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Hizbullah's Nasrallah's Secret Trip to Tehran

By DEBKAfile

All day Monday, Washington leaned heavily on Israel's government and military leaders to hold back from a military strike to punish the Lebanese hands behind the shooting dead of Navy Master Sgt. Shlomi Cohen Sunday. The Obama administration was anxious to avert a major flare-up that might jeopardize its plans for dealing with the Syrian war in cooperation with Tehran.

However, early Tuesday, an audacious bomb-car attack close to a main Hizbullah base in the Beqaa Valley of eastern Lebanon demonstrated that the Syrian-Lebanese arena was out of US control. Hizbullah will now be trying to figure out how to even the score against the Middle East intelligence agencies conducting a relentless covert war on Hizbullah facilities and leaders as well as Iranian targets, which seemingly know every last detail of their whereabouts and movements.

They suspect the Saudis of spearheading this war, but Tuesday, a Hizbullah lawmaker accused Israel of orchestrating a wave of attacks in Lebanon, including the Baalbek bomb blast, with the aid of "local sleeper cells. " The group reported two injured from the blast, but witnesses attested to several casualties including fatalities and vehicles catching fire.

Tehran's Lebanese surrogate is forced to accept that it is not safe from its omniscient enemies in any of its strongholds, whether in Beirut or the Beqaa Valley. Its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, was concerned enough last week to pay a secret trip to Tehran, revealed here exclusively for the first time by DEBKAfile's Iranian and military sources.

He discussed with his Iranian masters the urgent need to avenge the wave of attacks besetting them in Lebanon. The Iranians are still fuming over the twin suicide attack on their Beirut embassy on November 18, which left 23 dead, including their cultural attaché and security guards, and 146 injured. Two weeks later, a three-man assassination squad shot dead at close range in Beirut a top Hizbullah operative Hassan al-Laqqis, who was in the middle of preparing a revenge hit for the embassy bombing.

This attack put Tehran and its Lebanese arm on the spot, because it meant that whoever was gunning for them was determined to keep going. In this inflammatory atmosphere, Israel and Hizbullah both decided to mass military strength on the Lebanese border immediately after the shooting in cold blood of Sgt. Cohen.

The IDF kept the extra units in place Monday to wait for intelligence input confirming or refuting Hizbullah's culpability for the murder of its soldier, possibly in revenge for suspected Israeli and Saudi attacks in Beirut; Hizbullah kept its reinforced units on the border, taking it for granted that the IDF was bound to retaliate for its loss.

In Beirut, US ambassador David Hale went into action, first by persuading the government to say the Lebanese gunman who fired the shots was missing. This gambit bought President Michele Suleiman and Prime Minister Najib Mikati time to come up with the story that the soldier had acted on his own initiative, had subsequently been caught and would be put on trial. DEBKAfile reports that Israel decided to accept Beirut's account of this episode, in response to US pressure - knowing, however, that it had not yet got to the bottom of what really happened. Further episodes are most probably still to come in the light of the secret discussions Nasrallah held in Tehran.

Israel prepares for short, intense war to deliver `knock-out blow' to Hizbullah


Israel's military has been preparing for a brief and decisive war against Hizbullah, a report said. The Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies asserted that Israel's military has invested heavily in new capabilities to ensure a brief war against Hizbullah in Lebanon. A report said Israel is prepared for a large-scale ground operation against Hizbullah in southern Lebanon.

In a report, Israeli analyst Yaakov Lappin said Israel was preparing for air and ground operations that would destroy Hizbullah's strategic capabilities. "The Israel Defense Forces has prepared for a combined air and large-scale ground operation, driven by new intelligence and precision-firepower capabilities, to deliver a knock-out blow and eliminate Hizbullah as a fighting force for years to come," the report, titled "Israel vs. the Iran-Hizbullah Axis," said.

The report, released before the latest attacks from Lebanon, said both Israel and Hizbullah were engaged in a long-term military buildup. Lappin, a defense reporter for the Jerusalem Post, said the buildup was meant to prepare for an imminent war that could include massive Hizbullah missile and rocket strikes on the Jewish state.

Hizbullah, aided by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was said to have accumulated an arsenal of more than 80,000 missiles and rockets. Lappin said the arsenal as well as Hizbullah capabilities were growing despite its intervention in the civil war in Syria. Israel and Hizbullah fought an inconclusive 34-day war in 2006.

"With one out of every 10 homes in Lebanon used as a rocket launcher or weapons storage depot, Hizbullah and Iran have hidden the core of their firepower in the midst of the Lebanese civilian population, endangering its safety in a future war," the report said.

At the same time, Israel was preparing for what the report termed unprecedented air power capabilities to counter Hizbullah. Lappin said the Israeli military intended a rapid invasion of Lebanon based on augmented intelligence as well as a combat air fleet that could destroy hundreds of Hizbullah targets per day.

"The IDF's new capabilities also lean on a network-centered technological revolution that allows the three branches of the IDF — Air Force, ground forces, and Navy — to coordinate their strikes, and stay linked in to Military Intelligence in real time," the report, released in November, said. "The new technology also allows both the General Staff and the commanding levels in the field — at the division, brigade, and battalion command levels — to enjoy enhanced command and control abilities."

Still, Israel's plans could be hampered by infighting and budget constraints. The report cited the suspension of production of the Namer armored personnel carrier, designed to withstand Hizbullah mines and anti-tank missiles. "The ground forces, stung badly by its poor performance during the 2006 Second Lebanon War, has been preparing for new conflict with Hizbullah by drilling a blitz invasion of southern Lebanon and the destruction of Hizbullah infrastructure, using a massive combination of tanks, infantry, artillery, and engineering corps," the report said.

Italian Leader Justifies Hitler With Jewish Conspiracy

By Reuters

Last Friday the Anti-Defamation League issued a condemnation of remarks made by a spokesman for the Italian populist "Pitchfork Movement," remarks which the organization says show a "deep-seated anti-Semitic hatred." Andrea Zunino, the protest leader of the Pitchfork Movement which is leading current anti-government protests in Italy, gave an interview to the Italian La Repubblica.

In his interview, Zunino espoused classic tropes of Jewish global domination. He remarked "we want the government to resign. We want the sovereignty of Italy, which is the slave of bankers like the Rothschilds. It's curious that five or six of the richest people in the world are Jewish."

Zunino also justified Nazi leader Adolf Hitler's genocidal Jew hatred, saying that Hitler, "who probably was crazy, used anti-Semitism to avenge the about-face of his initial American financial backers." In the World War II period, Germany and Italy were partners in the Axis alliance.

In response to the comments, ADL National Director Abraham Foxman issued a statement which reads, "these appalling comments display a deep-seated anti-Semitic hatred which never belongs in politics or anywhere in Italian society. Whatever grievances the Italian protest movement may have, anti-Semitism is simply unacceptable." Foxman called on "responsible protest leaders" to "denounce Zunino's comments to make clear that bigotry is not condoned in their movement."

Zunino's comments show a noted similarity to the positions espoused by Beppe Grillo, the comedian turned politician, who in February became the leader of Italy's largest party, the "Five Star Movement." Grillo has claimed a "Jewish conspiracy" controls the world media, controlling global opinion and lying about the situation in the Middle East.

In 2012 an ADL poll of anti-Semitism found that 43% of Italians, when asked if Jews have too much power in international financial markets, said the statement was "probably true." Likewise, 35% of Italians said at least 3 out of the 4 anti-Semitic stereotypes questioned were "probably true."

The results have been followed by more recent polls in November indicating more wide scale anti-Semitic views on the rise throughout Europe. This is not the first time the ADL has blown the whistle on Italian anti-Semitism. In 2012, ADL decried the Italian court ruling to impose a 25,000 euro ($34,428) fine on an Italian journalist who criticized an anti-Semitic cartoon.

Father in Yemen Asks for Million Facebook Likes' as Dowry


Instead of the usual goods asked as dowry, such as camels and money, one Yemeni father asked his future son-in-law one million Facebook 'likes' for the privilege of marrying his daughter.

According to Arab media reports, Salem Ayash, a well-known Facebook user from Western Yemen, explained to a young suitor that he would grant his wish of marrying his daughter if the suitor managed to raise an extensive number of likes for his Facebook page dedicated to fighting rising dowry prices in Yemen.

In an interview with Arabic CNN, the father explained that there is a social motive to his strange request, and that he means well: "My reason for such a request is soaring dowry prices. I also wanted to encourage young people to surf informative social media sites instead of wasting their time." The father stressed that he is not giving the intended groom a time limit: "He can take a month, a year, or even two years to collect the requested number of likes." However, he admitted that he would be willing to show compassion if the task proved to be too difficult.

The father's Facebook page was flooded with responses. One wrote that he is thankful for Ayash's worthy efforts of raising awareness on dowry payments. As of Tuesday evening, the number of 'likes' at the Facebook page was 25,744.

The issue of dowry payment is a popular subject of discussion in Yemen, in light of the rising prices fathers demand in exchange for their daughters' hands in marriage. Two months ago, dozens of young men from southwestern Yemen held a protest demanding to reduce the dowry prices. Yemen is a very poor country with a fairly high unemployment rate, and the young men simply cannot afford to pay the customary fee. The catalyst for the demonstration were 500,000 Yemeni Rial (about $ 2,500) that one father demanded for his daughter – an unaffordable fee for young suitors.

The men threatened to intensify their actions if families refuse to lower the dowry price, and argued that the reduction of the amount would help reduce the high number of bachelors in Yemeni society (30%) and encourage young people to marry.

From Alaska to Israel, Keeping Soldiers Warm

By Israel Hayom

When Channah Koppel began knitting hats for her son's paratrooper platoon six years ago, she didn't expect it to become a worldwide project leading to thousands of wool caps knitted for combat soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces.

This week, it was the turn of soldiers from the Etzion regional brigade, based next to Efrat, where Koppel lives, to receive their knit hats. "It's a present that warms the heart," said Koppel excitedly.

The project began when her son was stationed on icy Mount Hermon. "In Efrat, we have knitting groups, and one of the women suggested doing something special for the soldiers," Koppel recalled. She asked her son what they could do, and he suggested knitting warm caps for his unit. News of the hats spread, and soldiers began asking for warm wool hats for the winter. "We knit hats for every soldier who asks," Koppel said.

When Koppel and her friends realized that they would not be able to keep up with the demand ("hundreds of hats per week"), she published an announcement on the town of Efrat's website asking other knitters to join in. Women from all over Israel joined the initiative, and now women from all over the world are knitting hats for the IDF.

"Today I am in contact with women from around the world, including Canada, California, New Zealand, and even Alaska, who send me hats in the mail and I give them to the soldiers," Koppel said. She adds a label to each hat that reads, "Knitted for you with warmth and love."

The 300 wool hats given to the Etzion regional brigade are only a drop in the ocean of hats that Koppel passes on to the IDF. She has her own shelf at her local post office. "I receive about 100 hats each week," she said.

Also involved in the project are the security officer who put Koppel in touch with the Etzion regional brigade, Nadav Tzahur; her mother-in-law Gita, who sews on the labels; and Emma Sabina Shmidman, a new immigrant to Israel who organizes the project's Canadian knitters.

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