Hat tip: Eye on the World
* Melanie Phillips:Â War, Lies And Credulity
Slain Hamas security chief was widely feared, Good Riddance!
JERUSALEM (AP) â€” Hamas security chief Said Siam was one of the Islamic militant group’s top five leaders in the Gaza Strip and a key figure in its violent takeover of the Palestinian territory in 2007.
Siam was widely feared for cracking down on opponents, but as interior minister he was also respected by residents for his ability to impose order. Before Hamas seized power 18 months ago, gun-toting thugs ruled Gaza’s streets and clans battled each other with assault rifles.
The 50-year-old Siam, who died Thursday in Gaza from an Israeli airstrike, did not look like a typical Hamas leader. He sported a short beard, dark turtlenecks and black sports jackets, rather than the Arab robes worn by some of his colleagues.
He was often long-winded at news conferences. When angry, he could use coarse, colorful Gaza slang to describe his rivals. The hard-liner often insisted women cover their hair, in compliance with conservative Muslim law, before entering his office.
Born in 1959 in Gaza’s Shati refugee camp, he worked as a math and science teacher at local U.N.-run schools and became a leader of the local teachers union. He joined Hamas in the 1980s as one of its earliest members.
Siam was active in the first Palestinian uprising against Israel, which erupted in 1987. He headed a Hamas branch that hunted and killed suspected Palestinian informers for Israel.
Israeli forces detained Siam repeatedly in the 1990s, and in 1992 exiled him for a year to southern Lebanon with hundreds of other Hamas leaders.
Siam rose through Hamas’ ranks, preaching at a local mosque and ultimately becoming a chief negotiator for the militant group in dealings with Egyptian and Iranian officials, with whom he enjoyed warm relations.
He was elected to the Palestinian parliament in 2006, winning the most votes of any candidate.
After Hamas’ sweeping victory in those elections, the power struggle between Hamas and Fatah intensified. Siam set up the Executive Force, a security apparatus that developed into Hamas’ police after the militants seized control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007.
After the takeover, local human rights groups frequently complained his ministry used torture on Fatah rivals.
In 2008, Siam shut down a Gaza City neighborhood close to Israel’s border after a local pro-Fatah clan living there refused to hand over suspects implicated in a car bombing that killed Hamas officials. Under Siam’s directions, police used assault rifles, mortars and rockets, prompting clansmen to dash into Israeli territory for protection. Police sprayed gunfire behind them as they fled.