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IRAN: Hamas has secret anti-Israel weapon in Gaza, cleric says

January 2, 2009 |  7:07 am

Merkava

Hamas possesses a “new weapon” to face Israeli armor in case Israel decides upon a ground invasion into the Gaza Strip, a senior Iranian official and ranking cleric told worshippers in Tehran today.

Rafsanjani_2According to former Iranian president Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, chairman of Iran's powerful Expediency Council, the advanced weapon would allow the Palestinian militant group to target Israeli tanks “from a long distance.”

Rafsanjani's statement is highly provocative, in tune with a heated Iranian campaign of rhetoric against Israel's Gaza offensive.

It also suggests that Hamas may have stored up the same advanced, portable high-tech anti-tank weapons Hezbollah used to disable Israel's Merkava tanks during the 2006 war between the Shiite militant group and the Jewish State.

U.S. and Israeli officials accuse Iran of providing weapons to Hamas in Gaza, which has been pummeled by six days of Israeli air strikes.

In his Friday prayer sermon, Rafsanjani said Hamas fighters had the ability to beat Israeli in the battlefield:

“Zionists are vulnerable ... as the Zionists are weak by nature and rely only on material things while Palestinians are seeking to be martyrs and are ready for self sacrifice. ... Hamas missiles are homemade and simple and Hamas will not run out of them and they can produce more.”

Rafsanjani stuck a sensitive chord for Shiite Muslims worldwide by comparing Israel to Yazid, the ancient ruler who is believed to have killed Imam Hossein, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed and one of the venerated figures of Shiite Islam.

Shiite Muslims around the world are currently commemorating Ashura, a 10-day morning period during which they lament every year the death of Hossein.

"The Israelis are targeting mosques, houses and everywhere they like with laser-guided rockets from jet fighters,” he said.

Earlier, an Iranian official continued the government's harsh criticism of so-called moderate Arab regimes, mainly Egypt, who some accuse of acquiescing to the Israeli offensive in Gaza.

Iran’s foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, addressed Arab rulers in a speech preceding Rafsanjani's sermon, calling for an urgent meeting for the foreign ministers of Islamic nations:

“You, who have conceded so far, you who have given up resistance ... you have helped the continued domination" of Israel.

-- Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran and Raed Rafei in Beirut

Top photo: Israeli soldiers work near Merkava tanks at a military staging area along the border with the Gaza Strip. Credit: Jim Hollander / European Pressphoto Agency.

Inset photo: Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani speaking to worshippers at Friday prayers in Tehran. Credit: File photo

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