Saturday, May 27, 2006

Hamas: Lessening the turmoil… What were we thinking?!!
Hamas Militia Returns to Streets of Gaza

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) -- The Hamas-led government sent its private militia back into the streets of Gaza on Saturday, a day after withdrawing the force to help calm an increasingly bloody standoff with forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas.

Hamas officials said the move wasn't meant as a provocation. But Abbas' Fatah movement said the deployment raised the chances of new fighting. Fatah officials also said the move threatened negotiations on the president's ultimatum to the militants to accept a plan that would implicitly recognize Israel.

The 3,000-strong Hamas militia has been at the center of the Palestinian infighting, and Hamas' decision to withdraw the black-clad force on Friday was widely seen as a conciliatory gesture.

Youssef Zahar, spokesman for the militia, said Saturday's deployment did not contradict the previous day's decision. At the time, Hamas said the force would remain on standby at fixed locations and resume limited patrols in the future.

"The police stations are closed to us, so we're making use of some streets," Zahar said.

The presence of the Hamas gunmen was much smaller than earlier this week, with forces stationed at several major intersections and near the homes of senior Hamas government officials. The situation appeared to be calm, and in some instances, Hamas gunmen chatted freely with regular policemen.

Fatah spokesman Tawfiq Abu Khoussa, however, said the return of the Hamas force, even in small numbers, was "unacceptable and illegal."…

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