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(photo credit: AP [file])
The death of Said Siam is not only a blow to Hamas morale, but also a personal setback for Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and Mahmoud Zahar, the group's "foreign minister."
The two lost not only a longtime friend, but also the man who was in charge of their personal security. In addition, Siam's main task was to ensure the stability of the Hamas regime and thwart any attempt by Fatah to regain control of the Gaza Strip.
Siam was considered by many Palestinians to be the movement's "defense minister." In his capacity as minister of interior in the Hamas government headed by Haniyeh, the 50-year-old Siam was in charge of all of the security forces and armed groups operating in the Gaza Strip.
Siam, who won the largest number of votes in his constituency during the January 2006 parliamentary election, was first appointed interior minister in the Hamas government sworn in by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
But Siam clashed with the Fatah security chiefs in the Gaza Strip, who refused to operate under his jurisdiction and instead reported to Abbas.
In response, Siam established his own security force, known as the Executive Force, which served as another Hamas armed group in Gaza. The Force, which consisted of more than 12,000 gunmen, reported directly to Siam, and its men often clashed with rival Fatah policemen.
Siam resigned when Fatah and Hamas decided to form a national unity government in line with an agreement reached in Mecca under the auspices of the Saudi ruling family.
When the Fatah-Hamas coalition collapsed a few months later, Siam returned to his former post.
In the summer of 2007, he played a major role in the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip. Fatah operatives and leaders continued to regard him as a fierce enemy after they were forced to flee to Egypt and the West Bank.
Siam, a former school teacher who graduated from a college in Ramallah, was first arrested by Israel in 1988. He was sentenced to four years in prison for security offenses and membership in a terror organization.
In 1992 he was among some 400 Hamas members Israel deported to southern Lebanon in response to the kidnapping and murder of a Border Police officer.
Siam also spent some time in Palestinian Authority prison after the PA was established in 1994.
The Fatah leadership in Ramallah considered Siam its No. 1 enemy, especially after he announced that Hamas had seized documents in a formerly Fatah-controlled security headquarters that proved the PA had been collaborating with Israel against Hamas and other Palestinian factions.
Siam also enraged the Fatah leaders by threatening to publish documents that were seized by Hamas and showed that the PA security forces had been spying on the PA leadership and some Arab countries.
As in the case of Nizar Rayyan, another senior Hamas representative killed by Israel during Operation Cast Lead, it was hard on Thursday to find words of sympathy for Siam among Fatah members or the PA leadership in the West Bank.
On the contrary, a number of Fatah and PA officials privately expressed relief over the killing of Siam and said that his absence from the scene would pave the way for reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah.
Siam was seen as the No. 2 Hamas man in the Gaza Strip, and some of his supporters considered him the future successor to Haniyeh.
Many comments posted by Palestinians on Fatah-controlled Web sites expressed joy over the assassination.
The Palpress News Agency, which is run by followers of former Fatah security chief Muhammad Dahlan, published dozens of talkbacks in which readers openly rejoiced.
The agency quoted "reliable sources" in the Gaza Strip as saying that one of Siam's bodyguards had tipped the Israelis about his whereabouts. The sources said that Hamas militiamen executed the bodyguard shortly after the assassination.
Some of the talkbacks read as follows:
Falastinyah: He [Siam] was a swine. To hell with him! We hope that the remaining pigs would follow him.
Lovers of [slain Fatah operative] Samih Madhoun: Justice has finally been done!
Muhammad: He got what he deserved. May Allah punish him for his deeds.
Ahmed: We will never forgive him for his gruesome crimes against Fatah. Apparently Allah turned him into a martyr to absolve him of his many sins.
Victims of Said Siam: We won't forget the 700 Fatah people who were killed by Siam.
Zeer55: We love you, Ehud Barak. This is really a great hit, Mr. Barak, and we fully support you. Please make us happy by going after the rest of them.
Son of the North: To hell, you murderer. We hope that it would now be the turn of the despicable Mahmoud Zahar.
Abu Majd: This man does not deserve to be called a martyr. Siam's hands are stained with the blood of many innocent Muslims.
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