The Hamas government in Gaza has been operating a force over the past few months whose sole task is to prevent the firing of rockets into Israel.
Hamas, which has always championed jihad against Israel, is now using its authority to foil the firing efforts of cells from other organizations such as the Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees.
The new force was formed by and is under the direct command of Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hammad, who in the past has been considered an extremist in regard to Israel. According to a Gaza source, the force of some 300 men operates, "day and night, 24 hours, everywhere in the Strip, particularly near the borders with Israel."
The soldiers wear black uniforms and make their way around on motorcycles and four-wheel drive vehicles. According to a Hamas source, the force has a green light to shoot activists who resist arrest or fire at the Hamas soldiers. Anyone arrested can expect to spend at least a couple of months in prison, the source said. The rockets and/or mortars that are found are confiscated and transfered to Hamas.
The force has arrested many members of smaller Palestinian radical groups, but there have also been arrests of members of the Islamic Jihad and PRC, which are considered the leading opposition groups in Gaza. The Islamic Jihad members are almost always released on the spot, however, due to understandings reach between the two groups, the source said.
Although Israel and Hamas have no direct communication, the "relationship" between the two has never looked better, with what looks like close cooperation on the ground. However, there is no security cooperation between the parties as there is between the Palestinian Authority and the Israel Defense Forces in the West Bank.
But the fact that this new anti-rocket force has been formed seems to demonstrate that Hamas is looking to keep things quiet on the security front so it can better establish its government in the Strip.
This force was not very much in evidence when Islamic Jihad and the PRC were firing rockets at Israel in March. This was because, among other reasons, the force won't act if Israel is the one who strikes first (and the Israeli assassination of Zuhair Al-Qaisi of the PRC in March was deemed such a provocation ). But during calm times, the force has blocked more than a few rocket and mortar strikes on the south.
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