Iran is helping Hamas upgrade its military capabilities by providing technology, funding, and direct military training to Palestinian terrorists throughout the Middle East, Israel's southern commander said Wednesday. Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant said Hamas has taken advantage of Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip to build itself up. Boosted by their newfound ability to travel abroad, Hamas operatives have been going back and forth to hostile countries for training, he said.
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"They are sending activists to Syria, Lebanon, to Iran," Galant, speaking in English, said at public briefing. "And the opposite (happens).
People from Iran come inspect the situation in the area, give them the proper training and coaching, exam them and see if they hit the target they gave them."
Asked to elaborate, Galant would not say whether Iranian agents have visited Gaza.
"The Iranians don't have to come by themselves in order to see what is the situation. If there is a Palestinian who is connected to Hizbullah and working for Iran and is moving to the Iranian side, learning methods, getting orders, and moving them to the Palestinian side, that is for me good enough to explain the situation," he said.
Seeking to end international sanctions against the Palestinian government, Hamas agreed last month to form a unity government with the more moderate Fatah party. Amid those efforts, Hamas has accepted a cease-fire in Gaza and offered a long-term cease-fire with Israel.
Galant said the cease-fire is a tactical move for Hamas to strengthen itself. While observing the truce, Israel has a military plan ready, he said.
"We prefer to give a chance to the cease-fire at the present. But we have to prepare ourselves for a war situation in the future," he said. He did not elaborate.
Hamas has managed to arm itself by smuggling goods through tunnels across the border with Egypt, Galant said. He said Egypt would have to build a fence on its side of the border to halt the smugglers.
"I think that sooner or later we will create some kind of an obstacle, physical obstacle on the border, something that wasn't necessary during the last years, but it is necessary now," he said.