GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip The Hamas government on Thursday named a Palestinian whose group has attacked Israel and was blamed for bombing a U.S. convoy to head a new security force made up of Islamic militants.
The move is a direct challenge to the authority of President Mahmoud Abbas, and was quickly denounced by Israel and the United States.
Hamas Interior Minister Said Siyam issued a decree appointing Jamal Abu Samhadana, the head of the Popular Resistance Committees, as director general of his ministry.
Samhadana, a former security officer who was dismissed for refusing to report for duty during the uprising against Israel, was given the rank of colonel.
His group is responsible for many of the homemade rockets that were launched at Israel in recent weeks. It also is suspected by some of involvement in the attack on a U.S. Embassy convoy in Gaza that killed three Marine security guards in October 2003.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khaled Abu Hilal said Siyam would form a new security branch - answerable only to him - to bring law and order to the Palestinian streets.
"This force is going to include the elite of our sons from the freedom fighters and the holy warriors and the best men we have," he said. "It's going to include members of all the resistance branches."
In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack criticized the move. He said it showed "the true nature and the true tactics of this particular Hamas-led government," and that the U.S. still would hold the Palestinian Authority responsible for stopping terror attacks.
Israeli Foreign Ministry official Gideon Meir echoed that.
"If someone needed proof about the connection between the Hamas rule and Palestinian terror, this appointment is the ultimate proof," he said.