Iran drill Dec. 30, 2011 (AFP)
Iranian soldiers take part in military drill, Dec. 30, 2011. Photo by AFP
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Iranian military experts are active in the Gaza Strip and in Sinai, according to a high-ranking official in Jerusalem. The official said the Iranians entered the areas via Sudan and Egypt, and added that some of the rocket-launching systems in Gaza were manufactured under Iranian supervision.

The senior source also claimed that Islamic Jihad continued to fire rockets at Israel even after the recent cease-fire was announced because the Iranians pressured that organization, and the popular resistance groups, to continue acting against Israel.

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Israel has agreed to all requests by Egypt to step up its own army's activity in the Sinai desert, but the official said no significant military operations have been carried out recently.

Several terror groups are now at large in Sinai, the source explained: local Bedouin, who are adopting the ideology of the Global Jihad; groups supported by Iran, who are trying to recruit and train militants not only in Sinai but throughout Egypt; and Palestinian organizations. Joining them are Global Jihad militants from Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Saudi Arabia, said the official, adding that Israel and Egypt have a common interest in combating these terrorist elements.

He explained that "many Palestinian organizations use the Sinai peninsula as a convenient area for activity," and added that Libya has meanwhile been transformed into a huge arms depot, from which weapons are transferred to Egypt and then the Gaza Strip.

Damascus has become irrelevant as far as Hamas is concerned, the official continued, after Egyptian Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi criticized Syrian President Bashar Assad, and after Damascus and Tehran demanded that Hamas' politburo chief Khaled Meshal support the Syrian regime. Meshal refused to do so and left Damascus; his deputy, Moussa Abu Marzouk chose to reside in Cairo, and other senior Hamas officials such as Emad al-Alami, went to Gaza, Qatar or Lebanon.

The official stressed that Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's visit to Tehran did not help resolve the differences between Hamas and Iran, which cut off funding to the Islamic movement. Hamas is now trying to raise money from the Arab Gulf states and Turkey.

Lately senior Palestinian Authorities have blamed Iran for sabotaging talks between Hamas and Fatah, which have recently reached a stalemate. The Israeli official claims that Meshal's agreement that PA President Mahmoud Abbas will serve as head of a national unity government angered Abu Marzouk, Haniyeh and Mahmoud Al-Zahar - causing certain elements within Hamas' leadership to openly revolt agains Meshal.

Azzam Al-Ahmad, a Fatah leader who heads the team that is negotiating with Hamas, said in an interview to a Lebanese newspaper that Iran transferred money to Hamas leaders in Gaza in return for their efforts to sabotage the reconciliation talks. Ahmad added that the fact that Haniyeh made a visit to Tehran despite the opposition of several Hamas leaders also led to the failure of the discussions. Furthermore, the Fatah leader suggested that Iranian leaders incited Haniyeh against the reconciliation, and added that the PA discovered that Tehran had transferred substantial funds to Haniyeh and his government so that the talks would fail.