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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 April 2006, 17:38 GMT 18:38 UK
Hamas reveals new security force
A Palestinian militant
Hamas wants militants to work with, not against, the police
The Hamas-led Palestinian government has announced the formation of a new security force comprised of members of Palestinian militant groups.

The new Hamas Interior Minister Said Siyam said the force would help the police enforce law and order.

Mr Siyam also put a leading militant, Jamal Abu Samhadana, in charge of Palestinian police and security forces.

A BBC correspondent says the decision will not please Israel, which has tried to kill Mr Samhadana several times.

Israel will see the appointment as yet more proof that the new Hamas government has absolutely no intention of reining in militants committed to attacking Israel, says the BBC's Alan Johnston in Gaza.

The moves appear to be in defiance of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' attempts to take a firmer grip on Palestinian security forces.

He recently appointed an old ally, Rashid Abu Shbak, to head the security services.

Volunteers

Mr Samhadana is the head of the Popular Resistance Committees, a group responsible for many attacks on Israel, including homemade rockets launched from Gaza in recent weeks.

He is a former officer in the Palestinian security forces who was dismissed for refusing to report for duty.

The new security force would be answerable only to Mr Siyam, an interior ministry spokesman said.

We are going to beat with an iron fist all the people and the groups who are acting illegally
Said Siyam,
Interior minister

It would be a volunteer force, and members would not be paid by the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority, he said.

"This force is going to include the elite of our sons from the freedom fighters and the holy warriors and the best men we have," said the spokesman.

"It's going to include members of all the resistance branches."

Mr Siyam said: "We are going to beat with an iron fist all the people and the groups who are acting illegally."

Palestinian police have been struggling to deal with chaos and lawlessness, particularly since Israeli forces were withdrawn from Gaza last year.

As well as criminal activity and clan violence, police have often had to deal with challenges by unruly elements within the militant factions.

Mr Siyam's move is an attempt to draw all the armed factions into the effort to maintain law and order, says our correspondent, by making them part of the system instead of having them challenge it from the outside.


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