Conscription for Gaza?

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According to several reports, Hamas is discussing to introduce conscription in Gaza later in 2010. WorldTribune.com reported on 29 July that Hamas, intent on expanding its military, is preparing to institute mandatory military service. According to the same report, officials said the Hamas government and military were discussing a conscription programme to significantly expand security forces in the Gaza Strip. They said that in the first stage military service would remain voluntary.

Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hamad, in remarks made during the inauguration of a police facility on 27 July, said recruitment for the military would begin in late 2010. He said the effort would begin on a voluntary basis and then lead to conscription.

"We deny that the Interior Ministry will impose a draft on the residents of Gaza," Interior Ministry spokesman Ihab Ghussein said hours after Hamad's remarks, WorldTribune.com reported.

But the official Hamas daily Al Risala quoted a source as saying that the Islamic regime was planning a military draft. Under the plan, the source said, young men would soon receive draft notices.

Ghussein said a Hamas committee has been examining the prospect of recruitment for the military. The spokesman said the recommendations of the panel would be relayed to the Interior Ministry for possible modification. Hamad would then submit the final draft to the Cabinet.

Officials said recruitment would draw tens of thousands of young Gazans who seek employment. More than 50 percent of the 1.5 million in the Gaza Strip are 18 or under, with unemployment reported at about 40 percent.

According to a report by Associated Press, a security official in Gaza said conscription would be too expensive because of the large number of potential recruits. More than half of Gaza's 1.5 million residents are under age 18.

However, joining the security services for a limited period, with minimal pay and on a voluntary basis could benefit some of Gaza's young men, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue with reporters.

Sources: WorldTribune.com: Hamas plans to begin military draft in late 2010, 29 July 2010; Associated Press: Hamas leader says group considering Gaza draft, 29 July 2010

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