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Gaza gunmen shoot Palestinian intelligence chief
Updated: 2004-08-25 20:35

Gunmen ambushed the commander of the Palestinian intelligence service in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, wounding him, killing two bodyguards and fueling fears of spreading chaos.

Relatives mourn over the body of a Palestinian bodyguard who was killed in the Gaza City. The acting head of the Palestinian intelligence services was seriously wounded when gunmen ambushed his convoy and killed two bodyguards in Gaza City. [AFP]
Brigadier-General Tareq Abu Rajab was acting boss of the General Intelligence Service since its head resigned last month amid unprecedented Palestinian unrest over demands for anti-corruption reform.

Rajab, 58, was close to Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, but was not widely seen as taking sides in a power struggle that pits younger leaders -- who say they want change -- against an old guard accused of graft and failing to win a state.

The tussle for control has been triggered by Israel's plan to withdraw troops and settlers next year from the territory it has occupied since the 1967 war.

Gunmen fired from two moving cars as Abu Rajab drove to his office in Gaza City, security sources said. Then they peeled off in different directions in what looked like a carefully plotted attack.

Two of Abu Rajab's bodyguards were killed and another wounded. Medics said the commander was in serious condition and undergoing surgery.

"It's a sinful crime and it is condemned by everybody. We are confident that the criminals will not escape punishment," Rashid Abu Shbak, head of internal security in the Gaza Strip, told Reuters after visiting Abu Rajab in hospital.

"The Palestinian Authority must carry out decisive procedures to stop the security deterioration, which has started to harm Palestinian leaders."


The attack on Abu Rajab came just before a Palestinian parliamentary committee was due to present a report expected to call for urgent reforms, to help end the worst internal unrest since Palestinians gained a measure of self-rule a decade ago.

Violence surged in Gaza last month, when gunmen demanding changes to at least a dozen rival security forces and the sacking of corrupt commanders briefly kidnapped local officials and foreign aid workers, then set some security posts ablaze.

The then head of General Intelligence, Amin al-Hindi, resigned over the chaos. Arafat refused to let him go, but al-Hindi has not returned to his job.

After four years of an uprising against Israel, Palestinians are increasingly vocal in calling for change from a leadership that has not delivered an independent state either through talks with Israel or through force.

Although direct criticism of Arafat is rare, many of his aides are accused of being out of touch and most interested in personal gain.

"The Palestinian situation is more than disastrous. For four years it has been slipping backwards," said former premier Mahmoud Abbas in an interview with London-based al-Hayat newspaper. He resigned last year after failing to win reforms from Arafat.

Israel's army said it was checking the report of the attack on Abu Rajab. While it has frequently assassinated Gaza militant leaders in airstrikes, it has never killed such a senior Palestinian security chief.

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