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Hamas appoints top militant to security post

Written by: Staff

GAZA, Apr 20 (Reuters) A struggle between the governing Hamas group and President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah for control of Palestinian security forces intensified today with the appointment of a top militant wanted by Israel to a senior post.

Interior Minister Saeed Seyam of Hamas said he had named Jamal Abu Samhadana, commander of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) and a senior Fatah leader, to be supervisor of the Interior Ministry, the government agency that oversees security services.

The appointment was widely seen as an attempt by Hamas to strengthen its grip on the ministry, especially after Abbas recently appointed one of his loyalists, Rashid Abu Shbak, as its director-general.

Samhadana's appointment could widen the moderate leader's rift with Hamas, which crushed his long-dominant Fatah faction in a January parliamentary election and rejected his calls to pursue peace with Israel.

While Samhadana is from Fatah, he is Hamas's choice, has strong ties to Hamas and his appointment is in defiance of Abbas's earlier appointment.

However Samhadana, whose PRC has spearheaded rocket attacks from Gaza against Israel, is popular among several Palestinian factions and could be a unifying factor in confronting lawlessness and chaos in the territory, political sources said.

Addressing a meeting of local religious leaders, Seyam said his ministry would soon begin to recruit fighters from all Palestinian movements for a ''special executive'' force to deal with ordinary crime and clan rivalries in Gaza.

Samhadana has survived several attempts by Israel to kill him and is widely believed to be high on its most-wanted list of Palestinian militants.


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