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Tuesday, September 5, 2007      New: Take a Stand

Palestinians turn to Moscow for 'more effective' intel training

RAMALLAH The Palestinian Authority is sending security agents to Russia for intelligence training and support.

"We regard Russian intelligence as more effective than the Americans in stopping Hamas," a PA official said.

The Russian program was meant to wean the PA off its dependency on the United States for security assistance, officials said. Moscow has also offered the PA a range of weapons platforms, including armored personnel carriers and utility helicopters, Middle East Newsline reported.

The officials said the PSA officers were attending at least three courses in facilities run by SVR, or the former Soviet KGB. They said the courses focused on methods to infiltrate insurgency groups, detect double agents as well as interrogation, reconnaissance and intelligence analysis.

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Israel has not responded to the Russian program. But Israeli officials said the government has been concerned that PA officers would be taught to collect intelligence on Israel in missions assigned by Moscow.

On Aug. 30, a senior Israeli defense official said Moscow sought to exacerbate tensions between Israel and Syria. Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry's political-military department, said Russia fed false reports to Syria of Israeli war plans in early 2007.

"During a certain period, the Russians acted in such a manner that the Syrians thought Israel wanted to engage in a war against their country," Gilad said. "The Russians then stopped their incitement following explanations relayed to them, whereby Syria had no intention of attacking Israel, and Israel did not aim to take the initiative in a war against Syria. This enabled a calming of tensions."

PA officials said about 120 Palestinian officers have been sent to Russia for intelligence training. They said the officers came from the PA Preventive Security Apparatus and would spend at least three months in Russia.

"They are getting the best training possible," a PA official said. "It is a package that is more comprehensive than that received by other Arab countries."

[On Sept. 2, the PA reported that it had foiled a Hamas coup and captured several of the alleged plotters. A PA security statement said the attempted coup was engineered by Hamas's Executive Force in wake of the Islamic takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007.]

Officials said Russian intelligence training would help the PA fight the rival Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip. They said Hamas has succeeded in infiltrating PA security agencies and establishing a military infrastructure in the West Bank.

PSA has been deemed the lead agency to fight Hamas in the West Bank. Hamas said PSA as well as PA General Intelligence were torturing Islamist detainees.

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