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The Murder of Yasser Arafat: "Powerful" - The Times of London

Thursday, 8 September 2005

Assassination in Gaza City

Arafat cousin's slay spurs civil war fear

BY MAHMOUD HABBOUSH IN GAZA CITY, MATTHEW KALMAN IN JERUSALEM AND JONATHAN LEMIRE IN NEW YORK

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 2005

IN A STUNNING CHALLENGE to the Palestinian leadership, masked militants assassinated Yasser Arafat's cousin yesterday, raising the specter of a possible civil war as Israel prepares to hand over control of the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas canceled next week's trip to the United Nations after the slaying of Gen. Moussa Arafat, 65, former head of the Palestinian Military Intelligence.

Militants stormed Arafat's Gaza City home after a shootout with his bodyguards. Arafat, an adviser to Abbas, was dragged out of his home in his pajamas and gunned down in the street. His eldest son, Manhal, was abducted.
The brutal predawn murder, claimed by a group called the Popular Resistance Committee, was seen as a direct challenge to Abbas' rule as he prepares to govern a fully liberated Gaza Strip after Israel's handover next week.

"If the Palestinian Authority doesn't recognize the danger of the corrupt officials, we will carry out a campaign to implement God's law by killing them," Abu Radwan, a PRC leader, told the Daily News.

"The Zionist occupation and the [Palestinian] corruption are the two sides for the same coin," said Radwan, who vowed there would be more violence if needed.

The killing prompted an angry Abbas to vow that his authority in Gaza would not be challenged - though he was forced to cancel his plan to attend the UN General Assembly convention and meet other world leaders, including Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

"This despicable crime won't affect my efforts to consolidate the rule of law and public order," Abbas told an emergency meeting of the Palestinian National Security Council yesterday.

Israel evacuated all 21 Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip last month and plans to withdraw its troops next Monday - leaving a power vacuum that hard-line militants are fighting Abbas' loyalists to fill.

Moussa Arafat clashed frequently with PRC militants - who believe his followers have been weak when negotiating with Israel - and few Palestinian security forces came to his aid during yesterday's 30-minute gun- and hand-grenade battle.

"I looked out of the window and saw two masked men escorting Manhal, and a third man was holding his father aloft on his shoulders," said shaken neighbor Mohammad Shamallakh, 20. "Moussa wasn't moving at all."