Hamas opposes Gaza-only joint force

GAZA CITY: The Islamist Hamas move ment today rejected the idea of forming a joint Palestinian security force in the Gaza Strip that would not operate in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Salah al-Bardawil, spokesman for Hamas's parliamentary bloc, said any agreement on the formation of a new security force as part of Egyptian-brokered reconciliation talks would have to apply to all the occupied territories. "The correct way to address the security issue is to rehabilitate the security apparatus in the West Bank and Gaza on basis of professionalism and patriotism," he said in a statement posted on a Hamas-affiliated website.

"Any deal that limits an agreement on security forces to the Gaza Strip clearly means giving a certificate of good conduct to the security services in the West Bank and their role in fighting the resistance," he said.

Hamas and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's secular Fatah party have been struggling for months to repair the internal Palestinian divisions left in the wake of the Islamist movement's bloody takeover of Gaza.

On Sunday, Fatah announced that the two sides had agreed to form a joint security force in the Gaza Strip.