GAZA (Reuters) - Palestinian police began deploying in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday under a security plan that political factions hoped would bolster a coalition government by curbing internal violence.
Security men from both the dominant Islamist Hamas and the more moderate Fatah faction, having often traded fire in recent months of infighting, were expected to fan out together through the troubled territory within 48 hours, an official said.
The deployment was ordered by President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, who set up a unity government in March hoping to stem the spiraling chaos and soften a Western aid embargo on the Palestinian Authority.
“There is a full agreement,” said Nabil Shaath, a close aide to Abbas.
“The determination is there and I think what we will see in the next 48 hours is a full deployment to deal with the lawlessness in the Gaza Strip,” he added.
Shaath, a senior Fatah leader, said the formerly rival Hamas and Fatah policemen would now wear the same uniform and take orders from the Interior Ministry, which as part of the coalition pact went from Hamas’s control to that of a political independent.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khaled Abu Hilal declined comment.
Previous police deployments in Gaza have not fully secured the territory, which has sunk deeper into poverty and political disarray since Israel withdrew troops and settlers in 2005.
Some 400 Palestinians have died in Gazan street fighting over the past year, according to human rights groups.
In parallel to their precarious domestic situation, Gazans have faced mounting threats of an Israeli incursion in response to cross-border rocket fire.
The salvoes have persisted despite an Israeli-Palestinian truce struck in November, usually at the hands of militants who said they were not bound by that deal.
Shaath blamed Israel for those violations. Palestinians have said Israel’s continued military actions in the occupied West Bank — where the truce does not apply — provoke attacks from Gaza.
“In such climate it is difficult to have a national dialogue about a ceasefire with Israel,” Shaath said.