Hundreds of Hamas fighters underwent specialized combat training in Iran in the weeks leading up to the Palestinian group’s October 7 attack on Israel, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.
Citing people familiar with intelligence related to the attack, the Journal reported that roughly 500 militants from Hamas and another Iran-backed Gaza-based group, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, took part in the exercises in September.
The training was led by officers from the Quds Force, the overseas arm of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the report said.
Senior Palestinian officials and Quds Force chief Esmail Ghaani were present at these exercises, it added.
The latest escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict began when Hamas militants crossed into Israel from its southern border on October 7, killing more than 1,400 people, according to Israeli officials. Israel has responded with relentless air and artillery strikes on Gaza that have killed more than 6,000 people, according to health authorities in Gaza.
Tehran, a key source of financial and military support for Hamas, praised the October 7 Hamas attack while denying any involvement in its planning or execution.
The US has said that Iran was complicit in Hamas’ assault on Israel, but emphasized that it lacks intelligence or evidence to support this claim.
Israel has long accused Iran of exacerbating violence by supplying arms to Hamas. Tehran refuses to recognize Israel and has made support for the Palestinian cause a fundamental component of its foreign policy since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.
For years, Iran and Israel have engaged in a covert conflict, with Iran accusing Israel of orchestrating sabotage attacks and assassinations targeting its nuclear program.