Crossfire War – RAPID FIRE NEWS=TEHRAN – GAZA – DAMASCUS WATCH – West Asia – North – Northeast Africa Theatre: Tehran – Riyadh – Tripoli – Khartoum – Baghdad – El Arish – Nablus – Beirut – Gaza – Damascus/Jerusalem – Cairo – Amman – Paris – Rome – London – Washington; TARGET SYRIA – Jerusalem Attack May Have Been Planned in Damascus – Egyptian Official Accuses Syria of Preventing Ceasefire Agreement – Iran FM Mottaki Arrives in Damascus
Night Watch: DAMASCUS – When Hezbollah proudly claimed the gunmen who killed eight Israeli seminary students and wounded 35 Thursday night was a member of a new group I automatically assumed they may have been taking indirect credit for a popular attack so I wrote yesterday the gunmen acted alone. But in thinking about it I realized, with the timing and the location of the attack, in the worlds most religiously charged capital on the eve of a wider regional war that is revolving around Jerusalem, no lone gunmen could have decided to time it better. There was also the obvious clue of his having a Kalishnikov automatic rifle which can only be obtained illegally in Israel and the authorities had investigated him about four months ago on suspicions Ala Abu Dhaim, 25, was a member of Hezbollah. Though he was not a member of Hezbollah he was indeed a member of the new group mentioned by Hezbollah, The Phalange of Free Men of Galilee, therefore part of the network of militaristic Islamic groups controlled by Tehran. [DEBKA]
Tehran has decided to activate them to initiate this newly inflamed situation, now extended into Jerusalem-West Bank, that in so many ways was set off in late January as Iran had Hamas explode open the Rafah Terminal which has allowed more Hamas agents to enter Sinai and from there possibly into Israel. That forced Jerusalem to institute a state of emergency in south Israel on its Sinai border and now this latest attack has put the entire country on a state of high alert Debka reports has been extended to at least next week. As Israel adds to the more than 500 roadblocks it already had in place in the West Bank the investigation into the shooting is being conducted in absolute secrecy. For the past five years Tehran has kept the Phalange of Free Men of Galilee busy targeting Israeli soldiers in the North Galiliee region just twenty miles from the Lebanon border and the region also borders the disputed Golan Heights. But the action in North Galilee is insignificant compared to the Jerusalem attack at a time everyone is expecting Hezbollah-Damascus to make their revenge attack for what they claim is Israel’s assassination of Hezbollah official Imad Mughniyeh, the mock assassination staged by Tehran last month to create this current crisis. Another unit Iran could have used to assist the gunmen is Hizb al-Tahrir which has a major presence in Jerusalem and has been behind the violent riots this week in support of Hamas.
Cairo – With the mock assassination last month I began to mention Damascus has become Iran’s main base in planning the war against Israel. Today the Jerusalem Post/Al-Hayat report an unnamed Egyptian senior official also suspects Damascus had a direct role in planning the attack, “Senior Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders, who are able to decide on a ceasefire, were in Syria (at the time-Thursday night) and we won’t forget that when we hear who was behind the terror attack.” I suspect Israel is keeping Egypt fully informed of its progress in the investigation as Jerusalem-Cairo continue to work closely ever since the Rafah Terminal was forced open nearly two months ago. [JPOST]
The official also blamed Damascus for preventing any serious ceasefire negotiations between Israel and Palestinian militants, “Syria may be interested in focusing international attention on the situation in Gaza and the West Bank instead of the situation in Lebanon. The current escalation on the Palestinian front is in the interest of the Syrians.” There is a lot of truth to what he says as these latest attacks keep Israel on the defensive.
Damascus – It is also obvious these latest developments are also in the interests of the Iranians who want to see Israel heavily engaged on all its borders before Tehran enters the war in the name of supporting Palestinian people and in the name of the security agreement Iran signed with Syria two years ago. With that in mind Iran Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has just arrived in Damascus Saturday afternoon where he was received by Syria Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem. Based on the latest attack this is Mottaki’s Operation West Bank visit which has become increasingly active ever since Jerusalem launched its five day offensive in the Gaza Strip last week. Tehran is enlarging the war around Jerusalem in phases: The Qassam rocket-Katyusha missile fire from Gaza was phase one, phase two was the explosion and mass demonstrations at the Rafah Terminal that enabled extremists to enter Sinai and from Egypt into Gaza, agents that had been trained in Syria-Iran. Phase three was the mock assassination of Imad Mughniyeh which has directed Israel’s attention north on the Syria-Lebanon border and now phase four, Thursday night’s attack forcing Israel to impose a shutdown on the entire West Bank using thousands of Israeli police and soldiers. [IRNA]
The shutdown will have to be attacked by the Islamic militant cells Tehran has in place there along with Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Fatah also has a large militant wing, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades that will operate in tandem with Hamas and quite independently of Mahmoud Abbas. They are named after the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City and Tehran wants that to be the spritual-magnetic center of a lot of violence. That will make current negotiations between Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Abbas of mythological importance.
Damacus’ willingness to play such a prominent and obvious role in this war will force not only Israel but the West to do what it has been hinting ever since the removal of Saddam Hussein in Iraq five years ago-target Syria due to its strategic partnership with Iran. But only Israel is prepared to attack Syria with more than press conferences. Media blitzs from Paris-Washington and confrontational meetings with President Bashar Assad haven’t had much impact. Assad made no secret of his fascination and obsession with what he called Hezbollah’s victory two years ago and he therefore believes Syria will be just as successful in this year’s war. But with Israel surrounded on every border with heavily armed enemies they will not show the hesitancy and sense of restraint as they did in 2006. With Syria armed with more ballistic missiles than Hezbollah and is also a manufacturing center of them the main target of Israel’s nuclear arsenal will not be Iran but Syria.