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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Israeli claim: Iran elite forces killed in Gaza War

TEL AVIV — Israel's military killed several Iranian military advisers deployed in the Gaza Strip, sources said.   

The Israeli sources said the military killed an unspecified number of advisers from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps during the 22-day war with Hamas, which ended on Jan. 18. They said the IRGC officers helped the Hamas regime and Islamic Jihad fire BM-21 Grad rockets from urban areas, Middle East Newsline reported.

"We believe there were dozens of IRGC personnel in the Gaza Strip during the war," an Israeli source said. "Some were killed; others went into hiding, and others escaped."

The sources said IRGC sent officers to the Gaza Strip to help Hamas improve the range and accuracy of missiles and rockets. IRGC was also authorized to help establish facilities to produce the Grad and other extended-range Katyusha-class rockets in the Gaza Strip.

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Israel expects Iran to expand the IRGC presence in the Gaza Strip amid the ceasefire with the Jewish state. The sources said Iran plans to build a Hamas arsenal of rockets with a range of up to 70 kilometers. They said this would include the Fajr-3 and Fajr-4 rockets.

The IRGC presence was arranged in 2008 by the late Hamas Interior Minister Said Siyam, the sources said. Siyam was killed in an Israeli air strike on Gaza City on Jan. 17, hours before the unilateral ceasefire took effect.

"Siyam's death removes Hamas's key liasion with Iran," an Israeli source said. "But there are others who could fill his shoes."

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