( RIA Novosti ) - Hamas, which seized power in Gaza in a June coup, has established a naval defense force to guard the coast, the Israeli based Ynet online portal said Thursday.
It said the force, which does not as yet own any vessels, is aimed at securing the shores from Israeli marine operations, as well as from the criminal activity of drug dealers. The force will also attempt to prevent the collaboration of Palestinians with the Israeli military.
A Hamas official told Ynet that the force's members have already deployed several heavy machine guns and mortars along the beaches.
"The Israelis have stopped firing, even at Palestinian fishing boats like they used to," he said. "I think they know that Hamas fighters and the new naval force have in their possession some of the security forces' heavy artillery, seized during the Strip's takeover."
Hamas has controlled Gaza since the June coup, when it ousted the pro-presidential Fatah movement and called for a new coalition with Fatah.
Western nations have moved to isolate Hamas, which has refused to recognize Israel and renounce violence.