President Mahmoud Abbas has ordered the deployment of thousands of Palestinian police in Gaza after the Hamas government posted its own armed men on the streets. Unrest has slowly escalated throughout the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip since Hamas crushed Abbas’ Fatah party in a general election in January. Abbas has been struggling to revive peacemaking with Israel since Hamas’s victory. But speaking to EuroNews, he denied the Palestinian Authority now had two leaders.
“According to basic law, there should not be two heads but rather one sole head – assisted by a government and the leader of the government. That’s how it used to be and that’s how it should be now,” he said. Earlier Interior Minister Saeed Seyman announced that a Hamas-led police force of 3,000 men was operational. He said it would tackle what he called the “chaos and anarchy and increasing assaults on our people” – apparently a reference to the killing of two Hamas militants by gunmen in Gaza this week.
Wearing Islamist insignia, some 30 members of the new security force have begun patrolling central Gaza. Hamas is also facing protests from some Palestinian people, desperate for money and food. Around 165,000 government workers have not been paid for months after the West stopped financial aid following Hamas’ election victory.