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Hamas leader expects Iran support to grow

Nov. 24, 2012 9:15 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 25, 2012 4:12 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip said on Saturday the group will continue to procure weapons after its ceasefire with Israel, and he expects support from Iran to the movement to grow further.

"We have no choice but to continue to bring in weapons by all possible means," Mahmoud al-Zahhar said, adding that he expected Tehran would "increase its military and financial support to Hamas."

"We have a right to take money and weapons from Iran. They (Iran) give to us for the sake of God, no conditions attached, and I am a witness to that," al-Zahhar told reporters.

In a rare phone call to Hamas' Gaza leader Haniyeh, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad praised what he called Palestinian "resistance and perseverance" against Israel, which he said must now "bow" to Palestinian rights, IRNA news agency reported.

Al-Zahhar said that after Hamas's rain of rocket fire that reached as far as Tel Aviv and paralyzed swathes of southern Israel, "the Jews will think twice before" attacking Iran, as Israel has earlier hinted it might do to stop a nuclear program the West fears is destined to produce atomic weapons.

'Downed planes'

Al-Zahhar reiterated Hamas' claim that its al-Qassam Brigades had downed Israeli planes during the eight-day conflict, which ended in a truce deal on Wednesday. The Hamas official said the brigades found remnants of the an Israeli plane in central Gaza on Saturday, and had taken down seven during the conflict.

Israel has vehemently denied these claims. An Israeli army spokeswoman said Zahar's latest statement is "plainly a lie...part of Hamas' psychological warfare."

The Hamas leader also lauded the Russian-made Kornet anti-tank guided missile as a key deterrent to an Israeli ground invasion. Islamic Jihad's brigades had claimed the launch of a Kornet missile during the bombardments, but this could not be independently verified.

He rejected criticism of the execution by militants of seven Palestinians alleged to have collaborated with Israel in the Gaza Strip during the conflict.

"We will not allow one collaborator to be in Gaza, and let human rights’ groups say whatever they want, a human has a rights if they have honor and not if they are a traitor," he said.

The deputy chief of Hamas had condemned the killings, underlining the differences between Hamas' Gaza leadership and the politburo members living in exile.

Resistance leaders should use legal procedures to deal with suspected spies through the courts, Mousa Abu Marzouq wrote on his Facebook page earlier this week.

Abu Marzouq said the killings were "not acceptable at all" and that those responsible for the killings must be held accountable. The incident "must never happen again," he added.
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