close watch on Hamas’ attempts to expand its security force inside the
West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Hamas’ “Special Security Service” has
found two determined enemies in Fatah gangs and in the Israeli army.
Both entities have so far combated the security force with methods that
have defined their behavior for years.
On the other hand, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of Fatah, simply attacks the group along with any Hamas-associated organizations on the streets, significantly diminishing its power.
Despite these setbacks, the Special Security Service has become something of a threat in the Gaza Strip as its members are well equipped and well trained. They have had solid victories on the ground against Fatah, which has angered Fatah factions and pushed them to focus more on fighting Hamas than Israel. Violent internal clashes between the groups have abounded, causing the deaths of a number of people.
The group was originally created to act as a quasi police force, but with tensions between Fatah and Hamas running high, its leader, Yusuf Al-Zahar, has given equal attention to battling Fatah activists. Its members are paid by the Palestinian Authority, but have taken up violent opposition against militant factions of PA Chairman and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, a dangerous conflict of interests to be sure.
"Hamas is a pragmatic organization,” commented an Israeli military officer, "Its goal is not to conquer the streets of the West Bank, but to create an effective balance of deterrence with Fatah there."
Currently the group is focusing on recruiting more members, particularly from the West Bank where it has less influence, to join its already 5,000 strong force. The idea is to recruit Hamas supporters into the PA security services to protect PA and Hamas institutions and government officials against Israeli and Fatah gang attacks. Its official aim has less to do with Fatah than it does acting as a legitimate arm of the Hamas-led government.
However, the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, the more established and formidable group in the West Bank, has made it difficult for Hamas to secure its hold of the area. Fatah members meet in West Bank cities they feel are threatened by Hamas and form an opposition force willing to take armed action against Hamas.
"We have a clear advantage in the West Bank, and we will make sure that Hamas doesn't carry out its plan," said one senior Fatah official, Hussein al-Sheikh of Ramallah.
Alongside recruitment, the security force has amassed tons of weapons. Hamas has purchased weapons in the West Bank and has stepped up its smuggling efforts from Egypt to Gaza and from Jordan. Enticing Fatah defectors to their side has been another effective technique. So far Hamas has succeeded in gathering a few hundred men in the West Bank, particularly in Hebron.
Sourced from Haaretz