The man some tip to replace Yasser Arafat as Palestinian president has escaped injury in a gunfight in Gaza City. As Mahmoud Abbas was visiting a mourning tent for Arafat, he was surrounded by gunmen from Arafat’s Fatah movement who shouted hostile slogans. Some also fired shots in the air. The gunmen’s rifles were pointed upwards; this was apparently a warning rather than an assassination attempt. But as Abbas was rushed away, there was an exchange of fire between bodyguards and militants. Two guards were shot dead.
Mahmoud Abbas, known as Abu Mazen, was chosen as the chairman of Palestine Liberation Organisation after Yasser Arafat’s death last Thursday. He has blamed the Gaza incident on “friction” among armed men, as has senior PLO official Yasser Abed Rabbo: “Due to this friction, there was some exchange of shooting. This shooting was not directed against Abu Mazen or any of the leadership.”
Mahmoud Abbas is tipped as the candidate of Fatah in the presidential vote, which Palestinian officials have scheduled for January 9. The interim leadership has called on the US and the European Union to stop Israeli obstruction to holding a free, fair and complete vote.
Many believe Marwan Barghouti to be the most popular Palestinian politician after Yasser Arafat, and now he is reportedly planning to run in the January election. Barghouti, formerly head of Fatah in the West Bank, is currently in an Israeli jail serving five consecutive life sentences. While rejecting the Oslo peace process, Barghouti has spoken out against attacks on civilians inside Israel.