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Israel believes that hundreds of Palestinians who left on the pretext of a pilgrimage will receive military training in Iran.

Israel Radio quoted an unnamed senior defense official saying Wednesday that some 1,400 Palestinians who left the Gaza Strip recently as part of an exodus for this week’s hajj in Mecca do not have the required entry permits from Saudi authorities.

Israeli intelligence believes that as many as half of these supposed hajjis are in fact Hamas members headed for Iran, where they will receive military training to be put to use in Gaza, the defense official said.

Saudi Arabia issued 1,200 hajj permits to the Palestinian Authority, and Israel approved those allowed to go on the pilgrimage. Gazans who received permits left for Mecca via Israel and Egypt.

But Hamas, in a show of defiance, assembled its own roster of hundreds of hajjis, who left via Egyptian territory, to the disapproval of Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

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