'Hamas helping Iran crush dissent'

Special to 'Post' from Teheran: Iranians express anger at Palestinians for helping Ahmadinejad.

Palestinian Hamas members are helping the Iranian authorities crush street protests in support of reformist presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, two protesters told The Jerusalem Post On Tuesday. They made their allegations as rioting on a scale unseen in Iran for nearly a decade continued in the wake of the elections and the allegations that the results were falsified. The protests have now spread from Teheran to other major cities. Mousavi insisted on Tuesday that he would "protect" his supporters' votes "at all cost, even if I am at risk." Shouting from a car roof to a roaring crowd of supporters, he declared: "The pillars of the revolution have been shaken... We must not be silent." Hamas formally welcomed incumbent Ahmadinejad's ostensible reelection victory on Saturday. The Palestinian Islamist movement receives arms and funding from Iran, and its members have often received training there, including in terror tactics and weapons manufacture. Watch footage of riots from youtube: Despite a massive crackdown on dissent, thousands of protesters rallied again in Teheran on Tuesday night in support of Mousavi, following reports that up to 20 people had been killed by security forces at rallies across Iran against the disputed results of last week's presidential elections. Pro-government gunmen, reportedly opening fire on protesters, killed at least seven people on Monday night and others have been wounded. State radio reports claimed that the victims were trying to loot weapons and to vandalize public property, and were shot by unidentified gunmen. People claiming to have witnessed the shootings, however, insist that the victims were peaceful demonstrators, including students from Teheran university. "There are so many crimes, beatings and killings that have yet to be reported. When we fight back, it is for our own protection," said a young man passing out flyers with the names of those he said were murdered Teheran University students. Among those named were Fatima Brahati, Kasra Sharafi, Kambiz Shahi, Mohsen Emani and Mina Ahtrami. Their bodies are said to have been secretly buried by government loyalists. Amid the violence, confusion and government restrictions on communication, the accuracy of conflicting accounts is hard to ascertain. "The most important thing that I believe people outside of Iran should be aware of," the young man went on, "is the participation of Palestinian forces in these riots." Another protester, who spoke as he carried a kitchen knife in one hand and a stone in the other, also cited the presence of Hamas in Teheran. On Monday, he said, "my brother had his ribs beaten in by those Palestinian animals. Taking our people's money is not enough, they are thirsty for our blood too." It was ironic, this man said, that the victorious Ahmadinejad "tells us to pray for the young Palestinians, suffering at the hands of Israel." His hope, he added, was that Israel would "come to its senses" and ruthlessly deal with the Palestinians. When asked if these militia fighters could have been mistaken for Lebanese Shi'ites, sent by Hizbullah, he rejected the idea. "Ask anyone, they will tell you the same thing. They [Palestinian extremists] are out beating Iranians in the streets… The more we gave this arrogant race, the more they want… [But] we will not let them push us around in our own country." Mousavi has said he won Friday's balloting, and he demanded the government annul Ahmadinejad's victory and hold a new election. Iran's state radio said seven people were killed in clashes at Monday's protest - the first official confirmation of deaths linked to the street battles following the disputed vote. It said people were killed during an "unauthorized gathering" at a mass rally after protesters "tried to attack a military location." Witnesses saw people firing from the roof of a building used by a state-backed militia after Mousavi supporters set fire to the building and tried to storm it. Mousavi supporters had called for demonstrations on Tuesday, but Mousavi said in a message on his Web site he would not be attending any rally and asked his supporters to "not fall in the trap of street riots," and to "exercise self-restraint." Foreign reporters in Iran to cover last week's elections began leaving the country on Tuesday after officials said they would not extend their visas. Authorities restricted other journalists, including Iranians working for foreign media, from reporting on the streets, and said they could only work from their offices, conducting telephone interviews and monitoring official sources such as state TV. At least ten Iranian journalists have been arrested since the election, "and we are very worried about them, we don't know where they have been detained," Jean-Francois Julliard, secretary general of Reporters Without Borders told AP Television News in Paris. He added that some people who took pictures with cellphones were also arrested. The government imposed rules prevent media outlets, including The Associated Press, from sending independent photos or video of street protests or rallies. Yaakov Katz, Herb Keinon, Rebecca Anna Stoil, AP and JPost.com staff contributed to this report.