IMAGE: Hamas security force
Adel Hana  /  AP
Militants comprising part of a new security force of the Hamas-led Palestinian government patrol the main square in Gaza City on Wednesday
updated 5/18/2006 6:49:57 AM ET 2006-05-18T10:49:57

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has told the Hamas-led government it must immediately remove its new security forces from the streets of Gaza, a top Abbas aide said Thursday.

The unit, made up of 3,000 militants loyal to Hamas, was deployed Wednesday in defiance of Abbas who opposed the creation of the new force.

“It’s a very worrying situation,” said Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who is close to Abbas. “(Abbas) ordered the deployment of the (regular) Palestinian forces, and ordered the other (Hamas-linked) forces to leave the streets.”

The deployment added to tensions that have been rising since Hamas defeated Fatah in legislative elections in January. The power struggle already has spilled over into violence, and the Palestinian territories increasingly appear headed toward a bloody showdown.

'Heading toward a serious crisis'
On Thursday, thousands of Palestinian police loyal to Abbas patrolled the streets of Gaza in a show of force, but did not take action against the Hamas force which was also deployed across large areas.

“I hope they will leave,” Erekat said of the Hamas gunmen. “If they don’t leave, we are heading toward a serious crisis.”

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