Thousands of Arab men have flocked into the Gaza Strip from Egypt in the past two weeks, offering to join in the fight against Israel, sources close to Hamas said Wednesday.
The men, who came from Egypt and several other Arab countries, entered the Gaza Strip after the border with Egypt was torn down, the sources said, adding that they had offered to join Hamas and other armed groups.
Egyptian sources said the men toured a number of training bases and security installations belonging to Hamas and other groups and expressed their desire to remain in the Gaza Strip and launch attacks against Israel.
The sources said some of the men had recently fled from Iraq, where they had been carrying out attacks against US troops.
The Bethlehem-based Ma'an news agency quoted Hamas sources as estimating the number of Arab men who had entered the Gaza Strip at 2,000. According to the sources, the Palestinian groups expressed their gratitude for the show of solidarity, but said they already had enough men to fight against Israel.
Palestinian Authority security officials told The Jerusalem Post that many of the men were Muslim fundamentalists who were eager to launch terror attacks on Israel.
"Hamas has turned the Gaza Strip into an international center for global jihad," said one official. "Most of the men who entered the Gaza Strip through the breached border are now being trained in Hamas's camps and schools."
Another PA security official said that according to his information, dozens of Al-Qaeda operatives managed to enter the Gaza Strip in the past two weeks. He said some of them have already been recruited to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
"They brought with them tons of explosives and various types of weapons, including anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles," the official said. "What's happening in the Gaza Strip is very dangerous not only for Israel, but for many Palestinians as well."
He added that a number of Iranian security experts had also entered the Gaza Strip to help train members of Hamas and other armed groups. Earlier this week, PA officials told the Post that Iran and Syria were behind Monday's suicide bombing in Dimona.
Hamas's representative in Tehran, Abu Osama Abdel Mu'ti, announced Wednesday that his movement was planning more suicide attacks against Israel. "The armed wing of Hamas has decided to resume martyrdom [suicide] operations against Israel after a one-year lull," he said. "The enemy should expect more attacks."
He said the fact that Hamas suicide bombers had managed to carry out an attack in Dimona, "one of the most sensitive areas," was a big victory. "This operation shows that the Palestinian resistance groups won't succumb to the pressure from the Zionists, Americans and their allies in Ramallah," he stressed.
In another development, the family of Luai al-Aghwani, a 21- year-old man from Gaza City who was initially believed to be one of the Dimona suicide bombers, demanded Wednesday to know whether he was still alive or not. Fatah's armed wing, the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, claimed shortly after the bombing that al-Aghwani was one of the two suicide bombers who died in the attack. The group even released a videotape showing the would-be-suicide bomber reading out his will before the attack.
However, the Fatah claim late turned out to be false as Hamas took credit for the Dimona attack, saying the terrorists were from Hebron.
Following the Hamas claim of responsibility, the family of al-Aghwani, who have been sitting in mourning since Monday, said they did not rule out the possibility that he had been arrested by the Egyptian authorities after crossing through the breached border.
"I want to know what happened to my son," his mother, Ibtisam, told reporters at her home in the Sabra neighborhood of Gaza City. "If he didn't carry out the attack in Dimona, then where is he? It's possible that he's being held by the Egyptians after he crossed the border."
The mother said she last saw her son five days before the Dimona suicide bombing. "He woke up one morning, wore two coats on top of each other, and walked out of the house," she recounted. "When I asked him why he was wearing two coats, he just smiled and walked away."