A report came from Al Jazeera’s correspondent at the Meridien Hotel that government troops fired at the French forces guarding the hotel because they suspect the French support the rebels. [XINHUA]
The President had what he called defensive “belt” in the capital but it seems to have been penetrated with no difficulty.
Rafah – Al Jazeera reports Hamas and the Egyptian government have agreed on joint operation of the Rafah Terminal crossing on the Egypt – Gaza border. The agreement was made Friday just one day after Hamas bulldozed another opening for trucks to pass through as Hamas threatened to set off more explosions. Mahmoud al-Zahar, head of the Hamas delegation spoke to reporters, “We have concluded an agreement between us and our brothers in Egypt to operate channels at the local level at the crossing and along the border and we will implement it tomorrow after we meet with the Hamas-run government. Egypt has confirmed that it will provide the Palestinian people with everything it needs…trucks that carry food and medicine will be provided on the Egyptian side in a suitable way.” [ALJAZEERA]
Sderot – Saturday morning Palestinian militants fired four Qassam rockets from the Gaza Strip into the western Negev. Haaretz reports two hit the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council and two hit Sderot. I suspect that since Tehran has engineered the agreement on the Rafah Terminal between Cairo and Hamas Iran will now have attacks against Israel resume and increase but not only from Gaza, now also from the Sinai. This changes drastically the plans Jerusalem was making concerning its offensive into Gaza and ends the Qassam fire. If Iran can enable Palestinian militants and other Islamic extremist groups to conduct a series of successful attacks from the Sinai then Israel would be forced to invade there and Gaza simultaneously. The Gaza/Israel border is less than 10 miles long but the Israel/Sinai border is more than ten times that at 125 miles. This multiplies greatly the area Israel is now forced to cover and stretches its forces to their limit, especially when one takes into account the units Israel will have to commit up north on its border with Lebanon against Hezbollah and Lebanon’s army. At the same time there will also have to be large-scale operations into the West Bank. [HAARETZ]