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North Korea and Iran – Partners in Nuclear and Missile Programs

By DEBKAfile

There is full awareness in Washington and Jerusalem that the North Korean nuclear test conducted Tuesday brings Iran that much closer to conducting a test of its own. A completed bomb or warhead are not necessary for an underground nuclear test; a device which an aircraft or missile can carry is enough.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's boast this week that Iran will soon place a satellite in orbit at an altitude of 36,000 kilometers - and Tehran's claim on February 4 to have sent a monkey into space – highlight Iran's role in the division of labor Pyongyang and Tehran have achieved in years of collaboration: the former focusing on a nuclear armament and the latter on long-range missile technology to deliver it.

Their advances are pooled. Pyongyang maintains a permanent mission of nuclear and missile scientists in Tehran, whereas Iranian experts are in regular attendance at North Korea's nuclear and missile tests.

Since the detonation of the "miniature atomic bomb" reported by Pyongyang Tuesday - which President Barack Obama called "a threat to US National security"- Iran must be presumed to have acquired the same "miniature atomic bomb" capabilities - or even assisted in the detonation.

Word of the North Korean atomic test reminded US officials of Ahmadinejad's boast only a couple of days ago about the forthcoming launch of an Iranian satellite into orbit. The two events clearly hang together as probably coordinated between Tehran and Pyongyang.

The nuclear threat is not the only unconventional warfare peril looming closer. In Damascus, Syrian rebels are nearer than ever before to crashing through the capital's last lines of defense. Tuesday, they were only 1.5 kilometers short of the heart of Damascus.

Western and Israeli military sources believe that if the Syrian rebels reach this target, the Syrian ruler Bashar Assad will have no qualms about using chemical weapons for the first time in the two-year civil war to save his regime. Both the US and Israel have warned him that doing so would cross a red line.

DEBKAfile's military sources report that Syrian rebel forces, spearheaded by an Al Qaeda-allied Islamist brigade, gained entry Tuesday to the 4th Division's (Republican Guard) main base in the Adra district of eastern Damascus and are fighting the defenders in hand to hand combat for control of the facility.

Other rebel forces are retaking parts of the Damascus ring road in fierce battles, thereby cutting off the Syrian army's Homs units in the north from their supply lines from the capital. These two rebel thrusts, if completed, would bring the Syrian army closer than ever before to collapse. Assad is therefore expected to use every means at his disposal to cut his enemies down.


Terror Alert Declared in Jerusalem

By The Times of Israel and YnetNews.com

Security forces maintained a state of increased readiness from Tuesday evening late into the night in Jerusalem in response to intelligence received by the Shin Bet security service indicating the possibility of a terror attack in the city.

Magen David Adom ambulance service declared a "Level C" alert, the second-highest level of readiness. Later they raised the alert to the highest level. Local firefighters were also on standby.

A police helicopter was patrolling the skies above the capital, and other units were deployed. There were also roadblocks at entrances to the city, and vehicles leaving nearby Arab villages were being checked.

The fear was of a terror attack, possibly by a suicide bomber, but the alert was "general, rather than specific," security sources said. Israeli officials have warned of an upsurge in attacks on Israelis from the West Bank of late. An annual survey released late last month said there had been an increase in the number of terror attacks carried out against Israelis in 2012 compared to 2011, but it was accompanied by a decrease in the number of fatalities.

According to the annual Shin Bet report, the number of terror attacks in the West Bank rose from 320 in 2011 to 578 in 2012, while 282 attacks were carried out in Jerusalem, compared to 191 in 2011.

According to the report, the increase was due in part to a 68% rise in what the Shin Bet refers to as "popular" terror attacks — mainly attacks involving Molotov cocktails. However, the number of attacks involving firearms and explosives also grew by 42% — 37 compared to 26 in 2011.

Ten Israelis were killed as a result of terror attacks in 2012, compared to 22 killed in 2011. Six of the victims were civilians and four were members of the security forces.

In a related story, border guard officers stationed in the center of a popular Jerusalem neighborhood to stop attacks against minorities, were recorded calling out racist epithets against the prophet Muhammad. The story was publicized for the first time on Monday in "Mynet Jerusalem" by reporter Moshe Heller.

HaHatulot Square is known as a place for Friday night leisure activities, and hundreds of young people pass through it each week. Just six months ago, the square was the location of an attack against a young Arab, who was viciously beaten to within an inch of his life by a group of Jewish youth.

Today, Border Guard officers are stationed in the square to guard against violence directed at minority youth by groups of young Jewish revelers. Except that a witness passing through the square over the weekend noticed a group of soldiers who were doing the exact opposite of their jobs.

"A little after 1 am I passed by and saw a group of Border Guard officers laughing, dancing and singing," the witness said. "Even though they are supposed to secure the area, it seemed they were doing everything besides their jobs. To my amazement, I also heard them singing, `Muhammad is dead.' So I decided to record it in with my phone." After this, the witness approached one of the soldiers, "You are in uniform, why do you sing these things? It could start riots." The witness said. "You are not my boss," the soldier replied.

After the complaint was filed with the Border Guard, an investigation was launched, at the end of which, in an attempt to take a strong stand against racism, the soldiers were tried and each sentenced to 35 days in jail. Israeli group aims to send probe to moon in 2015


Israeli Space Cadets: Moon Shot is No Fantasy

By Israel Faxx News Services

The Space IL organization has set an ambitious goal for itself – to send an Israeli space probe to the moon in 2015.

The project received significant backing on Monday when the Bezeq telecommunications company announced it had signed on. Bezeq will provide the advanced communications infrastructure needed for the spaceflight and also support Space IL's educational activities. The vessel will weigh less than 140 kilograms (308 pounds), making it the smallest spacecraft ever to land on the moon.

Space IL hopes the project will demonstrate ground-breaking technological capabilities in the field of building miniature smart spacecraft, which cost about a tenth of typical spacecraft.

Bezeq will be responsible for the probe's transmissions from the moon to a control center in the city of Yehud, in central Israel. "This remarkable cooperation will enable us to meet the tremendous technological challenge and inspire the young generation," Space IL chairman Yanki Margalit said of Bezeq's support.

Space IL is a non-profit group set up by Israeli space enthusiasts to take part in the international Google Lunar X PRIZE competition. According to the Google Lunar X PRIZE website, a $30 million prize will be given to the first privately funded team that lands a robot on the moon, has the robot travel 500 meters on the lunar surface and sends back video, images and other data to Earth.

"We are motivated by a mission: to reinvigorate the Israeli start-up nation by undertaking a challenging task that will ignite the imagination of the country's young generation," Space IL's website says. "Driven by a national mission to advance Israel's scientific and technological fields, Space IL is determined to push ingenuity further than ever before."


Suha Arafat: I Wish I'd Never Married Him

By The Times of Israel

Nine years after the death of Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat, his widow said she regrets the marriage and given the choice again, would not have wed him. "The marriage to Arafat was a big mistake and I regret it," said Suha Arafat in an interview published last week in the Turkish-language Sabah newspaper. "We were married for 22 years and it felt like 50."

Arafat added that she had repeatedly tried to leave her husband but was denied her freedom. "I tried to divorce Arafat more than 100 times and he didn't let me," she said. "Everyone knows about this story, especially those who were in his inner circle."

According to the report, the two first met in 1986 when she was a student in Paris and engaged to a local lawyer. At the time, Suha recalled, the Palestinian leader, 33 years her senior, was a much sought after man. "There were many women who wanted to marry him but he only wanted me, despite the objections of my family," she said.

Suha said that although her relatives, a well-established Ramallah family, were opposed to the union, the pair married in secret on her birthday four years later. Her mother was furious at the development and flew to Tunis where she angrily berated Arafat for entering into a marriage with her daughter, which she deemed inappropriate.

"Fate chose me and it wasn't easy right from the start," she said As soon as she became Mrs. Arafat she was locked away behind walls for security reasons, Suha said. "I had to be careful in my phone conversations because of bugging, and we were always moving from one location to another."

Suha recalled that after her husband initiated the first intifada in 1987 — it actually began as a spontaneous uprising — the world's media attention was focused on him, "and it is no secret that it [the media] is controlled by Jews" she noted.

As the wife of man who spent so much time in the international media spotlight, Suha said she felt like the weakest link in the chain. "My identity was completely destroyed," she said.

Since Arafat's death in a Paris hospital in 2004 — she has claimed that he was poisoned — Suha said she has had dozens of marriage proposals, but rejected all hopeful suitors with the same answer: "Arafat was my hero."

Suha lives on a stipend she gets from the Palestinian Authority, which she said is barely sufficient to support her and her daughter, and is a far distance from reports on millions of dollars that went to her through secret bank accounts. "All the stories about Arafat putting millions in my bank account are nonsense and lies," she said. The money is with those who were close to Arafat and anyone who is determined can find it."

She also denied a rumor that the apartment she now shares with her teenage daughter Zawa in Malta was purchased as a gift by the former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. The apartment, she said, is rented. "Even if I have regrets I accept the reality. Arafat was a great leader and I was very lonely in my marriage. I was always on the defensive because of the rumors that they spread about me. But life without him is even harder. If I could turn back time I wouldn't marry Arafat," she added.


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