JERUSALEM (AP) - The Islamic group Hezbollah has become a key sponsor of Palestinian violence, funding suicide bombings that have killed dozens of Israelis in recent months, Israeli intelligence sources, Palestinian Authority officials and militants have told The Associated Press.
The Iranian-backed group, based in Lebanon, first earned a foothold in the 3 1/2-year-old Palestinian uprising by giving money to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, ideological allies that also seek the destruction of Israel.
In recent months, it has pulled off something akin to a hostile takeover of some of cells of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, wrenching them away from Yasser Arafat's secular Fatah movement and turning them into a proxy army.
Al Aqsa members in the West Bank city of Nablus say they speak with their Hezbollah handlers by phone almost daily. Israeli security officials say Hezbollah trains some Palestinian militants abroad, instructing them in weapons and bomb-making.