The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Fatah building new "Special Force" - with Egypt's help

This is Palestine under Fatah: it doesn't have a real state, doesn't give proper support for military operations against the occupation, but still builds the elaborate domestic security infrastructure of the classic Arab national security state.

Fatah training new force in Egypt for renewed infighting

By Avi Issacharoff

Fatah has established a new security apparatus in the Gaza Strip and is recruiting thousands of militants in preparation for another round of violent clashes with Hamas. So far the organization - known as the Special Force - has recruited 1,400 combatants, a thousand of which have undergone military training.

Fatah intends to recruit an addition of at least 1,000 men to the organization, loyal to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. The organization is headed by Sami Abu Samhadana, a notable operative in the first intifada.

Palestinian sources told Haaretz that the new recruitment effort was initiated some six weeks ago. According to the sources, officers from Palestinian General Intelligence service and the National Security Force were assigned to the ranks of the new organization.

They added that the organization is designed to function as an intervention force in case of a second conflagration of hostilities in the Gaza Strip between Hamas and Fatah.

The sources, loyal to Fatah, add that the cease-fire between the two rival factions is regarded as a temporary arrangement, to be terminated as soon as Hamas "perceives itself strong enough to overtake Fatah militarily."

Therefore, the sources say, the Special Fatah Force along with Abbas' Presidential Guard will have an important role in deterring Hamas from resuming hostilities.
More likely that the Special Force will be used to attempt to crush Hamas when Dahlan feels ready to do so.

Also intriguing is Egypt's role in all this:

Palestinian sources say some 350 combatants from the Special Force were sent to Egypt at the beginning of March to participate in a training course under the tutelage of officers from the Palestinian Authority and Egyptian army.

The combatants of the Special Force training in Egypt were joined by several hundred soldiers of the Presidential Guard. Other soldiers of the Guard are currently training within the PA, in Gaza and in Jericho, where 500 new Presidential Guard recruits have only recently completed their training program.

The sources say both the Special Force and the Presidential Guard are exercising strict discretion in accepting new recruits. "Anyone with any sort of affiliation to Islamist groups will not be accepted," they say. Sources add that Hamas is well aware of the mass recruiting and training in organizations loyal to Fatah, and that senior Hamas figures are pressing to militarily engage Fatah as soon as possible. They fear Dahlan and Abbas' military force would greatly surpass Hamas' forces in several months' time, the sources explain.