Debka News

IDF chief of staff hospitalized; deputy temporarily assumes command - January 19, 2017, 1:53 PM (IDT)

Lieut. Gen. Gady Eisenkott, the IDF chief of staff, was admitted to Beilinson Hospital on Thursday for a scheduled medical procedure, and his deputy, Maj. Gen, Yair Golan, temporarily assumed command of Israel's military until Eisenkott fully recovers. The previous day, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced that the chief of staff's term is to be extended for another year. 

Dozens killed as burning commercial building collapses in heart of Tehran - January 19, 2017, 12:31 PM (IDT)

A commercial building in the heart of the Iranian capital collapsed on Thursday as a fire ripped through it, killing dozens of firemen and leaving dozens of others trapped or missing. A senior official from Tehran City Hall was quoted as saying that more than 100 people are estimated to have been killed. 

NSA whistleblower Snowden's permit to reside in Russia extended to 2020 - January 19, 2017, 12:08 PM (IDT)

Ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden's permit to reside in Russia has been extended by three years until 2020, his lawyer said Wednesday in Moscow. Snowden, who fled the US in 2013, leaked tens of thousands of documents that revealed many means and methods of US intelligence including some that are illegal under American law. He received political asylum in Russia but his future there remains unclear. US President-elect Donald Trump had previously said that Snowden would be sent back to the US within a month after he enters the Oval Office. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova issued a statement rejecting a suggestion by a former senior American intelligence official that the extradition of Snowden by Russian President Vladimir Putin would be a "perfect inauguration gift" for Trump. In another development, US President Barack Obama on Tuesday commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning, who handed over top secret intelligence documents to the WikiLeaks website. Manning will now be released in May.

Terrorist who attacked Florida airport admits he acted on orders from ISIS - January 19, 2017, 9:55 AM (IDT)

Esteban Santiago, the terrorist who carried out the January 6 attack at Florida's Fort Lauderdale airport in which he murdered five people, has admitted under questioning by the FBI that he acted on behalf of ISIS. An FBI investigator who testified at a court hearing on Wednesday for the extension of Santiago's arrest said that the terrorist said he had visited chatrooms and forums where ISIS supporters exchange opinions and ideas on carrying out attacks on behalf of the terrorist organization. The investigator added that Santiago had not shown the FBI any signs of insanity and had not repeated a claim he made soon after being captured that voices in his head told him to carry out the attack. In pictures that Santiago posted on Facebook before the shooting, he is seen wearing a "keffiyeh" scarf, holding a handgun and making a victory sign with his fingers.         

Iran exporting arms to Hizballah in violation of embargo: US envoy to UN - January 19, 2017, 8:42 AM (IDT)

In her final appearance before the Security Council on Wednesday, outgoing US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said that Iran is exporting weapons to the Hizballah organization and is thus once again in violation of resolution 2231, which bans arms sales by Tehran. She urged council members to demand Tehran to abide by the resolution that also specifies the schedule for a partial lifting of sanctions under the nuclear agreement between Iran and Western powers. Power added that Iran, which threatens Israel, destabilizes the Middle East and violates the civil rights of its citizens, has never denied that it supplies weapons to Hizballah, and even announced that it will continue to violate the resolution in that way. Meanwhile, at a confirmation hearing on Wednesday, Nikki Haley, who will succeed Power after President-elect Donald Trump takes office, said regarding the Iran nuclear deal that "If we find that there are violations, then we act on those violations."

Defense minister decides on one-year extension of IDF chief of staff's term - January 18, 2017, 7:52 PM (IDT)

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced Wednesday that he had decided to extend the term of the IDF chief of staff, Lieut. Gen. Gadi Eisenkott, for another year. The cabinet will hold a vote on the extension in ten days. Earlier this week it was reported that Eisenkott will be hospitalized for several days, starting on Thursday, in order to undergo a medical procedure.

Israel faces Bedouin population time bomb - January 18, 2017, 7:49 PM (IDT)

First Sgt. Erez Levy, 34, an officer in the operations branch of the Israel Police, was crushed to death Wednesday morning, Jan. 18, in a car-ramming attack at the Bedouin village of Umm-al-Hiran in the southern Negev region. Levy’s murderer, a 47-year-old villager, a member of the southern branch of Israel’s radical Islamic Movement, was shot and killed. 

First operational 'Arrow 3' interceptor missiles delivered to IAF - January 18, 2017, 6:56 PM (IDT)

Officials from the Israeli Defense Ministry and the US Missile Defense Agency delivered the first operational "Arrow 3" interceptor missiles to the Israeli Air Force on Wednesday. The Arrow 3 is intended to shoot down ballistic missiles while they are still in space. It also raises the chances of a successful interception by other missiles if the first interceptor does not hit the target. An additional advantage of the exo-atmospheric Arrow 3 is the reduction of the risk of being hit by pieces of a missile, or of being exposed to biological, chemical or radioactive materials. According to foreign media reports, the missiles are to be placed at an air force base in the area of the city of Beit Shemesh.    

Israeli Arab leaders call general strike for Thursday to protest demolitions - January 18, 2017, 3:27 PM (IDT)

A committee of top leaders from Israel's Arab sector announced Wednesday that a one-day general strike will be held to protest the events earlier in the day in the Bedouin village of Umm-al-Hiran in the Negev. All services by the sector's municipal and educational institutions will be suspended on Thursday. No classes will be held, but students will be given two hours of lectures on the topic of the destruction of houses.

Over 50 killed in car bombing of military base in Mali - January 18, 2017, 1:09 PM (IDT)

In an incident near the city of Gao in northern Mali early Wednesday afternoon, a suicide bomber driving an explosives-packed vehicle infiltrated a military base and detonated the explosives, leaving more than 50 people dead. Radical Islamic militias that support ISIS have taken over part of the northern area of the West African country.  

Iran's Revolutionary Guard to set up cellular service in Syria - January 18, 2017, 11:30 AM (IDT)

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps is to establish and operate a new cellular network in areas of Syria under the control of President Bashar Assad. The move comes under a series of agreements signed Tuesday by Syrian Prime Minister Emad Khamis and Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri for Syria's economic rehabilitation after six years of civil war. The IRGC's technological units will set up and operate the network. DEBKAfile's intelligence and tech sources report that the network will help Iranian intelligence monitor and intercept any call, text message, web surfing or e-mail by the network's customers. Our intelligence sources add that the placement of poles for cellular antennas throughout the country will provide Iranian intelligence with more opportunities to monitor events inside and outside Syria, including on the country's borders with Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq.   

US & Russia to free Palmyra after Trump sworn in - January 15, 2017, 8:28 PM (IDT)

Some of the ambiguity and mystery surrounding the nature of President-elect Donald Trump’s relations with Russia’s Vladimir Putin may disperse after the new US president takes office Thursday, Jan. 20, because one of their first joint military actions is ready to go. debkafile reveals exclusively that a combined US, Russian, Syrian and Jordanian force is preparing for a major operation to liberate the Syrian heritage town of Palmyra from the Islamic State.  The coming DEBKA Weekly out next Friday, Jan. 21, has more exclusive details about the future of US-Russian military collaboration after Jan. 20. If you are not yet a DEBKA Weekly subscriber, click here. 

Updated: 1/19/2017 7:40:49 AM EST -5:00