Iran replaces Iraq, becomes top funding source for Arafat's Fatah

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Iran has become the main financier of the largest Palestinian insurgency group in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israeli military sources said that over the last year Iran and its Hizbullah ally have supplied the ruling Fatah movement with as much as 90 percent of the organization's requirements to maintain the Palestinian war against the Jewish state.

The sources said Iran has replaced Iraq in financing Fatah operations against Israel. Until early 2003, Iraq was pumping about $2 million a month to Palestinian insurgents, mostly Fatah, in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Middle East Newsline reported.

The sources said Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat has steadily reduced funding to Fatah and provides no more than 10 percent of Fatah's requirements to maintain the war.

"Arafat is hardly involved in the financing of the war. Iran is," a senior military source said. "But without Arafat, Iran would not have the Fatah infrastructure to finance."

"In every [Palestinian] town and village, you can find groups of Fatah people who have been financed and trained by Iran," [Res.] Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad, director of the Israeli Defense Ministry's political-military unit, said.

The Iraqi funds were halted in March 2003 when the United States invaded Iraq and ousted the regime of Saddam Hussein.

On Tuesday, Israeli security sources said Arafat has again resumed the harboring of Palestinian insurgents wanted by Israel. The sources said the insurgents included recruiters for suicide bombers or the bombers themselves. In all, the sources said, about 30 Palestinian fugitives wanted by Israel have found safe haven in Arafat's headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

In another development, the Israeli government held its first meeting to draft a plan for unilateral separation from the Palestinian Authority. The meeting was led by National Security Council chairman Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland National and included officials from the Mossad intelligence agency.

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