By Avi Issacharoff
31 March 2007
Fatah has established a new security apparatus in the Gaza
Strip and is recruiting thousands of militants in
preparation for another round of violent clashes with
Hamas. So far the organization - known as the Special
Force - has recruited 1,400 combatants, a thousand of
which have undergone military training.
Fatah intends to recruit an addition of at least 1,000 men
to the organization, loyal to Palestinian Authority
Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. The organization is headed by Sami
Abu Samhadana, a notable operative in the first intifada.
Palestinian sources told Haaretz that the new recruitment
effort was initiated some six weeks ago. According to the
sources, officers from Palestinian General Intelligence
service and the National Security Force were assigned to
the ranks of the new organization.
They added that the organization is designed to function
as an intervention force in case of a second conflagration
of hostilities in the Gaza Strip between Hamas and Fatah.
The sources, loyal to Fatah, add that the cease-fire
between the two rival factions is regarded as a temporary
arrangement, to be terminated as soon as Hamas "perceives
itself strong enough to overtake Fatah militarily."
Therefore, the sources say, the Special Fatah Force along
with Abbas' Presidential Guard will have an important role
in deterring Hamas from resuming hostilities.
Abu Samhadana was appointed commander of the Special Force
several years ago, but it was only recently decided to
transform his relatively insignificant organization into a
new major apparatus loyal only to Fatah and Abbas. Abu
Samhadana is nonetheless considered an ally of Mohammed
Dahlan, head of the Palestinian National Security Council
and aide to Abbas.
Abu Samhadana's brother, Jammal, had been head of the
Popular Resistance Committees, a breakaway Fatah militia,
until Israel assassinated him last June. During the second
intifada, Sami Abu Samhadana was sent to Egypt for medical
attention due to heart problems. Upon his return, Israel
barred him from re-entering the Strip, so he stole across
the border with Egypt into the Strip through a tunnel in
Rafah where his wife's family lives.
Palestinian sources say some 350 combatants from the
Special Force were sent to Egypt at the beginning of March
to participate in a training course under the tutelage of
officers from the Palestinian Authority and Egyptian army.
The combatants of the Special Force training in Egypt were
joined by several hundred soldiers of the Presidential
Guard. Other soldiers of the Guard are currently training
within the PA, in Gaza and in Jericho, where 500 new
Presidential Guard recruits have only recently completed
their training program.
The sources say both the Special Force and the
Presidential Guard are exercising strict discretion in
accepting new recruits. "Anyone with any sort of
affiliation to Islamist groups will not be accepted," they
say. Sources add that Hamas is well aware of the mass
recruiting and training in organizations loyal to Fatah,
and that senior Hamas figures are pressing to militarily
engage Fatah as soon as possible. They fear Dahlan and
Abbas' military force would greatly surpass Hamas' forces
in several months' time, the sources explain.
Currently, however, there appears to be a shortage in
weapons in Fatah's ranks. According to the sources, Egypt
shipped some 200 assault rifles to Abbas' forces three
months ago, with Israel's consent. During the visit to the
region of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her
Middle East envoy, David Welsh, Abbas demanded that Israel
allow the transfer of weapons to Fatah forces. The request
was made both to Israel and to the Americans, but was
rejected by both parties.
Meanwhile, the violent clashes between Fatah and Hamas in
the Gaza Strip have continued over the weekend with the
assassination Friday of an officer in the National
Security Force. Fatah accused Hamas for the killing of
Sheikh Adnan al-Mansara as part of a dispute on control
over a new mosque in Gaza's Shajaiyeh neighborhood. Fatah
and Hamas militants have exchanged fire in Beit Hanun. In
addition, unknown parties have set off an explosion in a
local Internet services business.