Hamas Hires Gang Chief to Muscle in on Palestinian Security Forces and Strip Abu Mazen of Real Power

Reconciliation gestures notwithstanding, Hamas is methodically peeling off the layers of authority from Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). Friday, April 21, he issued two “executive orders.” One was supposed to cancel the interior minister, Said Siyam’s appointment as general commissioner, Jamal Semhadana, the Gazan crime boss and head of the terrorist groups’ umbrella organization – the Palestinian Resistance Committees; the second, the new “police force” he was detailed to build out of terrorist groups.
Both orders were squashed the same day. Palestinian Interior Ministry spokesman Khaled Abu Hilal, a Fatah renegade who has joined Hamas, declared: “We are pressing ahead with our plan.”
In a speech in the Syrian capital, Hamas political chief Khaled Meshaal accused Abu Mazen’s Fatah clique of attempting to topple Hamas rule by a “military coup,” as a tool of the Americans and Israelis. It won’t work, he shouted, calling Fatah loyalists “miserable mercenaries.”
Fatah took to the streets in Gaza, accusing Meshaal of fomenting civil war. Thirty people were wounded in ensuing clashes with Hamas loyalists. To quell the riot, Hamas offered Abbas a face-saver by pretending to drop the new police force.
But Semhadana stays and so does his job of quietly wresting the 50,000-strong Palestinian security force from Fatah control.
The increasing violence and virulence between the two camps are deceptive; on his home ground, Abu Mazen has been reduced to a nonentity. The standoff between him and Hamas is illusory.
Four developments underline the changes Hamas has already wrought in the structure and direction of Palestinian government since its takeover in February:
1. Abu Mazen’s authority at home has shrunk to the four walls of his executive office; even the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a branch of his own Fatah, mocks his authority. He commands respect only in foreign capitals, which is why he is always traveling.
2. The Palestinian Authority is no longer a functioning government – either in the Gaza Strip or the West Bank. A department here and there, such as health or education, are running on inertia, but only until their budgets are exhausted.
3. The ministers whom prime minister Ismail Haniya appointed in February have not taken up their jobs, except for interior minister Siyam. He, too, rather than tackling the mundane tasks of bringing law and order to the chaotic, crime-ridden streets, is busy consolidating Hamas in the key positions grabbed from the PA’s Fatah-dominated security, intelligence and civil services, which Abbas claims to be under his authority.
4. This is where the notorious crime and terrorist chief Jamal Semhadana comes in.
The Hamas rulers are not bothered by the universal scandal over the appointment of the founder of the Palestinian Resistance Committees commander, whose clan owns a Middle East smuggling network that runs contraband arms from the Gulf to Sunni insurgent and al Qaeda fighters in Iraq; a terror-master credited with masterminding the assassination of three American security agents escorting a US embassy convoy in Gaza on Oct. 15, 2003, and responsibility for suicide attacks that have claimed many Israeli lives.
Hamas has decided that Jemal Semhadana, with his stellar record as a terrorist, murderer and crook, is just the asset they need. Siyam has put him in charge of assembling a security force loyal to Hamas rather than the former regime by merging the various terrorist factions and transferring the security services’ loyalties to the new regime.
As matters stand today, the Palestinian Authority’s security forces exist on paper as 60,000 men, with an intelligence arm, command posts, bases, officers, NCOs, fighting units and police contingents.
But none of these bodies is in working condition. The officers and men call in at their bases once a day at most, to inquire about their delayed paychecks. Their families are not exactly starving because, even before Hamas was elected to government in January, most” eked out their wages by moonlighting for terrorist groups, crime militias and the networks smuggling arms and drugs.
Semhadana is expected to overhaul and consolidate this force, blend it in with recruits from Palestinian factions, and even put up some of the cash for payroll. Anyone venturing to resist him can expect very short shrift.
Even if Israel’s long arm does reach Jamal Semhadana, as one official has threatened, another clan member will step into his shoes. A targeted assassination – like Abu Mazen’s “veto – will not stop the biggest crime-cum-terror syndicate in the Middle East from acquiring an armed militia of 50,000 Palestinian fighting men; nor will Hamas be deprived of this military buttress to shore up its rule and alternative source of funding – no questions asked about its provenance.
This is not a Hamas innovation. In 2000, when the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat launched his war against Israel, he concluded an alliance with the very same Semhadana clan in Gaza, for three advantages:
A. Control of the Gaza Strip.
B. A ready supply of weapons and explosives to arm the Palestinian terror machine.
C. A 10-15% kickback from the gang’s ill-gotten revenues for Arafat’s private fund, which immunized him against pressure to renounce terrorism from European and American donors and Israel.
He in turn provided the gang with his personal patronage, access to intelligence gathered by Palestinian spies around the Arab world, and gave the Semhadanas southern Gaza as their turf, including the towns of Rafah, Khan Younes and Deir al Balakh.
The syndicate signaled the passing of the Arafat era when its hit-men blew away his kinsman, General Mussa Arafat, on Sep. 7, 2005, shortly after his appointment as head of Palestinian military intelligence. They took advantage of the mayhem prevailing in the Gaza Strip two weeks after Israel’s pullout. The Semhadanas then opened the bidding for a new partner in the Palestinian regime.
Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah clique, Mohammed Dahlan and Rashid Abu Shebak, stepped forward to offer Jemal the late Mussa Arafat’s job as chief of military intelligence. But they never followed through on the offer.
After Hamas was elected, Jamal let it be known that no one would be allowed to exercise control of the Gaza Strip without bringing him into government. He promised a reward in the form of a dependable source of revenue.
Last week, when the Hamas rulers took stock of their growing isolation, empty coffers and the parsimony of Arab donors, they reverted to the Yasser Arafat’s old ally. They were not deterred by Abu Mazen’s “veto” of this step, nor the Fatah’s street protest, any more than the reaction from Washington. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said: This is just another window into the nature of this Hamas-led government and underscores the importance of the international community maintaining unity in sending a strong message to them to change.”
It must be clear by now that Hamas has no intention of changing.

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