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US Criticizes Palestinian Security Appointment


The United States Thursday criticized the appointment of the leader of a militant faction to a senior post in the Hamas-led Palestinian government. The State Department called the move a window into the nature of the new Palestinian Authority.

The United States says the appointment of a leading militant to a top security position in the Palestinian interior ministry is another demonstration of the true nature and tactics of the Hamas-led government.

The comments followed an announcement in Gaza that Jamal Abu Samhadana, leader of the Popular Resistance Committees, would become the interior ministry director-general charged with running a new security branch made up of armed anti-Israel factions.

State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said the new Palestinian government had already given public expression to its attitude when it characterized the suicide bombing in Tel Aviv last Sunday, which killed nine people at a food stand, as what was termed a legitimate response to Israeli aggression:

"They condoned it," said Mr. McCormack. "They didn't condemn it. So again this is just another window into the nature of this Hamas-led government. And it underscores the importance of the international community maintaining unity, and sending a strong message to them to change."

The group led by Samhadana, the Hamas security appointee, has claimed responsibility for several rocket attacks into Israel in recent weeks, and is also suspected in a bomb attack on a U.S. embassy convoy in Gaza in 2003 that killed three private security contractors.

The appointment was widely seen as an attempt by Hamas to wrest control of Palestinian security forces away from moderate Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who named a political ally to head the security apparatus last month.

Spokesman McCormack said the security situation in the Palestinian areas is still evolving, but that the United States holds the Hamas-led government responsible for preventing acts of terrorism and dismantling terror groups.

He said what the new government is doing is standing in the way of progress toward what Palestinians want: a stable, secure state alongside Israel in which the children of all the parties can realize a better future.

The United States, European Union countries and others, have halted direct aid to the new Palestinian Authority because of its refusal to heed international calls to renounce terrorism, recognize Israel, and embrace peace-making terms agreed upon by its predecessor.