The Palestinian Authority said Saturday that it would disband a small security unit nicknamed the Death Squad after accusations that some of its members had abused their powers.
Rashid abu Shbak, head of preventive security in Gaza, said he would abolish the Gaza Security and Protection unit.
“We are facing a new phase and we must say farewell to chaos and to all those who cause it in the Palestinian street,” Shbak said. “We must clear the air of past mistakes of the previous era.”
The 70-person unit was formed more than a year ago to crack down on militant groups, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and to track and arrest high-profile criminals in Gaza.
But some members of the unit were accused of criminal behavior themselves -- confiscating land, smuggling weapons and threatening the public with violence. The members will be dispersed to other units in the security system, Shbak said.
He also announced plans to merge the fragmented and decentralized armed militias of the Palestinian Authority’s dominant Fatah faction, including the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which has been renamed the Martyr Yasser Arafat Brigade.
Shbak said the committee would pursue ways to bring these armed groups under control without interfering with their “principles of resistance,” indicating that Fatah had no intention of pushing them to end the four-year armed uprising against Israel.
Palestinian reformers, as well as Israeli and U.S. officials, have long demanded a major overhaul of the Palestinian security services but faced stiff resistance from the late Yasser Arafat, who used the network to maintain his hold on power.