The head of the Palestinian Authority police said Wednesday that Hamas must disarm in order for a landmark reconciliation deal signed last month with rival Fatah to succeed.
Hazem Atallah’s comments came as cracks began to show in the Palestinian reconciliation deal mediated by Egypt over the issue of security control of the Gaza Strip.
The PA is due to retake control of the Strip, still run by the Hamas terror group, by December 1.
“We are talking about one authority, one law, one gun,” Atallah told journalists in Ramallah in the West Bank, echoing a line from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Asked whether he could allow Hamas’s armed wing to maintain its weapons while being in charge of police in Gaza, he said: “No way.”
“It is impossible. How can I do security when there are all these rockets and guns and whatever? Is this possible? It doesn’t work.
“Otherwise how can I be in charge? Who is going to be standing and saying ‘I am the chief of police, I am in charge,’ if I am not controlling everything?”
He said the 8,000-9,000 Palestinian police who worked in Gaza before Hamas took over in 2007 would return to their posts, rejecting the idea of merging with the existing Hamas-led police.
This, he added, would need major financial support as the police’s budget would effectively double.
Hamas seized Gaza in 2007 following a near civil war with Fatah, which currently dominates the PA.
Last month the two parties signed an Egyptian-brokered reconciliation agreement under which Hamas is meant to hand over control of Gaza by December 1.
The agreement signed in Cairo does not specify the future for Hamas’s vast armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades. Hamas has made clear it is not prepared to disarm.
On November 1, Hamas handed over control of border crossings in a first key test.
But in a sign of tension, PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said Tuesday the PA still did not have full control of the crossings, with Hamas dominating the police and security inside Gaza.
Hamas rejected that, with a statement saying it had fully transferred power.
Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union, publicly seeks the destruction of Israel and has fought three wars with the Jewish state since 2008.
Israel has maintained a blockade on Gaza for a decade in order to prevent the import of weapons, while Egypt has also kept its border largely closed in recent years.
Multiple previous reconciliation attempts have failed.