- The Washington Times - Monday, January 30, 2006

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has ordered all main branches of the security forces to report to him personally, in a bid to forestall their takeover by Hamas, the Islamic militant movement.

The decision also was aimed at assuaging rising anger from security forces members themselves, backed by one of their leaders, Civil Affairs Minister Mohamed Dahlan who controls the preventive security forces in the Gaza Strip.

It remained far from clear whether Hamas will accept the bid to sustain the power of the long-dominant but increasingly fractious Fatah movement.

Mr. Abbas ordered security chiefs to report to him in his capacity as the “supreme commander of the security forces,” rather than to the interior minister or prime minister, according to an official from the Palestinian security services.

There was no formal announcement, but the development also was reported by the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz and Palmedia, a Palestinian news agency.

Ha’aretz quoted an official from the Palestinian security services saying Mr. Abbas gave the order during a weekend meeting at his Ramallah headquarters.

Other sources in Ramallah told The Washington Times that Mr. Abbas has revoked a decree he issued after being elected to the presidency a year ago after Yasser Arafat’s death.

In that order, Mr. Abbas had sought to diffuse presidential power by allocating three of the four main security organs to the interior minister, who serves the prime minister.

The intelligence service and a smaller elite presidential guard remained under his direct control, but Mr. Abbas relinquished control over the preventive security forces, the general security forces and the police.

Now, however, the prime minister will be selected by Hamas, which won 76 of the 132 seats in the Palestinian National Assembly on Wednesday.

Members of the Fatah-led security services stormed into the grounds of the National Assembly buildings in Gaza and Ramallah on Saturday, declaring that they would not countenance a Hamas takeover of their forces.

Most of the 58,000 security force members are Fatah loyalists. Many of them were imported from exile, along with a supply of arms, when the Oslo accords allowed their return in 1994 in the process of forming the Palestinian Authority, headed by Mr. Arafat.

Hamas’ internal leader, Mahmoud Zahar, told The Times that his organization planned to take control of the security services and turn them from “serving Israeli interests” to “confronting Israel and protecting our people.”

“We are going to bring the Palestinian security section with the resistance groups on our borders to protect our land and to protect our interests,” Mr. Zahar said.

Asked whether Hamas’ armed wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, would be integrated into the Palestinian Authority’s official forces, he said: “We will be the Palestinian Authority, and they will integrate with us.”

Other Hamas legislators said they did not intend to expel the bulk of security forces members, but they would “purify” the leadership of each security service of its “corrupt elements.”

Hamas legislator Atef Adwan, elected Wednesday in a northern Gaza Strip district, maintained that new leaders needed to be brought in for the security services, but he told Palmedia they should be chosen for their professional skills, not their loyalty to any particular party.

The Fatah leadership is arguing that the Oslo accords placed the forces under the control of the Palestine Liberation Organization — which is led by Mr. Abbas.

• Distributed by World News & Features.

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