Here’s how the Palestinian armed rivals stack up militarily:
ABBAS’S PRESIDENTIAL GUARD
With U.S. backing, Abbas’s elite presidential guard has grown to at least 4,000 men, up from 2,500 members when Hamas took power in March.
Last week, Hamas accused the presidential guard and a Fatah strongman of trying to assassinate Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh as his convoy was leaving the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt. Fatah denies the charge.
U.S. plans call for expanding the presidential guard to at least 4,700 members in the near term. Palestinian officials say the force would eventually grow to at least 10,000 members.
The United States and Israel have also backed a proposal by Abbas to let about 1,000 members of the so-called Badr Brigade, a Fatah-dominated force based in Jordan, into the Palestinian territories to reinforce Abbas’s guard.
Under U.S. guidance, European states have committed non-lethal equipment, including vehicles, to the presidential guard. Washington has also helped organise shipments of guns and ammunition to the guard from Egypt and Jordan.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said last week that the Bush administration, pending U.S. congressional approval, would provide tens of millions of dollars in direct support to strengthen Abbas’s forces.
ABBAS’S GENERAL INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY FORCES
Under Abbas’s control, General Intelligence is believed to have 5,000 members. Fatah has accused Hamas of killing several of the unit’s leaders in the Gaza Strip in recent months.
The killing a week ago of three schoolboys, whose father was an intelligence official considered close to Abbas, deepened the divide between Fatah and Hamas. Hamas denies involvement.
National Security Forces under Abbas’s direct command include Military Intelligence and the Naval Police. They are not as well equipped as the presidential guard but are believed to have up to 30,000 members in all.
HAMAS’S EXECUTIVE FORCE
First deployed by the Hamas-led government on the streets of Gaza in May, Hamas says its “Executive Force” has grown from an estimated 3,000 members to nearly 6,000.
The force is built mostly from members of the Hamas armed wing, the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, but it includes some members from allied militant factions such as the Popular Resistance Committees.
The force appears to be well equipped using the group’s own resources. Israel and the United States believe Iran has provided tens of millions of dollars in support to bolster the force. Hamas does not provide any information about the force’s sources of funding.
PALESTINIAN POLICE AND PREVENTIVE SECURITY
In theory, these fall under the jurisdiction of the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry. But in practice, they are dominated by loyalists of Abbas’s Fatah movement and Hamas has struggled to exert control over them. Their total strength is estimated at about 30,000.