Members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps are currently in the Gaza Strip, high-level Palestinian security sources tell The Tower.
The Iranians, according to our security sources, are experts in missile production, and are in Gaza to help Hamas and Islamic Jihad develop long-range missiles. Israeli security and political officials declined to elaborate, telling The Tower only that this isn’t the first time delegates from Tehran had entered the Hamas-controlled territory.
A Grad rocket was fired this morning from Gaza to Ashkelon, the first since the end of Operation Pillar of Defense on November 22, 2012. Over the last three months all fire from Gaza at Israel has been muted – let alone rockets or missiles.
The lull in fighting stems mainly from heavy Egyptian pressure on Hamas and Islamic Jihad to completely hold their fire. Cairo fears that any confrontation could harm both regional stability and Egypt’s national interest, and has conveyed as much to Hamas leaders.
This morning’s rocket attack was apparently not carried out by Hamas, but by its rival Islamic Jihad, a smaller organization believed to be largely, if not entirely, under Iran’s control. Two weeks ago one of Islamic Jihad’s leaders in the West Bank, Sheikh Bassam al-Saadi, told TheTower his group enjoys “warm and positive” ties with the Islamic republic. There are also reports in Arabic media that Fatah has claimed responsibility.
Today’s rocket may have been intended as an act of solidarity with the last few days’ West Bank protests, which followed months of low-simmering violence, weeks-long prisoner hunger strikes, and the death of detainee Arafat Jaradat in Israeli custody.
It remains unclear how this morning’s attack will affect the sensitive ties between Israel and Hamas, and – within Gaza – between Hamas and Islamic Jihad. After Operation Pillar of Defense the two Palestinian groups were in full agreement over the need for a ceasefire, but Iran continues to pressure Islamic Jihad to fire at Israel. Tehran sees stability between Gaza and Israel as against its own interests.
Israel’s reaction to this first violation of the Gaza ceasefire also remains to be seen. Since Pillar of Defense, Israel and Hamas have maintained indirect contacts through Egyptian mediation, designed to improve conditions for Gazans and to make sure the Israel-Gaza frontier remained quiet.
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