debkafile Exclusive: A heavy influx of foreign-based Palestinian, Syrian, Iranian, Lebanese and Hizballah fighters swells Hamas strength for intern

Senior IDF officers told debkafile that the foreign fighters are slipping into Gaza through large gaps in the Gazan-Egyptian border. Among the arrivals are scores of bomb experts and commando combat instructors. They are coming to augment and upgrade Hamas’ “Rapid Deployment” unit and the Popular Resistance Committees terrorist coalition. Mingled among them are al Qaeda operatives from Sinai.
The influx aims to 1. Assure Hamas of a quick victory over Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority security services. The final Hamas-Fatah confrontation is planned to go ahead in both territories straight after the Eid festival Wednesday, Oct.25 and is expected to expand into a full-blown civil war. 2. Position Hizballah-style ambush squads armed with missiles for waylaying Israeli ground units, in the event a large-scale ground offensive is launched to stem Palestinian attacks and the smuggling of upgraded weaponry through the Gaza Strip tunnels.
debkafile‘s military sources add: Because of the vacillations of the Olmert government, the IDF may have missed the boat for an offensive of this kind being surgical enough to avoid large-scale casualties. This week’s cabinet meeting Sunday Oct. 22 ended again without operational decisions.
The rival Palestinian factions are in the midst of a feverish arms-and-recruitment race. In Gaza, Hamas backed by the PRC, the Popular Front and al Qaeda followers has raised an estimated 15,000 recruits. The Iran-backed Jihad Islami is keeping its options open to see which side comes out on top. Hamas’ first ever-enlistment campaign on the West Bank, the traditional Fatah stronghold, has yielded several hundred recruits in its first stage. Several thousand joiners, many of them defectors from Abbas’ Presidential Force 17 and other Fatah frameworks, are to be fielded in a new “Independent Intervention Force.” Hamas scouts are handing out grants of thousands of dollars to defectors. Their object is to deplete the military strength available to Abu Mazen and assemble a military force able to stand up to the Israeli army on the West Bank.
To stem the rate of defections, Abbas has recalled the retired former commander of Palestinian forces on the West Bank General Hajj Ismail. debkafile‘s military sources report that at this late date, some Israeli military planners are beginning to think that it would be folly for Israel to launch a large-scale ground attack on the Gaza Strip on the eve of a Palestinian civil war, because A. the troops would be walking into a prepared Iranian-Syrian trap, and B. they troops would be caught in the same predicament as US and British forces in Iraq.

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