Accord with Hamas affords Hizbullah more control, Shi'ite funding

Friday, April 2, 2004

NICOSIA Hamas and Hizbullah have signed a cooperation accord that paves the way for increased Shi'ite funding to the Palestinian insurgency group.

The accord was signed on Monday in Beirut by Hizbullah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah and Hamas politbureau chief Khaled Masha'al. Arab diplomatic sources said the agreement included a Hizbullah pledge to increase financial and operational assistance to Hamas.

"We share the same destiny and this means that our fight is one," Nasrallah said.

Israeli military sources said Hizbullah has been trying to introduce anti-aircraft missiles into the Gaza Strip, Middle East Newsline reported. They said Israeli forces foiled an attempt in early March to smuggle several SA-7 man-portable surface-to-air missiles from Egypt to the Gaza Strip. Hizbullah has sought SA-7s to down Israeli attack helicopters that have been striking Hamas and other Palestinian insurgents.

Over the last few months, Hizbullah has been making increasing inroads in Hamas. The sources said Hizbullah has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to Hamas over the last year and intends to increase funding in 2004.

They said the Hizbullah funding has been ordered and coordinated by Iran, which sponsors the Beirut-based insurgency group.

Hamas has also sent operatives for training in Hizbullah camps in Lebanon and Syria. The two groups have also planned operations against Israel, including the suicide strike on the Israeli port of Ashdod earlier this month in which 10 Israelis were killed.

The sources said they expected Hamas and Hizbullah to increase their cooperation in wake of the Israeli assassination of Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin. They said Masha'al and Abdul Aziz Rantisi, Yassin's chief aide, have supported ties with Hizbullah, a relationship that was frowned upon by Yassin.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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