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Palestinians: Politics and Government

Volume 461: debated on Thursday 21 June 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the potential impact of the dissolution of the Palestinian unity government and the formation of a new government on plans for Palestinian security sector transformation; and if she will make a statement. (144358)

We regret the announcement that the National Unity Government (NUG) has been dissolved, but understand that Hamas’ recent actions left Palestinian President Abbas with few alternatives. We, along with the EU and Quartet (EU, US, UN and Russia), support President Abbas’ decision to dissolve the NUG and declare a state of emergency.

We look forward to working with Prime Minister Fayyad and his ministerial team for the benefit of all Palestinians. Prime Minister Fayyad has said his priorities are restoring security and improving the economic and humanitarian situation—we share those goals and will continue to work with the Palestinian Authority towards them.

We remain committed to security sector reform and will continue to work with President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad to strengthen the Palestinian security forces. We are currently considering how best to do this, given recent events.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment the UK Government have made of the (a) size and (b) military capability of the (i) Hamas Executive Force and (ii) Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades in Gaza; and if she will make a statement. (144362)

In April 2006 the then Hamas-affiliated Palestinian Interior Minister, Siad Siyam, established an Executive Force. By January 2007, the force was believed to have as many as 5,000 members, Hamas had announced its intention to increase this figure to some 12,000 and establish a 1,500 strong force in the West Bank.

Hamas’s military wing—known as the Izzedine al Qassam Brigades—was founded in 1992 and has been responsible for numerous attacks on Israel, including suicide bombings. The group is likely to be able to draw on thousands of men as required. Hamas militants in both forces appear well disciplined and capable of conducting mobile urban warfare, rocket and improvised explosive devices bomb attacks.