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Palestinian clans and factions step in to protect Gaza aid, sources say

1 min

Armed and masked men from an array of clans and factions have started providing security for aid convoys in Gaza as Hamas tries to keep its clout in the enclave, Palestinian officials and sources in the militant group say.

Security personnel guard trucks carrying aid as they arrive in Rafah, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in the southern Gaza Strip January 17, 2024. Reuters/Mohammed Salem

Armed and masked men from an array of clans and factions have started providing security for aid convoys in Gaza as Hamas tries to keep its clout in the enclave, Palestinian officials and sources in the militant group say.

Video footage obtained by Reuters showed a convoy of trucks entering Gaza City with foreign aid overnight, watched by several men armed with AK-47 assault rifles and others wielding sticks.

With Israeli forces sworn to eliminating Hamas since its deadly Oct. 7 raid on Israel, it has become highly risky for anyone linked to the Islamist group to emerge into the open to provide security for aid deliveries to desperate civilians.

So numerous clans, civil society groups and factions - including Hamas's secular political rival Fatah - have stepped in to help provide security for the aid convoys, according to the Palestinian officials and Hamas sources.

They did not identify the clans and factions but said Hamas' ability to rally such groups behind it over security showed it retains influence, and that efforts by Israel to build its own administrative system to keep order in Gaza were being resisted.

An Israeli military spokesperson declined comment, saying specific rules of engagement in an active war zone could not be publicly discussed.

Gaza has large traditional family clans, affiliated with political factions including Hamas and Fatah.

Some of the larger clans are widely believed to be heavily armed. Some clan leaders have publicly rejected Israel's plan and said they cannot take the place of U.N. relief agencies helping Palestinian refugees, or be a substitute for local authorities.

By Nidal al-Mughrabi

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