Members of Palestinian security forces loyal to Hamas take part in a parade marking the sixth anniversary of the death of former Hamas interior minister Saeed Seyam, in Gaza City, Jan. 18, 2015
Gaza’s Deputy Minister of Interior Kamel Abu Madi told Al-Monitor that despite recent bombings and the fact that the security forces have not been paid in a year, there is no reason for Gazans to panic.
Abu Madi revealed that the number of security apparatus members in the Gaza Strip amounts to 18,000 — including the police, the security and protection units, the internal security forces and the national security agency, as well as other security departments. These 18,000 individuals have not received their salaries since the consensus government was established in June 2014. He described the security situation in the Gaza Strip as completely stable and noted that the occasional security breaches come in the natural context of every society.
In an interview with Al-Monitor, Abu Madi pointed out that the bombings that occurred in Gaza over the past few weeks are minimal in terms of number and impact on the stability of the security situation, but he was quick to point fingers at who he felt was responsible. The bombings occurred on different days in April and May, with no particular party claiming responsibility for them, and they were seen as an attempt to push Gaza, once again, into a spiral of chaos. He accused security and political figures in the Palestinian Authority (PA) of being behind these acts, which he described as “criminal,” holding President Mahmoud Abbas and his security forces fully responsible. He said that those behind the security breaches are trying to exploit the regional conflict between some countries in the region.
Abu Madi, 59, who is considered the top man in command in the Gaza Strip, noted that Gaza’s security apparatus has good ties with all Palestinian factions. He said that those detained by the security services in Gaza are not from a particular faction, but that they are a very limited number of outlaws who tried to sabotage the security of Palestinian society. He refused to talk about the developments of the truce between Hamas and Israel, as he considered that a political matter that should be discussed by politicians. He emphasized that the security services in Gaza consider Egypt as a friendly neighbor, with a prominent role in supporting the Palestinian cause. According to Abu Madi, the security services do not accept compromising Egyptian security, and the security services are always deployed on its border to maintain the security of Egypt and Gaza at all times.
Abu Madi is considered one of the most prominent Hamas figures in the Gaza Strip. He holds a master’s degree in business administration from the Islamic University in Gaza, and worked in various Islamic University facilities for 25 years. He was also an academic lecturer in some educational institutions in Gaza, including the Islamic University. He was arrested by Israel in the 1980s and by the PA in the 1990s.
The full text of the interview follows:
Al-Monitor: How do you assess the security situation in Gaza in general, in light of the eighth anniversary of Hamas’ control of the Gaza Strip?
Abu Madi: First of all, Hamas did not take control of the Gaza Strip. It won in fair legislative elections, in the presence of international observers, including former US President Jimmy Carter. Everyone saw that the elections were fair and honest. However, the problem was that President Abbas and Western countries did not recognize the elections’ result. As for the security situation in the Gaza Strip, eight years following the elections, it is completely stable, and things are working out perfectly. The incidents taking place come in the natural context of every society.
Al-Monitor: How about you paint us a picture of the nature of the security system prevailing in Gaza — the number of apparatuses, their areas of specialization and the relationship among them?
Abu Madi: The [different branches of the] security services in the Gaza Strip are in harmony and cooperation. There are 18,000 members working with the security apparatus: the police as a civilian body following international law; the security and protection apparatus protecting government figures inside Gaza and those visiting Gaza; and the civil defense apparatus specializing in putting out fires, saving citizens and keeping an eye on the coast to prevent incidents of drowning. There is also the National Security Forces that watch the border and prevent infiltration and the Internal Security Forces that preserve security within Gaza, whether in wartime or on normal days. In addition, the Medical Services specialize in providing medical services for workers in the security forces and civilians alike. All of these apparatuses are under the leadership of the Ministry of Interior, and they all follow the same policy determined by the ministry.
Al-Monitor: There have been a number of bombings in recent months in the Gaza Strip. Who bears responsibility, and did your security investigations accomplish anything?
Abu Madi: The bombings that occurred in the Gaza Strip during the past few weeks are minimal in terms of number and impact on the security situation’s stability. They are failed attempts to push Gaza into a new spiral of chaos. Those behind these actions are trying to take advantage of the existing regional conflict. Certain security and political figures in the PA in the West Bank are behind these criminal acts, and President Abbas and his security forces in Ramallah are fully responsible for [this security chaos].
Al-Monitor: What about Hamas relations with the Salafist movements? What is the current number of detainees you have now? What are the alternatives in terms of dealing with them? Will you continue the security campaign or resort to dialogue and understanding?
Abu Madi: This has nothing to do with Hamas, as the security services in Gaza are carrying out clear operations according to the law. I confirm that the relations of these security services with all factions in the Palestinian arena are very good. Our sole problem is with those who break the law, and attempt to undermine security. Otherwise, we have no problems whatsoever with people whose beliefs or ideologies [differ from ours]. The people we have detained do not belong to a specific movement. They are a few outlaws who tried to sabotage and jeopardize the security of Palestinian society.
Al-Monitor: Fatah accuses you of arresting a number of its members for political reasons. Could you provide us with the exact number of detainees in the prisons of Gaza?
Abu Madi: We firmly confirm that we are not holding any political prisoners. We dare any faction to give us one name of a prisoner who is detained on political grounds. We do not distinguish one faction from another, as our policy is based on the rejection of political arrests. Some are trying to make false accusations to distort the truth, aggravate the situation and cover up the abuses that are being committed in the West Bank. The security services in Gaza update human rights actors on an ongoing basis on the situation of the detainees. Our prisons are always open to human rights organizations to make sure there are no political prisoners. The people in the prisons have been arrested on criminal and security grounds, nothing more, and that is regardless of their political affiliations.
Al-Monitor: The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades are carrying out military activities in the Gaza Strip and on its borders. What are the prospects for security cooperation between the security services in Gaza and al-Qassam Brigades?
Abu Madi: The security services’ role in Gaza is to safeguard stability, preserve internal security of Palestinian society and support the Palestinian resistance, so to defend our people. We have good relations with all factions and we are always working on preserving the national consensus among these factions.
Al-Monitor: There is growing talk in Gaza about an imminent truce between Hamas and Israel. How do you see the role of the security services in Gaza in preserving such a truce and in assessing the relations with Israel?
Abu Madi: The truce is a political matter in the hands of Palestinian politicians. The security services’ role is to protect the national consensus among the factions. We do not have any relations or coordination whatsoever with the Israeli occupation forces.
Al-Monitor: Gaza’s relations with Egypt have always been based on security [matters]. How far did you go in security coordination with the Egyptian side? Will the security services in Gaza continue to deploy their forces on the border with Egypt to prevent any infiltration from both sides?
Abu Madi: The Palestinian security services and their leaders view Egypt as a brotherly country that plays a prominent role in upholding the Palestinian cause. We have no animosity toward any people in the world. Our only problem, as Palestinians, is with the Israeli occupation and its forces, which have expelled us from our homes. We do not accept any compromise of Egypt’s security. The security forces in Gaza are always deployed on the Egyptian border to preserve the security of Egypt and the Gaza Strip. The security services in Gaza have not reneged on their role toward Egypt, even during the last war on Gaza in the summer of 2014. At the time, the National Security Forces were always deployed on the Egyptian border despite the heavy Israeli shelling everywhere in the Gaza Strip. This is further proof that we are looking to have good relations with Egypt and all the countries of the world. We do not antagonize any state and our conflict is only with the Israeli occupation.
(Source / 21.06.2015)