Hamas still patrolling Gaza streets

UN and Russia voice support for Abbas' pressure on Hamas to recognize Israel

hamas security force 224 (photo credit: AP [file])
hamas security force 224
(photo credit: AP [file])
The Hamas-led government's 3,000-member private security force remained on Gaza's streets on Thursday with no sign of any withdrawal despite a high-profile deal with the rival Fatah movement to remove it from public areas. The Hamas government agreed to pull back its force in an Egyptian-mediated agreement Wednesday aimed at halting weeks of bloody infighting. A spokesman for the Hamas-run Interior ministry, Khaled Abu Hilal, claimed the force had been repositioned, but there was no change on the ground. Black-clad gunmen stood guard on street corners throughout the coastal strip, at times shifting positions but remaining in full public view. It was unclear if Wednesday's agreement would meet the same fate as a deal last month in which Hamas agreed to pull back its force, only to return it to the streets several days later. The deal came amid a deeper disagreement over an ultimatum by President Mahmoud Abbas to recognize Israel or face a referendum on the idea. Abbas, who heads Fatah, has given the Islamic group until the weekend to respond. In a message read out to a UN-organized seminar on the Middle East peace process in Moscow on Thursday, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and a top Russian diplomat lent support to efforts by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to pressure Hamas into recognizing Israel.