Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal says his Palestinian militant organization, which swept to power in elections Wednesday, is ready to merge all armed factions to form an army to defend the Palestinian territories.
Meshaal spoke Saturday from Syria, as thousands of defeated Fatah activists and police officers held protests across the West Bank and Gaza Strip for a second straight day. The protesters demanded that Fatah leaders resign, and warned against letting Hamas take control of Palestinian security services.
The turmoil has fueled fears of internal Palestinian strife, as Hamas tries to form a government and control a cumbersome Palestinian security apparatus dominated by Fatah loyalists. In a message clearly aimed at Hamas, Palestinian Authority police commander Ala Hosni said security will remain under the control of Palestinian Authority President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas. Fatah has so far rejected joining any governing coalition with Hamas.