JERUSALEM (JWN and agencies)—The relative quiet on Israel’s southern front over the past two months is due to the establishment of a new force by the Hamas government of the Gaza Strip dedicated to preventing rocket attacks. The unit is said to be responsible for thwarting dozens of attacks.
Haaretz reported that Hamas, until recently devoted to a jihad against Israel in accordance with its charter, has now come down hard on splinter organizations that invite Israeli retaliation by rocketing Israeli civilians. The main targets of this new preventive action are Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees.
The new force is commanded by Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hammad, who ironically was known for his extremism regarding Israel. A Gaza source told the paper that the force of some 300 men operates, “day and night, 24 hours, everywhere in the Strip, particularly near the borders with Israel.”
Members of the special unit wear black uniforms and patrol on motorcycles and four-wheel drive vehicles. The source said its operatives have authority to shoot anyone who resists arrest or fires at them. The force is not entirely altruistic: all rockets and/or mortars that are seized are transferred to Hamas arsenals.
The formation of the new anti-rocket force seems to indicate that Hamas is serious about keeping things quiet on Israel’s southern front so it can consolidate its rule over the Strip.
The reason the force was not active when Islamic Jihad and the PRC launched hundreds of rockets at Israel in March is because of its policy of not acting if Israel strikes first. Israel’s assassination of Zuhair al-Qaisi of the PRC in early March was considered just such a provocation.