Israel yesterday condemned as "the height of cynicism" the appointment by Hamas of a militant leader, Jamal Abu Samhadaneh, as director-general of the Pales-tinian interior ministry and police forces.
"They let the cat guard the cream there, which illustrates the nature of the Hamas government," Israeli Cabinet Minister Zeev Boim told Israel Radio.
He called Abu Samhadaneh a "murderer" with whom Israel had a long score to settle and who in his new position as a Palestinian government official would have "no immunity" for Israel's ongoing efforts to arrest or target him.
US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack earlier also criticized the appointment, calling it a "demonstration of the true nature and the true tactics of this particular Hamas-led government."
"We hold this Hamas-led government for security in the Palestinian areas and that means preventing acts of terrorism as well as dismantling terrorist groups," he told reporters in Washington.
Abu Samhadaneh is the chief commander of the Popular Resistance Committee, a group which has refused to abide by a truce endorsed by most other Palestinian militant groups in March last year, and which has taken a leading role in launching locally produced Qassam rockets at southern Israel from the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian Interior Minister Saeed Seyam announced late on Thursday that he had been promoted to the rank of colonel and was the new commissioner-general of the interior ministry.
Seyam also announced the establishment of a new, special security force.
Seyam said the new force would fall under the command of the interior ministry and would aid the existing Palestinian police forces in ending lawlessness in Gaza and the West Bank.
Hamas reportedly did not inform Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of the establishment of the security force.
As the elected president, Abbas has retained control over some of the various Palestinian security organizations, while several others fall under the authority of the interior ministry which is controlled by Hamas.
The militant Islamic movement won the Palestinian parliamentary elections in January and took office three weeks ago.