JERUSALEM – Iranian Revolutionary Guard units have stepped up their training of Hamas commanders inside the Gaza Strip, according to a senior Egyptian security official.
The official conceded a growing level of cooperation with the Guard in efforts to smuggle weapons into Gaza, while Egypt has reported an increase in Guard training of Hamas division commanders inside the Gaza Strip.
The information comes as Iran publicly solidifies its hold over its other allies along the Israeli border, most notably Syria and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia in Lebanon.
WND reported it was Lebanese-based Iranian Revolutionary Guard units and the Hezbollah militia that assumed security control for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit last week to Lebanon.
“The Lebanese Army was just the cover for Iranian Guards based in Lebanon and for Hezbollah, which both assumed full security control for Ahmadinejad,” said a top Lebanese politician, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“This shows how Iran can take over Lebanon’s security when needed,” he said.
The purported security coordination may be the latest sign of widening Iranian and Syrian influence over Lebanon, whose pro-democracy leadership recently had hoped to orient the country toward the West.
Another sign is Ahmadinejad’s visit itself, which was clearly aimed at consolidating Iranian control over Lebanon and proving U.S. influence in the region is on the decline.
Speaking at a press conference alongside Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, Ahmadinejad tried to fan tensions between Lebanon and Israel.
He stated: “We seek a unified, modern Lebanon, and we will stand with the people and government of Lebanon – and with all elements in the Lebanese nation – until they achieve all their goals. We completely support the Lebanese people’s fight against the Zionist enemy.”
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton countered, “We reject any efforts to destabilize or inflame tensions within Lebanon.”
The Associated Press reported thousands of Lebanese – mainly Hezbollah supporters – came out to greet Ahmadinejad, lining the highway from the airport into Beirut, waving Lebanese and Iranian flags while loudspeakers blasted anthems, and women in the crowd sold Hezbollah flags and balloons to onlookers.
Israel on war alert
Israel is on heightened alert for possible attacks by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah organization in Lebanon, according to a senior Israeli defense official speaking to WND.
The official said the Jewish state is concerned Hezbollah might try to spark a conflict to deflect attention from an international tribunal investigating the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, who died in a car-bomb explosion in 2005.
The probe is reportedly set to indict members of Hezbollah for the murder. The indictments may come as soon as the next few weeks, according to reports.
Hezbollah is deeply concerned about the political fallout within Lebanon if its members are accused of murdering Hariri, the defense official said.
As such, Hezbollah may try to carry out attacks against Israel similar to those that prompted the 2006 Lebanon War. During the conflict, Hezbollah fired constant rocket barrages into Israel, killing 43 Israelis and wounding more than 4,200.
Hezbollah and Syria have attempted to discredit the U.N. probe. Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has delivered television addresses claiming that Israel was behind Hariri’s killing and that spies working for Israel planted “false evidence” blaming Hezbollah.
Earlier this month, Syria issued arrest warrants for 33 people for allegedly misleading the U.N. investigation. The targets include figures close to Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri – Rafic Hariri’s son – including his media adviser, senior security officers and journalists working in Hariri-owned media outlets.