Iran seeks expanded IRGC presence in Gaza Strip

LONDON — Iran has been pressing to expand its presence in the Gaza

Arab diplomatic sources said the Iranian leadership was urging the Hamas
government of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to allow additional military
trainers into the Gaza Strip.

The sources said Iran, particularly its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, wants to build a credible military force in the Gaza Strip to confront Israel in any future regional war.

Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei greets Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. /AFP

Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei greets Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. /AFP

“Iran wants Gaza to be as capable as Hizbullah,” a diplomatic
source said. “This means that Hamas and its allies would have tens of thousands of missiles and rockets that could paralyze central and southern Israel.”

The sources said Iran has pledged to renew financial aid to Hamas in
exchange for an expanded IRGC presence. They said IRGC would shape the Hamas military and merge it with such powerful Palestinian militias as Islamic Jihad and Popular Resistance Committees.

“In effect, Iran would take over Hamas and the militias, training and
equipping them jointly and commanding any future war,” the source said.

The Lebanese daily Al Mustaqbal said the Iranian leadership focused on
its military plan during the visits by Haniyeh and his de factor foreign
minister, Mahmoud Zahar, to Teheran in February and March 2012. Al Mustaqbal
said the Iranian leaders sought a Hamas commitment for full military
coordination in any war with Israel.

Iran has already deployed several senior officers, most of them
Palestinians trained by IRGC, in the Gaza Strip. The sources said the
Iranian presence was being coordinated with a member of the Hamas political
bureau, Imad Alami, a former Hamas envoy to Teheran and who arrived in the
Gaza Strip in late 2011.

“The Hamas leadership is not happy with the Iranian campaign, but might
not be able to resist,” the source said.


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