Jamal Abu Samhadana, head of the Popular Resistance Committee, was promoted to "colonel" by the interior minister, Said Sayam. A ministry spokesman said that Samhadana, who was behind the lethal 2003 attack on an American convoy in which three were killed, will head a new elite force. It will include "sons from the freedom fighters and the holy warriors and the best men we have. It's going to include members of all the resistance branches."

The army ostensibly is designed to bring law and order to the streets in the Gaza region where anarchy threatens the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority (PA) government. However, international media reported that the move is an attempt to take control of the 60,000 member security forces, many of whom associate with the Fatah party of PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

Samhadana has behind rocket attacks on Israel and survived one Israeli missile strike on his car. Knesset member Danny Yatom said Friday that "our sights are also trained on Hamas ministers. Nobody who deals with terror can have immunity by any means, even if he holds a ministerial portfolio in the Hamas government."

Other Israeli leaders and the American government restricted their reaction to a denunciation of the appointment of Samahanda and the creation of a new army of terrorists.

Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who said after Monday suicide bombing that "Israel will know how to react to terror," stated Friday that if the Hamas government does not cooperate, Israel will draw its own political boundaries.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said appointing Samhadana to his new post is "like allowing the fox to guard the chicken coop." Commentator and former Prime Ministerial aide Michael Freund compared the promotion to appointing Al Capone to head the FBI, or Tony Soprano as Chief of Police.

American State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, told reporters, "This is ... a demonstration of the true nature and the true tactics of this particular Hamas-led government.

However, he added that the "situation is still evolving with respect to the Palestinian security services."