An Israeli newspaper reported Thursday that Gaza's Hamas government has been operating a force over the past few months whose sole task is to prevent the firing of rockets into Israel.
The report in Haaretz, which was denied by the government in Gaza, quoted a source who said a 300-man force was under the direct command of Interior Minister Fathi Hammad.
It operates "day and night, 24 hours, everywhere in the Strip, particularly near the borders with Israel," the source was quoted as saying.
A spokesman for the interior minister, Ihab Ghussein, told Ma'an that Ismail Haniyeh's government was a "resistance government," and he referred to the Haaretz report as "only propaganda or rumors."
"These statements are Israel's attempt to export its (domestic political) crisis and internal conflict to Gaza, which stands with the prisoners" who are on hunger strike inside Israeli jails, Ghussein said.
"The occupation government attempts to cover up its crimes against the Palestinian prisoners, and to direct threats against Gaza," he said, adding that "the Palestinian government is a resistance government that came (about) to protect the resistance."
According to Haaretz, the government is now using its authority to foil the firing efforts of cells from other organizations such as the Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees. The report said Islamic Jihad operatives are usually released quickly.
Haaretz said the anti-rocket force wears black uniforms and rides on motorcycles and four-wheel drive vehicles. A Hamas source said the force was authorized to use deadly force against those who resist arrest.
The force does not stop militants from responding to attacks from Israel, the report noted.