A report published by the Herzlia, Israel-based Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center says Iran regards Gaza as a strategic crossroads for insurgent operations in both Asia and Africa.
It also says Iran regards the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip as a regional power it can use to challenge Israel and its neighbors.
The report titled “Exposure of a Hezbollah network in Egypt” indicates Iran views the Hamas presence in the Gaza Strip as a convenient staging ground for staging terrorist attacks against Israel and in its fight with pro-Western Arab governments.
The report said the Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah has been helping Hamas’ military buildup in the Gaza Strip, despite Hamas’ refusal to “fully comply with Iranian dictates.”
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“Iran considers the establishment of the radical Islamic entity in the Gaza Strip to be an important leverage for waging an armed struggle against Israel along its southern border by providing Palestinian terrorist organizations with rocket capabilities as Iran did with Hezbollah in Lebanon,” the report said. “What is more, the Iranians consider the Hamas-controlled Islamist Gaza Strip to be a regional power which they can use to increase their influence in the Arab and Muslim world, pose a considerable challenge to Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas], and export radical Islam to such pro-Western Arab countries as Egypt, using that country’s geographical proximity to the Gaza Strip.”
The report also said Iranian aid to the Gaza Strip was highlighted by the capture of a Hezbollah cell in Egypt in late 2008. Hezbollah reportedly operated Unit 1800, a unit assigned to establish operational terror cells to attack Israel from neighboring Arab states.
“It is also our assessment that those operatives had undergone training in Iran, Syria and Lebanon and had been brought back to the Gaza Strip with the assistance of Hezbollah,” the report said.
Hezbollah’s network in Egypt reportedly facilitated a weapons smuggling route through Sudan, Egypt and the Gaza Strip since at least 2005. The network, which acquired C4 plastic explosives and smuggled trained fighters to the Gaza Strip, was said to have planned attacks on Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
“The exposure of the Hezbollah network, which not only provided Gaza Strip terrorist organizations with logistical assistance but was also planning to perpetrate terrorist attacks on Egyptian soil, was a warning sign the Egyptians could not ignore,” the report said.
David Bedein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org