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    Palestinian police uncovers "Hamas-Iran plot"

    GAZA CITY, Feb 3 (AFP) - The Palestinian police said Wednesday they had uncovered an Iranian "plot" to launch a wave of suicide bombings in cooperation with the militant group Hamas, including one against an Israeli school bus.

    Palestinian police chief Ghazi Al-Jabali said Palestinian security forces "confirmed the arrival of 35 million dollars from Iranian intelligence services," adding that relevant documents had been seized last week at a headquarters of the Ezzedin al-Kassam brigade, the military wing of Hamas.

    "The Palestinian Authority treated the matter seriously and informed Israeli authorities in order to get an Israeli school bus from the Kfar Drom settlement in the Gaza Strip, that the brigade wanted to blow up, off the road," Jabali told reporters.

    He said the Palestinian Authority had received "corroborating information from US, western and Arab (intelligence) services about an Iranian plot aimed at influencing the Israeli elections in favour of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu." The elections are due to take place in May.

    Jabali said 130 million dollars had been "allocated for the carrying-out of suicide bombings by the al-Kassam brigades" and that interrogation of brigade members had yielded several arms caches in residential areas of the Gaza Strip.

    In November, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat blamed pro-Iranian factions for a wave of anti-Israeli attacks, including a suicide bombing in Jerusalem that wounded 24 Israelis and left both attackers dead.

    The Palestinian Authority has made a point of drawing a sharp distinction between Iranian moderates close to reformist President Mohammad Khatami and hardliners led by Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

    "An extremist faction in Iran led by Khamenei wants to exacerbate the situation in the Palestinian territories in order to provoke a civil war," said Tayeb Abdelrahim, secretary general of the Palestinian Authority. Tehran has denied the charges.


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