Crossfire War – USS Mount Whitney Off Lebanon- ‘Unscheduled Mission’ (War)

Crossfire War – RAPID FIRE NEWS=TEHRAN – GAZA – DAMASCUS WATCH – West Asia – North – Northeast Africa Theatre: IDF Planning Major Escalation of Gaza Operations After Bush Visit – USS Mount Whitney Off Lebanon for Unscheduled War with Syria – Iran Stages Terror Attacks Blamed on US to Prepare Population for War

Night Watch: GAZA – Senior Israeli defense officials stated Thursday they are planning a major escalation of operations inside the Gaza Strip against Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups after the visit by U. S. President George W. Bush which ended Friday. Jerusalem may decide to wait for the conclusion of the World Economic Forum at the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh next week in which not only is President Bush to attend but also Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. All three will be conferring with their Egyptian counterparts. The Jerusalem Post reports Barak will be meeting Egypt Minister of Intelligence General Omar Suleiman where I suspect they will be discussing joint operations since the administration of Egypt President Hosni Mubarak is also being targeted by Tehran through the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. [JPOST]

Thursday Barak toured the damaged mall in Ashkelon hit by the Katyusha (Grad) rocket with Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai and OC Home Front Commander Major-General Yair Golan. Barak promised, “You need to grit your teeth, but not for many more months. We won’t allow this to continue for much longer. I am not talking about years or many months. We will do what needs to be done.”

Cairo – General Suleiman has been the liaison between Hamas and Jerusalem during the negotiations in a futile attempt to achieve a ceasefire as both sides prepare for the escalation. An escalation they are aware involves more than Israel and Palestinian militants. Washington and Tehran-Damascus will also be entering this wider regional war and today the Jerusalem Post reports Israel added a new demand, an ultimatum to Hamas that in order for any ceasefire to take place Hamas must first release captured Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit. If not then Israeli officials are warning Israel will conduct what they call “serious attacks” against Hamas. The new threat was reported by the Lebanese paper Al Akhbar and Israel knows Hamas is very proud of the capture and is not about to release him. Schalit”s capture in June 2006 increased the war when Israel responded with a major offensive into the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah, in support of Hamas, staged an ambush across Lebanon’s border. [JPOST]

Eastern Mediterranean – Debka reports one of the Pentagon’s most advanced command and control communications ship, the USS Mount Whitney, has arrived on station off Lebanon for an “unscheduled mission.” It is designed to coordinate battlefield information required by units in combat. Sixth Fleet spokesman Lieutenant Patrick Foughty announced, it was “to support additional communication requirements for our ships already underway.” The principle ships being the missile frigate USS Cole and aircraft carrier USS Harry Truman. The impression given was the ships are there for a specific operation then leave. This unscheduled war with Syria-Hezbollah will not last a few days even if the ships have left. Iran is going to enter and will probably have attacks increase in Iraq and target U. S. bases in the Persian Gulf. [DEBKA]

Shiraz – Since Tehran knows war with the U. S.-Israel is close they have been staging terrorist’s incidents inside Iran now being blamed on Washington-Jerusalem. IRNA reports the Ministry of Information has new information which reveals the explosion at the mosque in Shiraz in April stated, “Investigations from suspects indicate that a terrorist network has been backed by the US.” The ministry also stated Iran has prevented numerous terrorist attacks and said it had classified documents proving the U. S. and Israel provided logistical support. [IRNA]

Ateifiyah – In addition to the explosion in Shiraz Iran Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki is also accusing the U. S. for being responsible for the wounding of several Iranian diplomats in Baghdad Thursday when their convoy was fired on. Xinhua reports the shooting took place near the Buratha Shi’ite mosque in Baghdad’s Ateifiyah district. Tehran is of course giving the impression the diplomats were targeted deliberately but according to a source with Iraq’s military the Iraqi soldiers at the checkpoint were fired on first by gunmen inside the two SUV’s. When the Iraqi soldiers arrested the gunmen they were found to be Iranian diplomats. [XINHUA]

Rafah – In the meantime Israel conducted a raid into southeast Gaza after midnight. Xinhua reports ten Palestinians were arrested east of Rafah on the Egyptian border as the Israel Defense Force (IDF) sent seven tanks and four bulldozers supported by helicopters. Firefights took place with Palestinian gunmen as the IDF unit leveled fields and three chicken farms, locations and sites for Qassam rocket fire. [XINHUA]

Willard Payne is an international affairs analyst who specializes in International Relations. A graduate of Western Illinois University with a concentration in East-West Trade and East-West Industrial Cooperation, he has been providing incisive analysis to NewsBlaze. He is the author of Imagery: The Day Before.