RAMALLAH – Iran is preparing for a possible confrontation with the United States and Israel over its nuclear program and has been training and funding Palestinian groups to carry out large-scale terror operations in the event of a U.S. or Israeli attack against Tehran, according to Palestinian security officials and terror leaders speaking to WND.
The officials and terror leaders said Iran has in recent days been funneling money to Palestinian terror groups in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to compensate for the loss of loyalty of other Palestinian terror groups receiving funds from competing sources.
The Palestinian security officials said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah organization, in coordination with Israel-based U.S. security coordinators, has stepped up payments to Fatah militias and cells of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror group on condition the militias and Brigades members cut contact with Iran and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia.
The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Fatah’s declared military wing, took responsibility together with the Islamic Jihad terror group for every suicide bombing in Israel the past two years. Israel says cells of the Brigades receive funding from and have coordinated attacks with Hezbollah.
A senior leader of the Brigades in the northern West Bank City of Nablus confirmed to WND his cell has recently received funds from Fatah to compete with financing from Iranian groups.
Palestinian security officials say Iran has been compensating for the loss of loyalty of some militias and Palestinian groups by stepping up financing for units of Islamic Jihad, Hamas’ so-called military wing, and the Gaza-based Popular Resistance Committees terror organization.
“Iran is making contingency plans for war,” said a security official.
Earlier this month, the Israeli Defense Forces warned Iran, Syria and the Lebanese Hezbollah militia are preparing for a U.S.-led war this summer.
“Their preparation is defensive ahead of war. … They fear a war initiated by the Americans because they understand that there might be an attack against Iran over the summer, but not by Israel,” IDF Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin told the Knesset.
Yadlin said Iran and Syria believe a war this summer will be initiated by the U.S. and that Israel will be involved. He said Israel has been monitoring Iranian fortification of Tehran’s military positions; Syrian military movements and indications of war preparation with the help of Iran; and the large-scale smuggling of Iranian-supplied weapons to Hezbollah.
Yadlin noted the war preparations are defensive. He said Israel doesn’t expect Iran or Syria to start a confrontation. The military intelligence chief, though, said he feared hostilities could break out even without a U.S.-led strike because of “the involvement of many players.”
WND previously reported Brigadier General Yossi Baidatz, head of the IDF’s intelligence research division, said the Syrian army has been placed on high alert for attacks. He said Syrian President Bashar Assad ordered increased production of long-range missiles and instructed the Syrian military to position anti-tank missiles closer to the Syrian border with Israel.
Security officials say state-run Syrian media have been broadcasting regular warlike messages unseen since the 1973 Yom Kippur War, in which Syria and Egypt launched invasions from the Golan and the Sinai desert.
“The tone [in Syria] is one of preparing the public for a war,” said a senior security official.
Tehran and Damascus, which both support Hezbollah, have signed several military pacts.
According to Israeli intelligence officials, Iran and Syria have been smuggling mass quantities of weaponry to Hezbollah in Lebanon. The officials say Hezbollah has regained most of its strength since the militia’s war last summer with the Jewish state and that the rate of weapons smuggling has nearly doubled the past few weeks.
“The Iranian weapons are coming in so furiously, there are even indications Syria is worried about Israeli deterrent action against Hezbollah,” a security official said.
WND reported last month Iran has been working with Palestinian groups in Gaza to help improve the range of Palestinian rockets, smuggle in mass quantities of weapons, construct underground bunkers and build guerrilla-like armies.
Israel says Hamas is sending hundreds of Gaza-based militants to Iran for prolonged periods of advanced training and that the smuggling of weaponry into Gaza from the neighboring Egyptian Sinai desert recently increased six-fold. Israeli officials say Palestinian terror groups were taking advantage of a cease-fire signed in November to enhance rockets and create a complex system of underground war bunkers.
Alongside the reports of Arab war preparations, Israel has also been taking some defensive measures. Last month the Jewish state engaged in a nationwide wartime drill, acting out responses to various wartime scenarios, including salvos of chemical-tipped missiles and major terrorist attacks. It was the largest war drill held in Israel since its establishment in 1948. Israeli government spokesmen said the drills were to test lessons learned during last summer’s war against the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon.
Israeli security sources also confirmed to WND stepped-up training schedules for IDF reservist troops. They say the training is not related to any expected confrontations, but is in response to internal military investigations that found reservists were not properly trained for the Lebanon war.
Are you a representative of the media who would like to interview the author of this story? Let us know.