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Muslim terror groups, including Hamas and Hezbollah, have recently stepped up their efforts to consolidate their power in distant areas of Latin America, particularly in the triangle of borders of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, say Israeli and American security sources.

The sources in Israel confirmed information provided last week by the deputy chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff, Gen. Peter Pace, who told the Armed Forces Committee in the House of Representatives that the area is a center for trade in drugs, weapons, money laundering, forgery, and activity that supports Islamic terror in Latin America.

According to Israeli sources, Hamas and Hezbollah, alongside Al-Qaida and World Jihad groups, are busy training recruits, collecting arms, and gathering intelligence about targets, including Jewish and Israeli targets. They prefer hard-to-reach areas, far from local security and law enforcement agencies, and the decision to conduct activities in Latin America, say Israeli sources, is meant to take the terror front beyond the Lebanon-Israel borders.

Major General Moshe Kaplinski, general of the Central Command, said last week during the annual intelligence assessment conducted by the army, that Israel needs to reassess its perception of Hezbollah as limited only to the north, in relation to Lebanon, Syria and Iran. He said that many of the terror attacks in the territories are now carried out under explicit instructions from Hezbollah, including orders as specific as "which explosives should be given to which bomber and where they should go."

In testimony given to Congress in December last year, George Glass, director of The Office of Terrorism Finance and Sanctions Policy, said that the establishment of joint working groups including the State Department, Treasury and Justice Department representatives, has raised the stakes for groups like Hamas, which until last year could still enjoy relatively easy transfer of charity funding.

Glass said that Hamas assets were frozen by presidential order last August, and noted that the president specified six Hamas leaders as terrorists - Ahmed Yassin, Khaled Meshal, Moussa Abu Razek, Imad al-Almi, Osama Hamdan, and Abdel Sziz Rantisi. "Hamas bombings demonstrate the group's commitment to undermining any real efforts to move toward a permanent peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Shutting off the flow of funds to Hamas is crucial to reducing Hamas' ability to carry out activities," said Glass.

Despite the open hostility between Hamas and the Bush administration, Israeli security sources say that it was the Popular Resistance Committee, and not Hamas, which was responsible for the bombing last year of an American convoy in Gaza, in which three American security guards were killed. The Popular Resistance Committee in Gaza. Hamas, Glass added, is threatening the chances for reforms in the Palestinian Authority.