Palestinian Hamas militants take part in a protest against the Israeli police raid on Jerusalem's al-Aksa mosque in Khan Yunis.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Hamas’s armed wing, Ezaddin al-Qassam, has deployed members of its “Elite Forces” in various parts of the Gaza Strip, Palestinian sources said over the weekend.
The sources said that the Hamas forces have replaced the civilian police force, who have disappeared from the streets.
The move came following a “security incident” that repeatedly occurred along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel in the last few days, the sources said.
The Gaza Strip has since been awash with rumors regarding the “security incident,” which resulted in an escalation of tensions along the border with Israel.
Eyewitnesses said they were surprised to see the heavily armed members of the Hamas “Elite Forces” patrolling the streets of the Gaza Strip in broad daylight, according to the Rai-Al-Youm online newspaper.
The “Elite Forces” have until now operated only at night.
They said that the Hamas security officers were seen conducting thorough searches of vehicles and checking the identities of Palestinians, especially in the fashionable al-Rimal suburb of Gaza City.
Palestinians said that Hamas’s decision to deploy the “Unite Forces” in the Gaza Strip was aimed at sending a warning message to the movement’s rivals.
Last week, Hamas banned a conference organized by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and other factions. The conference was supposed to call for an end to the power struggle between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.
A spokesman for the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry, which is in charge of security, said that the deployment of the “Elite Forces” was part of a drill to increase the efficiency of the police force.
But other sources in the Gaza Strip said that the Latest Hamas move was also aimed at sending a message to Israel not to carry out any security operation inside the Gaza Strip.
The sources claimed that Ezaddin al-Qassam recently managed to “thwart an Israeli security operation” inside the Gaza Strip.