Hamas minister says could take year to end armed chaos

news4_3_4.jpgGAZA CITY (AFP) — Palestinian Interior Minister Said Siam said Sunday it could take a year for his Hamas government to end armed chaos in Gaza after three people were killed in clashes between rival gunmen.

“We will ensure that nobody is above the law and demand an end to the instability and armed chaos,” Siam said of clashes Friday in the Gaza Strip that also left 36 people wounded after the assassination of a commander.

“We are giving the security forces all the authority and power to investigate this ugly crime [the assassination] and also the three killings and other casualties that followed,” he said referring to a commission of inquiry set up late Friday.

Later addressing a news conference in Gaza City, Siam said he had been in contact with “imams and gunmen” in a bid to control the situation but counselled that it could take months if not a year to end the armed chaos.

“I am going to meet the groups, heads of security services until we bring people to face their responsibility,” he said.

Friday’s deadly violence was the first major challenge faced by the new Hamas-led government since its inauguration two days earlier following its upset January election victory over Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’ Fateh.

But Said, who only took office four days ago, said security problems would not be solved “by waving a magic wand.”

“The Palestinians, who have seen security chaos and misrule for years, will have to wait a little more, one year.”

He also stressed that the interior ministry would not be composed only of members of Hamas, branded a terrorist organisation by Israel and the West.

“I will mix up people and rate all those who merit it.”

Security officers, drawn from Abbas’ defeated Fateh Party, have expressed fears of a Hamas purge to replace their ranks with Islamist loyalists.

Siam ruled out any “security cooperation” with Israel at a “national level” but did say he was not opposed to coordinating with the Jewish state on “daily matters” such as water, electricity and health.

Israel, like the West, has refused to deal with the new Hamas government unless the movement recognises its right to exist, renounces violence and commits to peace agreements signed in the past by the Palestinian Authority.

Israel has imposed crushing economic sanctions against the Palestinian administration, withholding the transfer of customs duties, but has said it will not cut off water and electricity supplies to the territories.

Faced with the recent violence in the Gaza Strip, the umbrella group of Palestinian factions — the Committee of Islamic and National Forces — also called for an end to instability and armed chaos.

It condemned the war of words between rival groups that followed the murder of the military commander of the Popular Resistance Committees, Abu Yussef Al Gouga.

“We condemn the accusations being bandied about against different Palestinian groups and affirm our concern for Palestinian unity in confronting the occupation,” a statement said.

The moderate Abbas’ Fateh, whose supporters clashed Friday with men of the Popular Resistance Committees, expressed both concern for Palestinian unity and worry about the bloodshed, which it described as a “red line.”

“It is a red line for us. We will not allow anyone to touch it and to use it for his interest and party point of view,” a statement said.

“We confirm our commitment to supporting the Palestinian Authority and imposing the rule of law and back [prime minister Ismail] Haniyeh’s government in establishing a commission of inquiry into what happened in Gaza City.”

Meanwhile, the diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East — the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations — met Sunday in Amman to discuss international aid for the Palestinian territories, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.

Petra gave no details.

On Friday, a US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States wanted to change its aid “to bypass the foreign ministry” of the Palestinian Authority.

The United States froze its aid to the Palestinian Authority in January, after Hamas won the elections.

The State Department announced Friday that Washington has suspended all contact with the Palestinian government led by Hamas, though it will maintain contact with “individuals and organisations who are not affiliated with Hamas,” such as the Palestinian president.

The Quartet has called on Hamas to renounce violence and its call for the destruction of the Israeli state and warned that international aid is at risk.

The United States will be represented at the meeting by Assistant Secretary of State David Welch.

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