JERUSALEM – Security forces associated with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party today captured seven Iranian military trainers – including a general of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards – at a purported Hamas training facility in the Gaza Strip, Fatah security officials told WND.
The Fatah officials said a raid of the Hamas dominated Islamic University in Gaza yielded the Iranian agents, 1,000 Qassam rockets and equipment to manufacture the Qassams. According to the Fatah officials, one of the Iranian agents attempted suicide prior to his capture.
The officials said initial interrogation of the Iranian agents revealed one is a Revolutionary Guard general.
The grounds of Islamic University are routinely used by Hamas for military training, Palestinian and Israeli sources said.
Gun battles between Fatah and Hamas erupted today after Hamas ambushed a Fatah convoy it said was carrying American weapons. The two factions have engaged in nearly two months of deadly clashes after Abbas called for new Palestinian elections in a move widely seen as an attempt to dismantle the Hamas-led PA.
If confirmed, Fatah’s claim of capturing Iranian military agents in Gaza would mark the first time that Iranians were caught operating in the Gaza Strip since Israel’s withdrawal from the territory in August, 2005.
Earlier this month, WND quoted Fatah and Israeli intelligence officials stating Hamas members have been flying to Iran for advanced military training with Iranian Revolutionary guard units and Hezbollah militants.
The Israeli officials said they fear the training will greatly improve Hamas’ military capability in any future battle with Israeli troops in Gaza. They said Hamas was seeking to learn from Hezbollah military tactics used against Israel during this summer’s war in Lebanon.
Abu Obayda, a spokesman for Hamas militants, declined to confirm whether his group was training in Iran.
“But I confirm that we have the right to train inside or outside the country,” he said.
The reports followed a visit to Iran in December month by Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister of the Hamas-led Palestinian government. Iran reportedly provided Haniyeh’s cash-strapped government with $120 million and pledged several millions more.
Terror leaders: We are copying Hezbollah
Speaking to WND, senior terror leaders in Gaza, including militants from Palestinian Authority President Abbas’ Fatah party, admitted they are working to copy Hezbollah warfare tactics.
“We are turning Gaza into south Lebanon,” Abu Ahmed, northern Gaza leader for the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror group told WND.
“We learned from Hezbollah’s victory that Israel can be defeated if we know how to hit them and if we are well prepared,” Abu Ahmed said. “We are importing rockets and the knowledge to launch them and we are also making many plans for battle.”
Abu Abdullah, a leader of Hamas’ so-called “military wing,” told WND his group is preparing for war against Israel.
“In the last 15 months, even though the fighters of Hamas kept the cease-fire, we did not stop making important advancements and professional training on the military level. In the future, after Hamas is obliged to stop the cease-fire, the world shall see our new military capabilities,” said Abu Abdullah, who is considered one of the most important operational members of Hamas’ Izzedine al-Qassam Martyrs Brigades, Hamas’ declared “resistance” department.
Al Aqsa’s Abu Ahmed said his group is receiving help from Hezbollah to import long-range rockets and train in guerrilla warfare tactics.
“We have warm relations with Hezbollah, which helps with some of the training programs,” Abu Ahmed said. “We don’t have anything to be ashamed of – that we are dealing with Hezbollah and that we are receiving training and information from them.”
He said Hezbollah maintains cells in the Sinai.
“The Sinai is an excellent ground for training, the exchange of information and weapons and for meetings on how to turn every piece of land into usable territory for a confrontation with Israel,” Abu Ahmed said.
Palestinians establishing Gaza war bunkers
Abu Ahmed said Palestinian groups are developing war bunkers inside Gaza similar to the underground Hezbollah lairs Israel found during the war in Lebanon.
“Our preparations include the building of special bunkers. Of course, we are taking into consideration that Gaza is not the same topography as Lebanon,” Abu Ahmed said.
During its confrontation with Hezbollah, Israel destroyed scores of complex bunkers that snaked along the Lebanese side of the Israel-Lebanon border. Military officials said they were surprised by the scale of the Hezbollah bunkers, in which Israeli troops reportedly found war rooms stocked with advanced eavesdropping and surveillance equipment they noted were made by Iran.
Abu Ahmed said the most important “tool” in the Palestinian resistance arsenal was rockets. He said his group learned from Hezbollah that Israel can be defeated with missiles.
“We saw that with the capacity to bombard the Israeli population with hundreds of rockets every day we can change the strategic balance with Israel,” he said.
Since Israel’s Gaza withdrawal, Palestinian terror groups have been regularly firing rockets at nearby Jewish communities, even after a cease-fire went into effect last month. The terrorists generally have fired three versions of Qassam rockets, improvised steel projectiles filled with explosives and fuel. Qassams can travel between one and five miles depending on the sophistication of the particular rocket.
Israel has noted improvements in Qassams, including rockets carrying double engines.
Israeli security officials say a large number of Katyusha rockets have been brought into Gaza. Katyushas can travel about 12 miles and can deliver large payloads. Hezbollah fired more than 2,800 Katyusha rockets into Israel in July and August.
In August, Islamic Jihad fired a Katyusha rocket into the Israeli Negev. It landed in an empty area. In June, the group fired a Katyusha-like rocket that traveled about nine miles.
“The Katyusha we fired (in August) shows we can have every weapon we need,” said Abu Ahmed. “It is only a matter of a small period before Gaza is ready for war.”
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