- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 22, 2006

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The newly appointed head of security for the Hamas-led government says that Jews are the “only enemy” and that he will “carry a rifle” and “pull the trigger” to defend the Palestinian people.

Jamal Abu Samhadana, No. 2 on Israel’s list of wanted terrorists and the leader of a militia that has been firing rockets at the Jewish state in recent weeks, said in an interview that he will lead a security force that will be “the nucleus of the future Palestinian army.”

“The resistance must continue,” he said while huddled with advisers in a tin-roofed hut in a remote part of the Gaza territory.

Speaking only days after nine Israelis were killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber, he said: “We have only one enemy. They are Jews. We have no other enemy. I will continue to carry the rifle and pull the trigger whenever required to defend my people.”

A rival militant group, Islamic Jihad, claimed responsibility for the bombing.

Dressed in his customary black fatigues, Abu Samhadana gave a wide grin that was meant to win over colleagues from the Popular Resistance Committees under his command.

“This position [as security chief] may transform me into a corrupt person. Your role is to correct me, to guide me,” he told supporters who had waited more than two hours for his arrival.

Brushing aside the local and international condemnation that followed his appointment, Abu Samhadana said: “We are also a force against corruption. We are against thieves, corrupt officials and law breakers.”

His allies had feared that he might moderate his stance on Israel after his elevation.

“Our main worry was about whether we would keep up the resistance with him in such a high-profile position,” one lieutenant admitted. They were now reassured, he said.

The appointment of Abu Samhadana, 43, by the Hamas-led Palestinian government has forced him to redouble his own security precautions.

He regards his mobile telephone as a “spy,” capable of being tracked by Israeli intelligence agents who have made two attempts on his life.

The most recent was late last year, when the convoy in which he was being driven was struck by two missiles, fired from an Israeli attack helicopter.

Now he travels alone, late at night, in cars too old and battered to draw attention. He never spends more than one night in the same place and he rarely prays twice in the same mosque.

In recent months, he has directed the continuing barrage of Kassam rockets fired from Gaza into Israel, guaranteeing that he remains a high-priority target for Israel.

Hours after his appointment last week, Israeli Housing Minister Zeev Boim said Abu Samhadana’s new status conferred no immunity on him.

“We have a long account to settle with this notorious terrorist. Sooner or later, we will get our hands on him,” he said.

Although Hamas won January’s general election, the rival Fatah party still controls the 60,000-strong Palestinian security forces — a situation that Mahmoud Abbas, the Fatah leader and president of the Palestinian Authority, tried to reinforce recently by appointing a loyalist, Rashid Abu Shabak, as security chief.

Hamas responded by appointing Abu Samhadana as its security chief.

Mr. Abbas responded a day later by attempting to annul both Abu Samhadana’s promotion and the new Hamas security unit, resulting in a fresh standoff between the Palestinian presidency and the Palestinian parliament.

With the dispute still unsettled, Palestinians clashed in the worst internal fighting in months yesterday, the Reuters news agency reported.

Students and militants loyal to Hamas or to Fatah exchanged gunfire in Gaza, wounding 20 persons.

Hamas beat Fatah in a January vote to head the Palestinian government. But Mr. Abbas, who is touring Europe and the Middle East, still holds executive powers in the Palestinian Authority.

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