Hamas sets up new security force

By JPOST.COM STAFF
July 31, 2007 00:48

Focus on internal intelligence; Hamas stops distribution of Fatah newspapers.

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Hamas has recently formed a new security force which will focus on internal intelligence in the Gaza Strip, the London-based Asharq Alawsat reported on Tuesday. A Hamas spokesperson said that the new force would begin operating in the next few weeks. Among other tasks, the force will focus on foiling collaboration with Israel. On Monday, Hamas militiamen prevented the distribution of three Fatah-affiliated newspapers in the Gaza Strip and briefly detained the local agents of the dailies. This is the first time that the newspapers, published in the West Bank, were prevented from being distributed in the Gaza Strip. Palestinian journalists said thousands of copies from the three newspapers were seized by Hamas's paramilitary Executive Force on the Palestinian side of the Erez border crossing. The newspapers were taken aboard a truck to a Hamas security installation nearby in the town of Beit Hanan. According to the journalists, six Palestinians working for the newspapers were detained by Hamas for questioning. Two of them, Hatem Kishawi and Samir Jaber, work for the Fatah-controlled Al-Ayyam, which serves as a mouthpiece for the Palestinian Authority. The other four work for the PA-funded Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda and Al-Quds, a pro-Fatah newspaper owned by a family from east Jerusalem. Islam Shahwan, spokesman for the Executive Force, announced that the move was aimed at sending a warning to the newspapers to stop inciting against his force and Hamas. "They are publishing many lies about Hamas and the Executive Force," he charged. "In addition, they are ignoring the achievements of the Executive Force in imposing law and order in the Gaza Strip." The three newspapers have been highly critical of Hamas's violent takeover of the Gaza Strip and have openly supported Fatah in its power struggle with the Islamist movement. Some Hamas leaders recently called for banning the distribution of the newspapers in the Gaza Strip because of their anti-Hamas stance and in response to the PA's ongoing crackdown on Hamas figures and institutions in the West Bank. Hamas's capture of the Gaza Strip has forced most Palestinian journalists and editors there to toe the line and refrain from criticizing the Islamist movement. Gaza-based news Web sites that were once critical of Hamas have begun publishing stories that reflect negatively on Fatah. "Of course we're afraid," said a local journalist. "Hamas does not accept criticism. If you write something that they don't like, you will get into trouble. Unfortunately, the situation wasn't much better when Fatah was here. Both of them don't respect the freedom of the media." A source in Abbas's office condemned the confiscation of the newspapers as a "new crime" against the freedom of expression. The source said Hamas was trying to intimidate the media and journalists to stop them from reporting on Hamas atrocities in the Gaza Strip. In a separate development Monday, Hamas instructed members of its security forces to refrain from using physical force against detainees. The instruction came in the wake of reports that Hamas was torturing detainees in its prisons in the Gaza Strip. Abu Obaidah al-Jarah, commander of the Executive Force, said that any Hamas member who violated the instructions would be punished severely. He also expressed his force's readiness to work with human rights organizations to make sure that the rights of detainees were preserved.


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