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Feature: Hamas boosts police forces in Gaza with new training programs
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11:10, June 15, 2008

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A group of Hamas-controlled policemen appeared to be very interested while listening to a weapon expert who spent most of the time responding to their curious questions on explosives.

During the whole one-hour lesson, the officers, who were of various ages and many of whom bearded, kept on asking questions and the trainer, captain Fares al-Ashi who once received training in South Carolina of the United States, took the time answering.

"These information are important for the youths (the trainees)," al-Ashi said. "We give them general information about the explosives, those manufactured locally and the Israeli ones, because those people always reach the dangerous sites before we, the explosive squad, do."

The lesson was part of a new training program that the Hamas police launched last month, nearly one year after the Islamic movement seized control of the security establishment in the Gaza Strip.

Major Khalil Hejjo, chief of the training administration in the police, said the program was "a big achievement" made by the police which took a new shape after it became completely under Hamas' control.

"In the past, a brigadier general used to run this administration in addition to 250 officer trainers, but now, seven trainers and I oversee the whole programs," Hejjo explained.

The program is called "martyr Aziz Massoud course" for rehabilitating officers. "Every program should carry the name of a martyr," Hejjo said.

Massoud was killed in February in an Israeli airstrike on a car alongside four members of Hamas' armed wing, Ezz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades.

"He was one of the police trainers," Hejjo added.

The course is not limited to Hamas supporters and also involves200 officers "who represent all the political factions," according to Hejjo, who was a member of the police when it was under Fatah control and continued to work under Hamas.

The program, which lasts for four months besides a fifth month for exams, includes physical exercises as well as lectures on human rights, civil defense and explosives.

Hamas completed its Gaza takeover one year ago. As a result, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas withdrew his Fatah movement from coalition with Hamas, deposed Hamas Premier Ismail Haneya and formed a Fatah-backed cabinet based in West Bank.

Hamas refused Abbas' decisions and kept ruling Gaza after making several reshuffle on the deposed government. Later, Hamas took over most of the institutions and municipal councils and replaced their directors with pro-Hamas managers.

The political challenge between Hamas and Fatah make a political separation between the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

However, a few days ago, Abbas implicitly gave up a condition stipulating that Hamas steps back from controlling Gaza in order to open a national dialogue. Hamas welcomed the call.

Critics said that such training, in addition to taking over Palestinian National Authority's national and civil institution, tighten Hamas' grip on the impoverished territory and decrease chances of success of expected dialogue.

Source: Xinhua

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