As many as 500 men affiliated with the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terrorist organizations based in the Gaza Strip trained in Iran leading up to the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel.
Iranian-sponsored exercises took place in September, at which time terrorists received specialized combat training, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.
Quds Force, the branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) responsible for foreign operations, oversaw the training.
Iranian Brig. Gen. Esmail Ghaani, who heads the Quds Force, attended, according to senior Palestinian figures. Ghaani took over after Qassem Soleimani, the former commander who was assassinated by U.S. forces in Baghdad on Jan. 3, 2020.
On Oct. 7, Hamas terrorists murdered some 1,400 Israelis and wounded more than 5,300. They also took roughly 200 civilians captive, dragging them back to Gaza and hiding them in underground tunnels. The terrorists used drones, paragliders and motorcycles to do so—the last that is a mode of transport common to Iranian paramilitary groups but not used by Hamas until Oct. 7, noted the Journal.
‘Something we’ll look closely at’
Israel has underscored Iranian involvement in the attack.
On Wednesday, Israel Defense Forces Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said that Iran is assisting Hamas by supplying it with intelligence and also boosting anti-Israel incitement worldwide.
Iran also helped Hamas with training, weapons, funding and technological knowledge, said Hagari.
Senior Hamas operatives have publicly thanked Iran for its support. “Hezbollah and Iran supported us with weapons, expertise and technology,” Khaled Meshaal, a leading Hamas official, told Al Arabiya.
U.S. officials, however, have been reluctant to blame the Islamic Republic, saying it has no information that Iran conducted training specifically for Oct. 7.
“The information that we have does not show a direct connection to the Hamas attacks on Oct. 7 as it relates to Iran. Again, that’s something that we’ll continue to look closely at,” Pentagon spokesman Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said last week, the Journal reported.
Saeid Golkar, an IRGC expert at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, told the paper: “This sort of operation is very difficult to do without Hezbollah and IRGC support. Hamas does not have the capability to do that.”
Meanwhile, Israel’s Channel 12 News on Wednesday night aired footage showing a large convoy of Hamas terrorists patrolling the border with Israel about a month before the attack.
According to the broadcaster, the terrorists stopped at one point to observe the border fence.