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 IDF: Iran providing direct military training to Palestinian

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The Sameer
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Registration date : 2007-03-07

PostSubject: IDF: Iran providing direct military training to Palestinian   Thu Mar 08, 2007 6:37 pm

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/834418.html

Iran is helping Hamas upgrade its military capabilities by providing technology, funding, and direct military training to Palestinian militants throughout the Middle East, Israel Defense Forces GOC Southern Command Yoav Galant said Wednesday.

Galant said Hamas has taken advantage of Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip to build itself up. "Boosted by their newfound ability to travel abroad, Hamas militants have been going back and forth to hostile countries for training," he said.

"They are sending activists to Syria, Lebanon, to Iran," Galant, speaking in English, said at public briefing. "And the opposite [happens]. People from Iran come inspect the situation in the area, give them the proper training and coaching, exam them and see if they hit the target they gave them."




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Asked to elaborate, Galant would not say whether Iranian agents have visited Gaza.

"The Iranians don't have to come by themselves in order to see what is the situation," he said. "If there is a Palestinian who is connected to the Hezbollah and working for Iran and is moving to the Iranian side, learning methods, getting orders, and moving them to the Palestinian side, that is for me good enough to explain the situation."

Galant said the training and technology has enabled Hamas to grow from a ragtag militia into a well-organized group resembling an army - complete with battalions, companies, platoons and special forces for surveillance, snipers, and explosive experts.

Israel has repeatedly accused Iran - as well as its allies Syria and the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah - of supporting Palestinian militant groups. Hamas' Damascus-based political leader, Khaled Meshal, was in Tehran this week raising money for his group.

Earlier this week, the head of the Shin Bet security agency, Yuval Diskin, said that dozens of Hamas operatives are going to Iran for training.

Islam Shahwan, a spokesman for Hamas' Gaza militia, dismissed Galant's comments as Israeli propaganda. He said Iran has offered scholarships to train members of Palestinian security, including Hamas militiamen, but no one has attended the classes yet.

Galant also called the Gaza strip cease-fire a tactical move for Hamas to strengthen itself. "While observing the truce, Israel has a military plan ready," he said.

"We prefer to give a chance to the cease-fire at the present," he added. "But we have to prepare ourselves for a war situation in the future, he said. He did not elaborate.

"Hamas has managed to arm itself by smuggling goods through tunnels across the border with Egypt," Galant said.

He said Egypt would have to build a fence on its side of the border to halt the smugglers. "I think that sooner or later we will create some kind of an obstacle, physical obstacle on the border, something that wasn't necessary during the last years, but it is necessary now."

Security officials believe a Palestinian suicide bomber who killed three people in the southern town of Eilat earlier this year traveled from the Gaza Strip.

Palestinians: Israel's treatment of Rafah Crossing hurting Abbas
In a four-way meeting among representatives from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, the United States and Europe held Wednesday morning, Palestinian representatives said Israel's handling of the Rafah border crossing hurt the public image of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and his supporters.

The Palestinian team, headed by senior Abbas aide Saeb Erekat, protested Israel's policy not to allow continuous traffic through the crossing.

The Palestinians promised to take care of security concerns relating to the crossing, such as placing security cameras.

The U.S. representatives to the meeting included Security Coordinator Keith Dayton, the deputy U.S. consul and a representative for the U.S. ambassador to Israel. The European team was headed by Italian Brigadier General Pietro Pistolese, the European Union's chief monitor at Rafah.

Israel's representatives were Hagai Alon, the defense minister's political aide, and Colonel Nir Peres, who is in charge of civilian coordination and administration for the Israel Defense Forces in the Gaza Strip.
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