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Fatah and Hamas spokesmen on Saturday strongly denied reports that the Palestinian Authority security forces had arrested a number of Iranian military experts during a raid on the Islamic University in Gaza City.
Some of the reports claimed that at least six Iranians, including a high-ranking general, were arrested inside the university premises. According to the reports, one of the Iranians committed suicide during the raid to avoid being captured.
"These reports are untrue," said Azzam al-Ahmed, a senior Fatah legislator closely associated with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
Asked to comment on the reports, a top official in Abbas's office told The Jerusalem Post: "I don't know anything about this case. I only read about it in the Israeli media."
A top Hamas official in Gaza City challenged the PA to show pictures of the Iranians. "The next thing they will say is that they discovered a secret Iranian nuclear plant inside the university," he said sarcastically.
Kamalin Shaath, president of the Islamic University, described the reports as rumors. "I don't know where these reports came from," he said. "I don't know of any Iranian who was inside the university."
Hamas's armed wing, Izaddin Kassam, condemned the reports as "nonsense and ridiculous." In a statement, the group said: "If the murderers and terrorists say that they discovered Iranian experts and weapons inside the university, what's preventing them from displaying them in public? When the so-called Presidential Guard stormed the university, it was empty except for six or seven civilian guards."
Palestinian academic Abdel Sattar Qassem said he did not believe the reports about the Iranians in the Gaza Strip. "Iran is not interested in a civil war among the Palestinians," he said. "Attempts to involve Iran in the conflict are aimed at serving American interests and distracting attention from the real problems. America's Palestinian allies are participating in the media campaign against Iran."
The IDF said it could not confirm the specific reports. However, officials said it is not surprising, because Iran's support of Palestinian terror groups, particularly Hamas, was well known.
Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.