Hamas to maintain missile blitz up to Ashdod – until Israel’s February poll
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report
November 17, 2008, 11:07 AM (GMT+02:00)
Hamas flexes muscles in Gaza
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that Israeli government leaders have misread the motives behind Hamas’two-week missile-rocket-mortar assault on Israel as jockeying for better terms when the six-month truce comes up for renewal next month. Their decision to mute Israel’s military response to the ongoing violence stems from their misplaced expectation that the attacks will stop once the truce is in the bag.
Israeli intelligence circles challenge this perception. They estimate that Hamas will continue escalating the violence at least up until Israel’s general election on Feb. 10, 2009, forcing more than a quarter of a million suffering citizens to live on a never-ending knife edge.
The Hamas rationale falls into three parts:
1. The 25-kilometer range Grad multiple-launch rockets, which the radical terrorists have vowed to continue firing against the Mediterranean port-town of Ashkelon, will also be directed further north to Ashdod, Israel’s most important port after Haifa. This will keep Hamas at center stage of Israel’s election campaign and demonstrate who really influences the Israeli voter. This maneuver, learned from the Palestinian master terrorist, who used to step up the violence before Israeli elections, will put rival Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas, whose “peace talks” with Israel came to naught, in the shade.
2. Hamas is not scared by the prospect of the Olmert government being driven to a major military operation in Gaza. Its leaders calculate that it will be so costly in casualties for the Palestinian population and Israeli troops alike that an international outcry will force the IDF to cut the campaign short without achieving its goals.
3. Forcing the Israeli army to withdraw without a victory will enhance Hamas’ standing in Gaza and the West Bank – just like Hizballah after the 2006 Lebanon war.
In Hamas’ view, the compromise proposals put forward by Egyptian intelligence minister Omar Suleiman in his bid to broker a Palestinian power-sharing deal was biased in favor of Abbas and his Fatah. This left the Hamas free to walk away and instead build up its violent assaults on Israeli towns and villages.
Despite the ongoing missile attacks, Israel decided Sunday, Nov. 17, to allow 30 trucks of humanitarian aid through to Gaza. However, fuel consignments have been stopped until further notice.
Somali pirates seize Saudi oil supertanker north of Mombasa
DEBKAfile Special Report
November 17, 2008, 5:29 PM (GMT+02:00)
Saudi supertanker launched only eight months ago is biggest vessel pirates have seized
This was their biggest catch and the first time the Somali pirates infesting waters off the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden operated out in the Indian Ocean southeast of Kenya’s main port of Mombasa. The Saudi Sirius Star 319,430 dwt supertanker, the size of three football fields and loaded with Saudi oil heading for export markets, was captured some days ago with its 25 crew, one of whose members is British.
DEBKAfile’s counter-terror sources report that the Somali pirates are expanding their area of operation and preying on shipping as far afield as the Bab el-Mandeb Straits, the point at which the Red Sea flows into the Indian Ocean. The pirate bands work largely hand in glove with al Qaeda’s Horn of Africa network and associated Somali Islamist rebels.
Since the beginning of 2008, they have seized 33 vessels – freighters, arms ships and yachts. Only 16 were freed, almost all of them against hefty multimillion dollar ransoms. Sunday, Nov. 16, the Danish Stolt ValorChemstar Venus was seized a few hours later. chemical tanker was recovered for $1.1 million, but the Japanese 20,000-ton cargo ship
DEBKAfile’s sources note that the pirates taunt US, European and Russian warships patrolling the ocean off Somalia. They watch to see which way the warships are heading and their well-equipped speedboats make for quarry in the opposite direction. They also take advantage of the lack of coordination between the various fleets deployed specifically to curtail piracy.
According to Lloyd’s List, the pirates are unlikely to be scared off launching attacks on merchant shipping despite the killing of two — and perhaps three — of their number in a recent shoot-out with the British Royal Navy. The naval vessels patrolling the waters are too few to cope with the expanding scourge.