(photo credit: AP [file])
Hundreds of Hamas members have infiltrated the Palestinian Authority security establishment over the past two years, thanks to an open-door policy that allowed many unqualified and "hostile" - to Fatah - elements to join the various security forces, a member of the PA commission of inquiry into the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip said on Sunday.
Ali Muhana, a lawyer who served on the commission, which presented its findings to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas over the weekend, said Hamas members had exploited the open-door policy to join the security forces starting in 1995.
"This proves that Hamas was planning to launch a coup in the Gaza Strip," he said. "We reached this conclusion after seeing maps, documents and films implicating Hamas." According to Muhana, Hamas built a network of underground tunnels in the Gaza Strip as part of its plan to overthrow the PA. "They dug tunnels under buildings, security installations, major roads and the president's residence," he said. "They claimed that these tunnels were supposed to be used against Israel, but this was untrue. They were preparing for a coup."
Muhana's remarks are seen by some Palestinians as implicit criticism of Abbas, who was responsible for the open-door policy after he was elected in January 2005.
The commission recommended that the PA security forces undergo major changes and reforms, Muhana said. He called for merging the security forces into three bodies: General Intelligence, Internal Security and National Security.
Muhana said personal rivalries and "laziness" among the senior brass of the PA security forces in the Gaza Strip also facilitated the Hamas takeover. "Top officers and commanders should not remain in their jobs for more than two years," he added. "The loyalty of the policemen should be to the Palestinian national project and not to the commanders."
The commission recommended in its 200-page report that 60 security officers be dismissed and court-martialed. The panel also recommended disciplinary measures against several senior Fatah political and security leaders, including Muhammad Dahlan, who recently resigned as PA national security adviser, and Rashid Abu Shabak, whom Abbas fired last month as the top Fatah security commander in the Gaza Strip. Abu Shabak fled the Strip immediately after Hamas militiamen raided his villa in Gaza City and killed six of his bodyguards.
Hafez Barghouti, editor of the PA's Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda newspaper, criticized the commission for limiting its focus to the security establishment. He also attacked Abbas for failing to motivate the members of the security forces.
"I have repeatedly called on the president to offer hope to the security establishment because this is the duty of the leader," he said. "The motivation for fighting [Hamas] did not exist because of the lack of a noble cause. The policemen were victims of narrow factional interests."
Barghouti condemned the open-door policy as a "disaster." He said the PA political echelon bore as much responsibility for the Hamas takeover as the security establishment. "The president is first and foremost responsible for what happened," he said. "The president has been deceived by Hamas and by many of those surrounding him, including his security commanders and Fatah warlords. They played a role in destroying the security forces and Fatah. A failed officer is led by a failed politician."
In another development, Ahmed Abdel Rahman, a senior aide to Abbas, said on Sunday that the Gaza Strip was now being governed by a "gang of terrorists."
Referring to threats by some groups in the Strip to assassinate PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad, Abdel Rahman said: "Such threats prove that the Gaza Strip is controlled by a gang of terrorists. If these gangsters are threatening to kill the prime minister and other leaders, can you imagine what they are doing to the ordinary citizen? They are imposing a regime of terror and intimidation in the Gaza Strip."