Hamas has been discussing with Iran the launch of a major attack against an Israeli or Jewish installation outside of the Middle East.
Western intelligence sources said Hamas has sought Iran's help in financing and planning a major strike on an Israeli embassy or Jewish facility that would deter Israel from attacking the leadership of the Islamic insurgency group. The sources said Hamas has urged Teheran to provide the same support granted for the mass casualty strikes against Israeli and Jewish targets in Buenos Aires in the early 1990s in which 114 people were killed.
"Hamas does not have the depth for any major attack on an Israeli installation outside of the Middle East," an intelligence source said. "For this, it needs an ally such as Iran, with experience in and capabilities for such attacks."
In September, Israel's intelligence community was on alert for a mass casualty attack on Israeli tourists in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. Egypt has suspected Hamas or Palestinian involvement in the Oct. 7 bombings of tourist sites frequented by Israelis in the Sinai, in which 34 people were killed, 12 of them Israelis.
But the sources said they did not know whether the Sinai strikes were part of Hamas's goal for a mass-casualty attack against an Israeli or Jewish facility abroad. Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad have denied involvement in the car bombings in Taba and Nueiba last week.
Hamas's decision to strike an Israeli or Jewish facility abroad, the sources said, would depend on Iranian assistance. They said Hamas did not want to take responsibility or be linked to any mass-casualty strike outside of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Over the last seven months, Hamas's leadership has been struck by a series of Israeli strikes. In March 2004, an Israeli air strike killed Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin. The following month, Yassin's successor, Abdul Aziz Rantisi, was slain in another missile attack in Gaza City.
The latest Israeli assassination was that of Subhi Sheik Khalil, regarded as commander of Hamas's military wing and based in Damascus. Khalil was killed in a car bomb blast in Damascus on Sept. 26.
Nobody claimed responsibility for the 1992 and 1994 strikes in Buenos Aires. Western intelligence agencies have attributed the bombings to a joint Iran-Hizbullah operation launched in wake of the Israeli assassination of Hizbullah secretary-general Abbas Musawi in Lebanon in 1992.
After the twin attacks in Argentina, Israel revised its policy toward Hizbullah. Instead, Israel's military entered a defensive
mode in southern Lebanon and avoided attacks against Hizbullah leaders or their headquarters in Beirut.
"Hizbullah has achieved an effective deterrence that has allowed them to control southern Lebanon and build a massive missile arsenal along the Israeli border," the intelligence source said. "This is what Hamas seeks to do in the Gaza Strip."