The American Kafir


AP Interview: Israeli military believes experts from Iran, Hezbollah training Gaza militants

Filed under: Gaza, Hamas, Hizbullah, Iran, Israel — - @ 6:26 pm

Source Link: Canadian Press

By Josef Federman (CP)

JERUSALEM — The militant Islamic Hamas group that rules Gaza has recovered from a war against Israel two years ago and looks “much like an army,” thanks in part to direct assistance from Iranian and Hezbollah agents operating in the Gaza Strip, a senior Israeli military official has told The Associated Press.

The official said Hamas now has a “vast amount” of anti-tank and anti-aircraft rockets, a “very big arsenal” of rockets that can strike deep inside Israel and a sophisticated communications system. He did not give numbers to back up his claims.

He says Hamas could not develop this expertise without foreign help.

The official, a senior officer in Israel’s Southern Command, spoke to The Associated Press late Wednesday on condition of anonymity under military guidelines barring publication of his name.

Hamas, an anti-Israel group backed by Iran and Syria, took control of Gaza by force in June 2007. The following year, Israel invaded Gaza in response to almost daily Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israel.

The three-week offensive killed hundreds of Hamas militants in addition to hundreds of civilians. Thirteen Israelis also died in the fighting. While rocket fire has been reduced, Hamas has been steadily rebuilding since then.

The Israeli official said Hamas could not have acquired its new capabilities without foreign help.

He said Iran and its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, frequently send in experts to train Hamas forces, crossing through illicit tunnels on the Gaza-Egypt border that are also used to smuggle in weapons. Some foreign experts are even stationed in Gaza, he said.

“We have spotted them,” he said. “We know the people. We have names.”

He refused to share the names but noted Hamas’ newfound expertise in making roadside bombs planted along Gaza’s border with Israel and its recent use of a sophisticated Kornet anti-tank rocket. “Hamas didn’t have this knowledge” before the Israeli offensive, he said.

In the past, Israel’s minister of strategic affairs, Moshe Yaalon, has claimed Hezbollah infiltrated agents into Gaza. He did not provide evidence.

Hamas officials acknowledge that the group has rearmed since the war. They also say dozens of Palestinians have travelled to Iran, Yemen, Sudan and elsewhere for police training. It is believed this has included military training as well.

Hamas does not comment on specific weapons and has never acknowledged permitting foreigners to enter Gaza for training.

Abu Obeida, a spokesman for the group’s military wing, called Israel’s latest claims “incitement against Gaza and the resistance.”

On Thursday, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, charged that arms smuggling through the tunnels into Gaza has increased in the past two months in parallel with the political upheaval in the Arab world. He accused Gaza militants of “trying to take advantage of the uncertainties in the region to boost their capabilities to attack Israeli cities and Israeli citizens.”


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