Israel - Palestine

Hamas minister in Gaza hints at military draft

Reuters

A Hamas minister on Tuesday hinted that the Islamist-run government ruling the Gaza Strip may soon impose a military draft. Interior Minister Fathi Hammad said the government had “opened the doors for voluntary recruitment, and soon for mandatory recruitment”, in a speech given at the opening of a new training facility in northern Gaza Strip.

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He added that it aimed to increase the number of military recruits “in order to confront the next Israeli aggression”.

A spokesman for the interior ministry later denied there was any plan to impose a draft saying that recruitment “would remain voluntary and not compulsory for all citizens”. He said, however, that the ministry had formed a committee to study the general subject of recruitment.

Hamas has some 20,000 security forces in Gaza. The near-collapse of the local economy during four years of Israeli and Egyptian border closures has swelled recent recruitment drives.

Israel has recently moved to ease the blockade and now allows in all purely civilian goods to the impoverished territory of 1.5 million people. Before the easing of the blockade, some 40 per cent of Gazans were unemployed and 80 per cent relied on foreign aid.

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