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Palestinian police chief says Hamas must disarm

RAMALLAH, Occupied West Bank: The head of the Palestinian police said Wednesday that Hamas must disarm to allow a landmark reconciliation deal signed last month with rivals Fatah to succeed.

Hazem Atallah’s comments came as cracks began to show in the Palestinian reconciliation deal mediated by Egypt over the issue of security control of the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) is due to retake control of the Gaza Strip, currently still run by Hamas, by December 1.

“We are talking about one authority, one law, one gun,” Atallah told journalists in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, echoing a line from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Asked whether he could allow Hamas’s armed wing to maintain their weapons while being in charge of police in Gaza, he said: “No way”.

“It is impossible. How can I do security when there are all these rockets and guns and whatever? Is this possible? It doesn’t work.

“Otherwise how can I be in charge? Who is going to be standing and saying ‘I am the chief of police, I am in charge,’ if I am not controlling everything?”

He said the 8,000-9,000 Palestinian police who worked in Gaza before Hamas took over in 2007 would return to their posts, rejecting the idea of merging with the existing Hamas-led police.

This, he added, would need major financial support as the police’s budget would effectively double.

Hamas seized Gaza in 2007 following a near civil war with Fatah, which currently dominates the PNA.

Last month the two political parties signed an Egyptian-brokered reconciliation agreement under which Hamas is meant to hand over control of Gaza by December 1.

The agreement signed in Cairo does not specify the future for Hamas’s vast armed wing, the Ezzedine Al Qassam Brigades. Hamas has so far refused to disarm.

On November 1, Hamas handed over control of border crossings in a first key test.

But in a sign of tension, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said Tuesday the PNA still did not have full control of the crossings, with Hamas dominating the police and security inside Gaza.

Hamas rejected that, with a statement saying it had fully transferred power.

Israel has maintained a crippling blockade on Gaza for a decade. Multiple previous reconciliation attempts have failed.

*Photo of Major-General Hazem Atallah, Chief of Palestinian Police. Photo credit: Alhadath newspaper, for Marsad Palestine, 2017.

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