Hamas Confirms: Hundreds Training in Iran at IRGC Camps
London's Times reported that Hamas wages Iran’s proxy war on Israel by training hundreds of Hamas terrorists inside Iran at camps run by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. THis according to an unnamed Hamas source. We noted this in today's DailyBriefing, but its significance warrants more attention.
Israel has long insisted that Iran is behind this training. Last week Yuval Diskin, the head of the Israeli internal security service Shin Bet, said as much when he claimed that Hamas had “started to dispatch people to Iran, tens and a promise of hundreds”. He provided no evidence.
The Hamas commander, however, confirmed for the first time that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard has been training its men in Tehran for more than two years and is currently honing the skills of 150 fighters.
The details he gave suggested that, if anything, Shin Bet has underestimated the extent of Iran’s influence on Hamas’s increasingly sophisticated tactics and weaponry.
Speaking on the record but withholding his identity as a target of Israeli forces, the commander, who has a sparse moustache and oiled black hair, said Hamas had been sending fighters to Iran for training in both field tactics and weapons technology since Israeli troops pulled out of the Gaza strip of Palestinian territory in 2005. Others go to Syria for more basic training.
“We have sent seven ‘courses’ of our fighters to Iran,” he said. “During each course, the group receives training that he will use to increase our capacity to fight.”
The most promising members of each group stay longer for an advanced course and return as trainers themselves, he said.
So far, 150 members of Qassam have passed through training in Tehran, where they study for between 45 days and six months at a closed military base under the command of the elite Revolutionary Guard force.
Of the additional 150 who are in Tehran now, some will go into Hamas’s research unit if they are not deemed strong enough for fighting.
Conditions at the base are strict, the commander said. The Palestinians are allowed out only one day a week. Even then, they may leave the base only in a group and with Iranian security. They shop and “always come back with really good boots”.According to the commander, a further 650 Hamas fighters have trained in Syria under instructors who learnt their techniques in Iran. Sixty-two are in Syria now.
The Hamas source protected his identity in remaining anonymous. But it should not be discounted for this necessarily. We do not know who this source is or his position exactly, but as an analysis appearing in Ha'aretz shows, there is much we do not know about Hamas and how it operates - and under whom.
A failed attempt to get a clear picture from Hamas spokesmen Sunday was nothing unusual. Aides to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh tried to market the deal as done. Other members of Hamas, those who are not part of the government, denied this, and argued that for now there is no clear agreement with Egypt or Israel.
IDF sources say that the person who really makes the decisions in Hamas has for some time not been Haniyeh, nor even Khaled Meshal, the group's politburo chief in Damascus. They say that Ahmed Jabari, the head of the military wing of the group, rules. Jabari is the one who led the breach of the border wall at the Philadelphi route in Rafah late in January, in spite of reservations from Meshal. Jabari's stance is hard and uncompromising. It is unlikely he will be willing to make any ideological concessions.
While the tussle over what deal if any was made between Hamas and Israel focuses on whether or not the claims are true, the most valuable information is regarding whom within Hamas the brokers for such are - or are not.
And again, Iran is the common thread. Iran replaced its long-time IRGC commander months ago. Soon after, Khameini decided to strip Hassan Nasrallah of many responsibilities and turn Hizballah's military command over to a terrorist field commander. The same, it appears, has happened within Hamas - with Haniyeh and Meshaal sidelined in favor of a terrorist field commander instead of the public political figureheads.
This confluence should give you a sign of where things are headed in the region - and from where they are emanating.
Meanwhile, the word making rounds is that the West - with eager Iranian anticipation - is toying with the idea of establishing an international consortium to provide Iran nuclear fuel and co-manage its nuclear program and facilities. The Iranians, of course, are more than open to a whole new round of clock-ticking discussions.