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US-Egyptian Sources: An Israeli Military Messenger in Cairo

By DEBKAfile and WND

US and Egyptian sources in Washington and Cairo report the arrival in Cairo of an Israeli military official by private plane. He went straight into the negotiations for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. Israel has not confirmed this report.

On Saturday, Israel rejected the efforts by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to broker a truce deal heavily weighted in favor of presenting Hamas as victor and rejecting Israeli terms.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman conferred urgently Sunday night on how to respond to President Barack Obama's insistent demand that they delay a major IDF ground operation in the Gaza Strip. DEBKAfile's sources disclose that when Obama spoke to Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi on Friday, - after receiving an update from Netanyahu - he gave him a 48-hour window for talking Hamas around to a ceasefire.

Not only has the Egyptian president failed in this task, his bid made matters worse: Hamas understood the US president was leaning hard on Israel to refrain from sending troops into the Gaza Strip and took advantage of the respite to redouble its missile barrage on a dozen Israeli locations in the last three days, including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Following his talks with Morsi and Netanyahu, Obama referred in Bangkok Sunday to "the next 24, 36, 48 hours as crucial; Israel responded to his request to send two senior envoys to Cairo – a high-ranking military officer and an intelligence official - take part in the ceasefire negotiations. However, Hamas turned down all the truce proposals on the table, leaving Israel with three options: to delay the ground action until Wednesday although it was poised to go forward Sunday night - even though the US president may be expected to stand by his objections then too; to go ahead and launch the ground stage of the military offensive over those objections; or to conduct a series of ground sorties inside the Gaza Strip to test the ground there without delay.

DEBKAfile reported earlier Sunday: "We are fully supportive of Israel's right to defend itself from missiles landing on people's homes and workplaces and potentially killing civilians," said President Barack Obama Sunday, Nov. 18 in Bangkok. "And we will continue to support Israel's right to defend itself."

Speaking at a joint conference with Thai Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, the US president said, "There is no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders." If that can be stopped "without a ramping up of military activity in Gaza, that's preferable, not just for the people of Gaza. It's preferable for the Israelis because if Israeli troops are in Gaza they are much more at risk of incurring fatalities or being wounded."

He went on to say after talking to would-mediators in Cairo, "if we're serious about wanting to resolve this situation and create a genuine peace process, it starts with no more missiles being fired into Israel's territory and that then gives us the space to try and deal with these long-standing conflicts that exist."

The US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro joined Defense Minister Ehud Barak on a visit to an Iron Dome battery Sunday shortly before he flies out to brief the White House on the Gaza crisis. Barak thanked Obama and all those Americans who past and present contributed to the financing and development of the Iron Dome missile interception system. This defensive weapon has intercepted a total of 300 incoming Palestinian missiles, nearly 90% of the rockets threatening Israeli towns, he said. Its performance "made it possible for us to prepare the next stages of Operation Pillar of Cloud which may be even tougher. There is no better symbol of the close US-Israeli military cooperation.

Israeli air and naval forces launched heavy assaults in Gaza before dawn Sunday after daylong bargaining Saturday among Washington, Jerusalem, Cairo and Gaza that failed to produce an Israel-Hamas truce accord. When Egyptian and Turkish middlemen suggested a ceasefire was close, Israel accused them of pushing Hamas's terms which were fashioned to present the Palestinian radicals as the victor in the contest. The trio leading the Israeli war, Netanyahu, Barak and Lieberman, countered by intensifying the IDF's Gaza offensive.

A Western source said it would take some days to determine if a ceasefire was feasible. Egyptian intelligence meanwhile smuggled Hamas Prime Minister Islmail Haniyeh out of Gaza and over to El Arish in northern Sinai in the convoy of visiting Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafiq Abdessalem when he departed Gaza Saturday.

Morsi decided that Haniyeh must be continuously available at the end of a phone to lead the Hamas side in the ceasefire negotiations. This was not possible so long as the Hamas prime minister remained in Gaza. All of Hamas leaders have gone to ground for fear of targeted assassination by Israel. They have switched off their phones and electronic communications to avoid giving away their locations to Israeli surveillance. Haniyeh was even afraid to communicate with Cairo through the Egyptian military mission in Gaza.

WND repots that Iran and Hizbullah are furiously trying to resupply Hamas in the Gaza Strip with long-range missiles to fire into Israel, according to Israeli defense sources. The information comes as Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of the Iranian parliament's national security and foreign policy committee, denied Israeli claims his country was supplying rockets to Gazan groups, according to a report posted on Iran's Al Alam's television website.

Last week, WND quoted informed Middle Eastern security officials stating advisers from Iran's Revolutionary Guard Units are in the Gaza Strip helping to oversee the firing of long range rockets by jihadist groups there. On Friday, the Islamic regime's media outlet Nimrooz reported that missiles fired that day by the Islamic Jihad toward Tel Aviv were Iranian Fajr 5 missiles.

IDF Goes All Out in PR Battle Against Hamas

By Israel Hayom

Since the beginning of Operation Pillar of Defense last Wednesday, the Israel Defense Forces has been actively working to present Israel's military actions to the world in a positive light.

The IDF Spokesperson's Unit has published a steady stream of videos in recent days, including some that highlight lies that the IDF says Hamas has propagated in the media since the fighting started. The unit has also embedded combat photographers with various units that may enter Gaza if a ground operation is launched. The unit's Interactive Media Department has been busy on social networking platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, to get the IDF's message out to the world.

One graphic published by the department showed missiles flying over London, New York, Paris and Sydney under the question "What would you do?" in bold red letters. The graphic was "Liked" and "Shared" by thousands of Facebook users around the world.

Jewish communities throughout the world have found various ways to show support for Israel in recent days, including solidarity rallies, Facebook and letter-writing campaigns and telephone conversations with Israelis living under the threat of rocket fire.

Pro-Palestinian groups have been waging their own propaganda battle as well since Wednesday. Hamas, through the Twitter account of its military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, falsely claimed that it had achieved a direct hit on Tel Aviv and on three IDF bases. In another instance, Hamas published photos of a crying father holding his wounded child, but it emerged that the picture had in fact been published in Syria a month ago. The IDF also exposed a staged image of a wounded Palestinian that had been distributed to media outlets. A video showed the same man walking around unharmed shortly after the staged image was taken. There are also reports that a wounded child held up to the cameras by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh at Gaza's Shifa Hospital was actually hurt by Hamas fire.

As expected, the number of cyber attacks on Israeli websites has increased since the fighting in Gaza started. Around 400 Israeli computer networks have been hacked, causing some of them to crash. Pro-Palestinian hackers also published the personal e-mails of Israeli soldiers and officers on the Al-Quds Brigades website. According to the hackers, the listed IDF personnel were likely to take part in future ground attacks in the Gaza Strip, and the post included their military ID numbers, telephone numbers and home addresses. Additionally, the Hamas' military wing claimed it had sent text messages to 5,000 Israeli soldiers, telling them, "We will turn Gaza into a cemetery for your soldiers."

Meanwhile, a jeep carrying two Reuters journalists near the Israel-Gaza border was hit by an anti-tank missile fired from Gaza on Friday. A local Israeli security officer who rescued the two photographers said the jeep had been completely destroyed. Neither of the journalists suffered injuries, except for light scratches. The two later told their friends that they were on a photo assignment when they felt a sudden explosion and the vehicle started burning.

On Sunday, the IDF targeted Hamas' "communications operations," as Israeli aircraft bombed two buildings in Gaza used by Hamas and foreign media outlets. The Israeli strikes damaged the top floor offices of the Hamas TV station, Al-Aqsa, and a Lebanese-based broadcaster, Al-Quds TV, seen as sympathetic to Hamas. A Gaza press association said six Palestinian journalists were wounded in the attacks. Foreign broadcasters, including German and Italian TV outlets, also had offices in the buildings.

The Israeli military said it was aiming at a communications antenna on the roof of one of the buildings. It had no immediate comment on the other strike. The Foreign Press Association in Israel demanded an explanation from the IDF as to why it was targeting international media facilities, which hold journalists who are protected by international legal conventions.

Gantz to Reservists: Look Backwards Once, then Look Forward


As the IDF continued to prepare for a possible ground operation in Gaza, Chief of Staff Benny Gantz met on Sunday with some of the reservists who have been called up for duty in recent days. On Friday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak authorized the IDF to expand the call-up of the reserves, and Cabinet ministers were asked to approve the recruitment of another 75,000 reservists.

During the meeting with the reservists, Gantz offered them some words of advice and encouragement. "Meeting you is a moving experience because it shows us the strength to continue the assignment," he said. "People came here from Ashkelon, from Be'er Sheva, from Ofakim – and to tell the truth, it doesn't matter where you're from because the range of the missiles covers the country from north to south. It makes no difference if you are from Sderot or Tel Aviv. We will operate with a level head but with determination, and we will do whatever needs to be done in accordance with the assessments we have.

"You need to continue to take things seriously, with a high morale and cohesion, this is vital," added Gantz. "Add to that professionalism. In the end, fighting in urban surroundings is challenging. It will not always be easy, but the ability exists. When you go in – take a moment to look backwards once to remember why you are doing it, look at Sderot, Ofakim and the communities you do not see – and from that moment stop looking backward and look only forward. I wish you and all of us success."

`Cyber Warfare... Israel Says it's Under Attack over Gaza.

By Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald

The Israeli government on Sunday admitted it had become the victim of a mass cyber-warfare campaign with millions of attempts to hack state websites since the start of its Gaza offensive last week. Speaking ahead of the weekly cabinet meeting, Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said the government was now waging war on "a second front - of cyber attacks against Israel."

Steinitz said in the past four days, Israel had "deflected 44 million cyber attacks on government websites. All the attacks were thwarted except for one, which targeted a specific website that was down for six or seven minutes." His remarks came a day after the online activist group Anonymous claimed to have downed dozens of websites of Israeli state agencies and a top bank in protest over the Jewish state's deadly air assault. It also comes as both Israel and the Palestinians try exploiting the social networks in a furious effort to win over public opinion amid the worst outbreak of Middle East violence in four years.

Steinitz did not say who was responsible, but said the government had successfully managed to deflect almost every attack, thereby avoiding serious disruption or other damage. On Saturday, Anonymous claimed to have downed or erased the databases of nearly 700 Israeli private and public websites, including that of the Bank of Jerusalem finance house. It also claimed to have briefly downed the foreign ministry website in protest over an alleged Israeli threat to cut the Gaza Strip's internet communications.

"For far too long, Anonymous has stood by with the rest of the world and watched in despair the barbaric, brutal and despicable treatment of the Palestinian people in the so called 'Occupied Territories' by the Israel Defense Force," Anonymous said in a statement. "But when the government of Israel publicly threatened to sever all internet and other telecommunications into and out of Gaza they crossed a line in the sand."

Steinitz made no direct reference to Anonymous and failed to specify if the government was dealing with a coordinated attack. He also refused to disclose which countries these efforts were being conducted from. But the minister stressed that the government had come up with back-up for "essential websites" should they be taken down. "This is an unprecedented attack, and our success has been greater than we anticipated," Steinitz said.

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