Correction to This Article
An April 21 article from the Associated Press incorrectly said that three Marine security guards were killed in an attack on a U.S. Embassy convoy in the Gaza Strip in 2003. The victims were private security contractors.

Hamas Picks Guerrilla To Lead a New Force

Associated Press
Friday, April 21, 2006

GAZA CITY, April 20 -- The Hamas-led Palestinian Authority on Thursday named a guerrilla leader whose group has attacked Israel, and has been blamed for bombing a U.S. convoy, to head a new security force made up of Islamic militants.

Interior Minister Saed Siyam issued a decree appointing Jamal Abu Samhadana, head of the Popular Resistance Committees, as director general of his ministry. Abu Samhadana, a former security officer who was dismissed for refusing to report for duty during the uprising against Israel, was given the rank of colonel.

His group is responsible for many of the homemade rockets launched at Israel in recent weeks. It also is suspected by some of involvement in the attack on a U.S. Embassy convoy in Gaza that killed three Marine security guards in October 2003.

He is high on Israel's wanted list and has been the target of at least one assassination attempt.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khaled Abu Hilal said Siyam would form a new security branch -- answerable only to him -- to bring law and order to the Palestinian streets.

"This force is going to include the elite of our sons from the freedom fighters and the holy warriors and the best men we have," he said. "It's going to include members of all the resistance branches."

Abu Hilal said officials have begun recruiting for the new force, but they could not say how it would be structured or how big it would be. He also did not know whether the new force would be paid by the Interior Ministry or serve as volunteers, paid by their own groups.

The office of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, had no immediate response.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the move showed "the true nature and the true tactics of this particular Hamas-led government."

Israeli Foreign Ministry official Gideon Meir echoed that interpretation. "If someone needed proof about the connection between the Hamas rule and Palestinian terror, this appointment is the ultimate proof," Meir said. "It's like allowing the fox to guard the chicken coop."

After the Jan. 25 parliamentary election victory of Hamas, formally known as the Islamic Resistance Movement, over Abbas's Fatah party, the Islamic group's leaders said they planned to incorporate some of their militants into the security forces. But the announcement of a new force made up of factional fighters appeared to be an effort to counter Abbas's moves to take control of all other security branches.

Soon after the Hamas-led cabinet was sworn in late last month, Abbas appointed a longtime ally, Rashid Abu Shbak, to head the three security services that were supposed to fall under Hamas command. Abbas also controls several other security services.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company