JERUSALEM – The Palestinians have a new, improved rocket to fire at Israel named after the Iranian Shahab missile and dedicated to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “because of his courageous position toward the enemy,” a leader of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror group told WorldNetDaily.
“I can say it is true that the inspiration concerning the name [of our new Shahab rocket] was taken from the Iranian rocket that is so terrifying to the enemy. On this occasion I can say that we have the honor to dedicate these new and more sophisticated rockets to the Iranian president because of his courageous position toward the enemy,” said Abu Ahmed, a Gaza-based leader of the Brigades involved in coordinating the group’s rocket network.
Ahmed told WND several “Palestinian Shahab rockets” have already been fired into Israel, including rockets fired this week toward Nahal Oz, an Israeli Negev community near Gaza.
He warned in the coming days the Al Aqsa Brigades will fire 200 of the new rockets at Jewish communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip in retaliation for Israeli anti-terror operations in Gaza and the West Bank.
Officials at the Israeli Defense Forces, informed of Ahmed’s claims, told WND they were investigating whether any rockets fired from Gaza this week were different from the usual Qassam missiles aimed at Israeli Negev Jewish communities that border Gaza.
One senior IDF official suggested the group likely only changed the name of its already existing Qassam rockets.
Qassams are improvised steel rockets, about four feet in length, filled with explosives and fuel. They can travel between 1 and 4 miles depending on the sophistication of the particular rocket. Qassams lack a guidance system and are launched by terrorists who reportedly use the rocket’s trajectory and known travel distance to aim at a particular Jewish community.
Ahmed declined to describe the makeup of his group’s claimed new rockets.
“I can only tell you they are more improved in distance and in the rocket fuel, and we call them Shahab-1, Shahab-2 and Shahab-3. They will hit the enemy target much harder,” said Ahmed.
Iranian Shahabs are a series of missiles constructed in part with Russian and Chinese technology. The Shahab-6 reportedly has a range of up to 5,600 kilometers and is capable of reaching Europe from Iran. Iranian officials have claimed to possess Shahab missiles that can reach the eastern seaboard of the Unites States.
Asked if the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades received any Iranian assistance in building its Shahab rockets, Ahmed replied, “We will not give the Israelis any hint about our activities. Let them work hard and investigate about the significance of the name Shahab. I will just say we welcome any help from any anti-Zionist element.”
He said his group will launch what he called an “Ababil rocket campaign” and will soon fire 200 Shahab rockets into Israel. In the Quran, Ababil is the name of a stone Allah lobbed at infidels who approached to kill Muhammad.
Ahmed also told WND that Al Aqsa established a new rocket terror cell, the Hussein Abayat Unit, named after a member of his group previously assassinated by Israel.
Israeli security officials believe Abayat was the first Al Aqsa member to serve as a coordinating agent between the Al Aqsa Brigades and the Iran-backed Hezbollah militia.
Israel says Iran uses the Hezbollah as a conduit to channel funds to Palestinian terror groups, including Islamic Jihad, which took responsibility for every suicide bombing since several Palestinian groups agreed to a truce with Israel last year.
‘Iran embassy’ opens in West Bank
Israel is worried at what it says are increased signs of Iranian influence in the Palestinian territories.
This week, WND broke the story a West Bank Islamic Jihad operative opened what he referred to as an “Iranian ideological embassy” in the Palestinian territories to espouse Shia Muslim beliefs – including Islam’s waging of a final, apocalyptic battle against “evil” – and to help spread Iranian theocracy and rule throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
“We want the Palestinian people to be exposed to the Iranian heritage and Shia principles. [Our goal is] to reinforce the relations between the Islamic republic of Iran and the Palestinian people. We are part of the Iranian Islamic project in the Middle East,” Muhamad Gawanmeh, director of Iran’s new Shia Council in Palestine, said in an interview.
Gawanmeh opened the council’s headquarters in Ramallah, and said there are plans to expand Iranian offices to several other major Palestinian cities in the West Bank and Gaza with official sanctioning from Tehran.
Gawanmeh said Iran’s Shia Council will not be involved in “military operations,” but will promote Iranian theocracy to the local population and serve as a conduit for Tehran’s interests in the area.
He said the council seeks to espouse Shia Muslim ideology in the Sunni-dominated Palestinian territories, including the belief in the return of the Twelfth Imam to lead an apocalyptic world battle against “evil.”
Shia Muslims believe Muhammad’s family – the 12 Imams – were the best sources of knowledge about the Quran and Islam and were the most trusted carriers and protectors of Islamic tradition. They believe in a dynasty of Islamic authorities and promote a hereditary class of spiritual leaders they believe have divine powers.
Sunni Islam in part follows the teachings of Islamic caliphs who proclaimed leadership after Muhammad’s passing but were not blood relatives of the prophet. The caliphs interpreted important parts of Muhammad’s hadith – or tradition – that Shias reject.
Sunni Muslims make up about 85 percent of Muslims all over the world. The largest sect of the Shias, called The Twelvers, believe there were 12 imams after Muhammad and that the last one, Imam Mahdi, still lives, but he cannot be seen until Allah determines it is time to prepare the faithful for Judgment Day.
The Twelvers count Iranian President Ahmadinejad among their faithful. They believe Imam Mahdi will return to lead the forces of righteousness against the forces of evil in a final, apocalyptic world battle.
Some Mideast analysts fear Ahmadinejad may be pursuing nuclear weapons in part to precipitate the final, Mahdi-led battle. In a speech in Tehran in November, Ahmadinejad reportedly said his main mission is to “pave the path for the glorious reappearance of Imam Mahdi, may Allah hasten his reappearance.” His Cabinet has reportedly given $17 million to the Jamkaran mosque, site of a well at which Shia Muslims believe Mahdi disappeared over a thousand years ago.
Israel and the United States have been working with the international community to isolate Iran, accusing it of attempting to develop an illicit nuclear weapons program.
The council’s Gawanmeh went on to credit Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal’s recent visit to Tehran with strengthening official Palestinian ties to the Iranian leadership and emboldening Iran to sanction the opening of its new Palestinian office.
Iran last week pledged financial support to Hamas to replace an expected halt of European and U.S. aid to the new Palestinian government.
Media reports said Iran would give as much as $250 million to the PA, but Hamas officials said no actual amount had been discussed.
Hamas chief Meshaal, in Tehran two weeks ago for a round of talks with Iranian officials, said Iran would have a more significant role with the PA now that his group has formed the new Palestinian government.