Saeed Seyam, who was chosen by Hamas to oversee three security services, told Reuters on Thursday that "the file of political detention must be closed".
   
"The day will never come when any Palestinian would be arrested because of his political affiliation or because of resisting the occupation ...

"But the right to defend our people and to confront the aggression is granted and is legitimate."

Top priorities
   
Seyam said he had begun talks with Palestinian security chiefs in the hope of averting fighting within the security services.

"Saeed Seyam did not come to the government to revive any security co-operation or to protect the occupation and their settlers. I came to protect our people and their fighters, to protect their trees, their properties and their capabilities"

Saeed Seyam, Hamas's chosen interior minister

Most of the 20,000-plus security personnel, who will answer to Seyam, are Fatah members.
   
Seyam said maintaining law and order would be a priority.

There were several hundred murders in Gaza and the West Bank last year, according to human rights groups.
   
Seyam said his ministry would continue to co-ordinate day-to-day security issues, such as the number of permits given to Palestinian workers, with Israeli authorities. But Seyam said he did not plan to meet Israelis himself.
   
"Saeed Seyam did not come to the government to revive any security co-operation or to protect the occupation and their settlers," he said. "I came to protect our people and their fighters, to protect their trees, their properties and their capabilities."