Hamas has been forming a new security unit in the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian sources said Hamas has been recruiting a militia force that would maintain regime protection. They said the militia, trained in light weapons, was meant to free Hamas’ military wing from engaging with civilians.
“Hamas is following the Iranian model in which plainclothes forces are used to quell dissent,” a source said.
The sources said the new Hamas force was dubbed the Popular Army. They said the so-called army was meant to work with Izzedin Kassam Brigades, which directed the Hamas war against Israel in July and August 2014.
The force, meant to contain thousands of members, has been recruited by Hamas in wake of the 50-day war. The sources said Hamas officers were organizing militia units in every major city and town in the Gaza Strip.
The sources said the Popular Army was meant to protect Hamas’ interests should the Palestinian Authority take over the Gaza Strip. They said the army was modeled after Iran’s Basij, a force of students sworn to defend the Teheran regime.
Hamas launched recruitment in Gaza mosques within days of the end of the Gaza war on Aug. 26. By the end of September, Hamas claimed that thousands age 16 and over already joined the Popular Army.
“This force will be assigned specific missions in case of another war with the occupation [Israel],” a Hamas military official, identified only as Abu Jafar, said.
Under the reconciliation deal between Hamas and the rival Fatah Movement, the Palestinian Authority could deploy 3,000 officers in the Gaza Strip. The PA officers were meant to be stationed around border facilities.
“While no one expects the PSF to forcibly disarm Hamas and the myriad other armed groups in Gaza, the implications of this move are clear: Hamas is creating facts on the ground to preserve its power if the PA returns to Gaza, counterweighing any nominal political authority it may cede,” the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said in a report on Oct. 1.