Up to a couple thousand Palestinians from the Gaza Strip are believed to have traveled overseas for military training in recent years, senior defense officials warned on Monday as the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) revealed that it recently captured a former Fatah operative who had undergone advanced weapons training in Iran.
Ala Abu Madif from the Abu Rish faction - which broke off from Fatah early last decade - was apprehended on April 15 in a joint IDF-Shin Bet operation near Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip. An indictment was filed against him Monday in the Beersheba District Court.
During his interrogation, Abu Madif revealed his travel route and how, in May 2007, he crossed into Egypt via the Rafah Crossing, and then drove to Cairo International Airport, where he boarded a flight for Damascus. He was then, together with a small group of terrorists, transferred to a mountainous, isolated training camp in Iran.
During his training, Abu Madif underwent physical combat training as well as instruction in navigation, use of light weapons and bomb assembly.
Members of the group were also indoctrinated against the US and Israel and were taught how to evade capture, lose tails and fire anti-tank missiles and grenade launchers.
The Shin Bet said the Abu Rish faction was in close contact with terror elements in Lebanon and was involved in recent attacks against Israel from within the Gaza Strip. The group's operatives were mostly involved in Kassam fire and the planting of roadside bombs against IDF patrols along the Gaza security fence.
The training lasted a month and Abu Madif returned to Gaza shortly after Hamas took it over in June 2007.
In September, he became involved in daily rocket attacks against Israel and on two occasions expressed his desire to serve as a suicide bomber targeting IDF troops operating near the Kissufim Crossing.
The Shin Bet said that Abu Madif's interrogation was proof of Iran's direct support of terrorist activity against Israel. Syria, the agency said, was also involved by facilitating the transfer of the terrorists from Damascus to the training camp in Iran.
Defense officials said that since Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, up to a couple thousand of Palestinian terrorists are believed to have traveled overseas - to Iran, Syria and Lebanon - for military and weapons training. In August, former IDF deputy chief of staff Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky told the New York Times that Israel had a list of the names of 100 Palestinians out of the hundreds that had traveled to Iran for training.