DEBKAfile Special Report
August 15, 2009, 1:45 PM (GMT+02:00)
Japanese intelligence has learned that in late May, Iran, Syria and North Korea secretly test-launched in southern Syria a new short-range ballistic missile developed jointly by Pyongyang, Tehran and Damascus as a substitute for the outdated Scuds still in use in their armed forces, DEBKAfile's military sources report. In May, several new missiles were flown from North Korea and Iran to the Damascus military airfield and thence to Syria's southeastern missile-testing site at Jebel Druze near the small town of Salakhand.
After two weeks' preparation, two of the new projectiles had their first trial-launch - and failed with disastrous results.
DEBKAfile's sources report that they targeted an uninhabited desert area in the North, 500 kilometers away, just south of Ayn Diwar and east of Al Qamishli not far from the Syrian-Turkish-Iraqi border intersection.
(It was here that Syria and Iraq, with Russian help, interred Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction in 2001.)
However, one of the missiles strayed 350-400 km west of its projected course, indicating a problem with its guidance system. It exploded in the center of the small town of Manbij north of Aleppo near the Turkish border, killing at least 20 people, injuring 60 and badly damaging the market town.
The second missile exploded in mid-course in the South, over the north of the town of Abu Kamal and 200 kilometers from its launching site. Syrian military authorities closed the area around the stricken town of Manbij for more than a month, attributing the disaster to a gas explosion.
Japanese intelligence sources, who are anxiously tracking the growing missile collaboration between North Korea, Iran and Syria, do not name the failed new missile, but DEBKAfile's military sources suggest it was a short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) propelled by solid fuel with a range of 800-1,000 kilometers and fitted with a warhead containing between 800 kilos and one ton of explosives. This would be an improvement on most of the three nations' short-range missiles which are powered with liquid fuel.
Also from DEBKA, hat tip David:
Armed clashes between Hamas and al Qaeda in Rafah leave 23 dead, 120 injured
DEBKAfile Special Report
August 15, 2009, 11:39 AM (GMT+02:00)
Abdullah al Latif Mussa - would-be al Qaeda Emir of Gaza
Six Hamas combatants including a senior commander and two al Qaeda cell leaders were among the 23 killed in gun battles between Hamas forces and hundreds of members of the al Qaeda offshoot Jund Ansar Allah in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah Friday Aug. 14. Another 120 were injured. DEBKAfile's military sources report that Hamas special units fired mortars and heavy machine guns into the Ibn Thaymas mosque after the Jund leader, Abdullah al Latif Mussa proclaimed the Gaza Strip an al Qaeda emirate. He urged all its inhabitants to defy Hamas rule and take an oath of allegiance to al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. After storming the mosque, Hamas forces blew up the Jund leader's four-storey home with all its occupants. Mussa and a second al Qaeda cell leader known as "the Syrian" were reported killed.
Our counter-terror sources report that in recent months terrorist groups identified with al Qaeda are spreading out through the southern Gaza Strip, drawing recruits with plentiful cash, weapons and explosives. They accuse Hamas of failing to fully establish Islamic law in the enclave.
Jund Ansar Allah was held responsible for the failed attack on horseback on a border crossing between Gaza and Israel.
Assad slams the door on Obama and on talks with Israel, DEBKA