Fathi Hammad 88.
(photo credit: )
Hamas has appointed a new interior minister to oversee the work of its security forces in the Gaza Strip.
The new minister, Fathi Hammad, has replaced Said Siam who was killed by Israel in January during Operation Cast Lead.
On Tuesday, Hammad attended the weekly meeting of the Hamas cabinet in Gaza City for the first time in his capacity of interior minister.
He said after the meeting that he planned to continue building and developing the Hamas-controlled security forces in the Strip.
Hammad was elected as member of the Palestinian Legislative Council in January 2006. In the past few years he was also in charge of Hamas's Al-Aksa TV station.
The post of interior minister is one of the most important portfolios in the Hamas cabinet because the minister is directly in charge of all the security forces.
Unlike his predecessor, Hammad maintains good relations with representatives of the rival Fatah faction in the Gaza Strip.
His appointment came shortly after Hamas announced that it had reelected Khaled Mashaal as head of its political bureau in a secret vote.
The appointment of Hammad also coincided with reports according to which Hamas policemen have been deployed in various parts of the Strip in an attempt to stop militiamen from firing rockets at Israel.
It's not clear if the appointment will have any impact on efforts by Hamas and Fatah to end their power struggle that has been raging for three years.
Meanwhile, two senior Fatah leaders in the Gaza Strip complained on Wednesday that Hamas policemen who stopped them at a checkpoint in the northern Gaza confiscated their personal belongings and documents that they were carrying.
The two, Zakariya al-Agha and Ibrahim Abu al-Naja, were on their way back from the West Bank when they were stopped at a Hamas checkpoint near the Erez border crossing. They were later released without the documents.
Fatah officials said that Hamas security forces had summoned several top Fatah operatives for questioning. They added that one of them, Nahed Khalil, from the northern Gaza Strip, had been brutally tortured while in detention. Khalil was recently released from an Israeli prison after completing a two-year sentence for security offences.