Moussa Arafat, the ex-Palestinian security chief, has been murdered in Gaza, fuelling fears of turmoil ahead of Israel’s final troop withdrawal from the occupied territory.
He is the most senior Palestinian figure killed in internal violence. It has raised doubts over the ability of security forces to keep order in a possible power struggle for the strip.
Gunmen dragged Arafat from his home and shot him dead in the street. The major-general, a cousin of Yasser Arafat, was a local strongman. His killers battled guards at Arafat’s house with rifle’s and anti-tank grenades for 30 minutes, before storming in and pulling him outside.
An armed Palestinian group called the Committee for Popular Resistance claimed responsibility for the attack.
Arafat had retained an advisory role to President Mahmoud Abbas after being fired as head of military intelligence in April. He had never shied from using an iron fist and had many enemies.
Israel’s pullout from Gaza is hoped to be a spur to peacemaking. But a plethora of forces and militant groups all want a share of power here, the first entire territory that Palestinians will have had to rule without an Israeli military presence.
They also want a state in the occupied West Bank. But there are fears that Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza is aimed at winning international support that will allow it to strengthen its hold on the bigger West Bank settlements.