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Hamas withdraws ‘anti-missile’ force from Israel border

While the 600-strong rocket-prevention force was removed, regular security forces remained in place

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The Hamas rulers of Gaza have withdrawn a special security force tasked with preventing rocket launches at Israel from their position near the border, a security source said on Sunday.

“The field forces that are posted near the border with Israel were withdrawn yesterday evening to protest the latest escalation and Israeli attacks against Gaza,” a security source told AFP.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source told AFP that while the 600-strong rocket-prevention force was removed, regular security forces remained in place.

The move comes a day after Israeli fighter jets attacked Hamas military positions in the Palestinian enclave in response to a rocket attack at a southern Israeli town.

Tensions have risen in and around Gaza after a year of relative calm, with six Palestinians and an Israeli killed since December 20 and militant rocket fire sparking retaliatory air strikes.

On January 21, Hamas said it had deployed forces in Gaza to “preserve the truce” with Israel that ended the last major confrontation in November 2012.

While Hamas does not routinely launch projectiles at the Jewish state, Israel says it holds the Islamist group that seized power in Gaza in 2007 responsible for any such attacks.