The minister, Nasser Yousef, was quoted as saying on Sunday that "there will be only one weapon, that is the weapon of Palestinian legitimacy, and there will be no exception".
 
Yousef said he would move decisively to restore law and order and put an end to what he called "the state of chaos" throughout the former Palestinian autonomous enclaves.
 
"These remarks are dangerous. The resistance weapon is not illegitimate. It is wrong to equate it with weapons used by criminal elements," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said at a press conference in Gaza on Monday.

Abu Zuhri argued that it would be foolish to disarm the Palestinian resistance movement at a time when the Israeli occupation army continues to carry out incursions into Palestinian population centres and kill Palestinians.
 
"Has the occupation ended so that we will drop our weapons? And who can give us guarantees that after we give up our weapons, the Israeli occupation army won't kill our people? This weapon of the resistance is for the defence of our children and people. It is not to terrorise our people."

Nexus alleged

Hamas spokesman in Lebanon, Usama Hamdan, was more scathing in his condemnation and alleged that some Palestinian Authority officials were acting at the behest of the United States and Israel.

Hamas leaders insist on the right
of their fighters to retain arms

"Some officials in the Palestinian Authority are only keen on executing US demands and Israeli dictates," Hamdan said.

He also insisted the group would continue to fight Israeli occupation. "We are committed to prevent any inter-Palestinian fighting in the first place. But we are also committed to continue resistance as the sole means for defending the Palestinian people," he said.
 
Hamdan argued that the Palestinian Authority should only confiscate weapons used against Palestinians.
 
"Since the occupation is still there, the resistance will remain intact to resist the occupation.  Disarming the resistance is an Israeli target, not a Palestinian concern," he added.
 
No display

Palestinian factions, including Hamas, reached an understanding in Cairo in March whereby the military wings of the various resistance groups could retain their weapons.
 
However, the armed groups agreed that the weapons would not be displayed publicly.

"Since the occupation is still there, the resistance will remain intact to resist the occupation.  Disarming the resistance is an Israeli target, not a Palestinian concern"

Usama Hamdan
Hamas spokesman in Lebanon

The factions also agreed on the "oneness of authority", implying that the resistance groups, particularly Hamas, would not seek to challenge or undermine the authority of the PA.

While Yousef, who had led a campaign against Hamas activists in the Gaza Strip under Yasser Arafat in the 1990s, is not inclined to give the "resistance weapons" any special treatment, some security officials have argued that going after armed resistance groups at this time will be immensely unpopular.
 
Moreover, it is likely that any head-on collision with the military wings of Hamas, Fatah and the Islamic Jihad groups will undermine the present calm in the Palestinian territories.
 
Tawfiq Abu Khusa, a former journalist who has been appointed as spokesman for the Palestinian security apparatus in the Gaza Strip, said PA police will not raid Palestinian homes to search for weapons.
 
"We will not do anything of this sort. We will not act like what Israel has been doing, but we will move to stop this lawlessness and chaos," he told Aljazeera.net.

Ostentatious display

Abu Khusa suggested that as long as resistance groups keep their weapons away from the public eye, no efforts will be made to confiscate the weapons.
 
"But we will not allow armed demonstration in the streets, or young men with automatic rifles walking ostentatiously in the centre of our towns."

Abbas has said truce violators
will face the PA's 'iron fist'

Palestinian resistance leaders, including Islamist ones, say they are not opposed to the idea of re-establishing the rule of law in Gaza.
 
Hamas spokesman in the West Bank Hasan Yousuf told Aljazeera.net: "We will extend a helping hand to the (Palestinian) Authority in order to restore law and order."
 
Asked if Hamas would agree to give up its arms after the planned Israeli army withdrawal from the Gaza Strip this summer, Yousuf said: "When we reach the bridge, we shall cross it."

In related news, the Palestinian Authority on Tuesday released a Hamas activist arrested the previous night for possession of rockets, a rocket launcher and other firearms in a border area north of Bait Lahiya, Abu Khusa said.

In that operation, Palestinian police tried to round up three Hamas activists but in the end arrested only one of them, Aljazeera's correspondent reported.