Hamas says won't arrest militants behind attacks
Thu Mar 23, 2006 9:49 AM ET
By Nidal al-Mughrabi
GAZA (Reuters) - Incoming Palestinian interior minister Saeed Seyam, chosen
by Hamas to oversee three security services, said on Thursday he will not
order the arrest of militants carrying out attacks against Israel.
"The day will never come when any Palestinian would be arrested because of
his political affiliation or because of resisting the occupation," Seyam
told Reuters in an interview. "The file of political detention must be
Hamas, whose charter officially calls for Israel's destruction, swept to
victory in a January 25 election and plans to present its cabinet line-up to
a Hamas-dominated parliament for a vote next week.
The militant group has selected Hamas loyalists like Seyam to fill almost
all of the 24-member cabinet after President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction
and other moderate parties refused to join a coalition with Hamas.
Hamas's failure to convince rival factions to join the government could make
it harder for it to rule and could cement U.S. and Israeli efforts to
isolate the group.
As well as vowing not to arrest militants for carrying out attacks against
Israel, Seyam said Hamas would try to coordinate militants' operations.
"Talks with the factions in the future will focus on the mechanisms, the
shape and the timing (of any attacks)," he said. "But the right to defend
our people and to confront the aggression is granted and is legitimate."
Seyam said he had begun talks with Palestinian security chiefs in the hope
of averting fighting within the security services. A majority of the
20,000-plus security personnel, who will answer to Seyam, are Fatah members.
Seyam said maintaining law and order would be a top priority. There were
several hundred murders in Gaza and the West Bank last year, according to
Human Rights groups.
Seyam said his ministry would continue to coordinate day-to-day security
issues, like the number of permits given to Palestinian workers, with
Israeli authorities. But Seyam said he did not plan to meet Israelis
"Regarding daily issues, they will not be changed, except in the way that
serves the interest of our people," he said.
Israel and the United States have said they will not have any contact with
Hamas members and have urged donors to cut off direct funding to the
government unless it renounces violence, abides by interim peace deals and
recognizes the Jewish state.
"Saeed Seyam did not come to the government to revive any security
cooperation or to protect the occupation and their settlers. I came to
protect our people and their fighters, to protect their trees, their
properties and their capabilities," Seyam said.