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Islamic Jihad commander describes training in Iran

In a video released by the IDF, Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander Bassel Mahdi tells Israeli interrogators how his PIJ commander sent him to a sniper training course in the Islamic Republic.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander Bassel Mahdi is interrogated in Israel following his arrest in the Gaza Strip by Israeli forces on Dec. 20, 2023. Credit: Israel Defense Forces.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander Bassel Mahdi is interrogated in Israel following his arrest in the Gaza Strip by Israeli forces on Dec. 20, 2023. Credit: Israel Defense Forces.

A Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander arrested in Gaza describes to Israeli interrogators how terror operatives were trained in Iran in video footage released by the Israel Defense Forces on Tuesday.

In the video, Bassel Mahdi describes himself as the commander of Specialized Professions with a squad of nine men under him. The cell specialized in the use of 82-millimeter mortars, 107-millimeter rockets, engineering, anti-tank rockets and sharpshooting.

Mahdi, who was arrested on Dec. 20, tells his interrogator that he was sent to Iran at the suggestion of his commander.

“You need to go to Iran for a sniper’s course,” the commander told him, Mahdi recalls. “Get much benefit from the course and your salary will go up when you come back.”

He was given $1,000, some of which he gave to his wife. A few weeks later, he says, “I went from the Gaza Strip to Egypt where I stayed for about two weeks, from there I went to Syria for a few days and then to Lebanon. After two weeks we went from Syria to Iran again.”

The course was 15 days at a military base in Iran whose name and location Mahdi claimed not to know. He said the training was done by soldiers wearing Iranian uniforms.

The first four days were spent learning how to use a Kalashnikov. Afterwards, they were trained in the use of sniper rifles.

“Four days training on a Kalashnikov at a distance of 100 meters, five days at a distance of 100-150 meters, six days on a Dragunov [Russian-made sniper rifle]. We practiced shooting stones, targets [and] balloons at a distance of 300 meters,” says Mahdi.

He adds that there were 15-20 other people from Gaza, Lebanon and Syria taking the course along with him, all of whom were “military activists of the Islamic Jihad.” Some of them took an additional brigade course or received rocket or artillery training.

At least 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s attacks on Israeli communities near the Gaza border on Oct. 7. Thousands were wounded, and 240 were taken as hostages. The number of men, women, children, soldiers and foreigners held captive in Gaza by Hamas is now believed to be 136. Other people remain unaccounted for as Israeli authorities continue to identify bodies and search for human remains.

As many as 500 terrorists affiliated with the Hamas and PIJ trained in Iran leading up to the Oct. 7 invasion of Israel.

Iranian-sponsored exercises took place in September, at which time terrorists received specialized combat training, according to The Wall Street Journal.

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 Quds Force commander, was assassinated by U.S. forces in Baghdad on Jan. 3, 2020.

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