Intelligence Official, Aides Slain in Gaza
Masked gunmen shot and killed a senior official in the Palestinian intelligence service and four aides Friday near the home of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.
Palestinian officials said Maj. Gen. Jad Tayeh and the aides were in a vehicle in the Shati refugee camp, on the northern edge of Gaza City, when masked men in a sport utility vehicle cut them off and opened fire.
The attackers fled after taking weapons and cellphones from the dead, as well as a briefcase containing documents, according to the intelligence service. At least three victims were described as bodyguards.
Authorities said they had opened an investigation but made no announcement about possible suspects.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
“It’s a crime against the innocents. They were killed after they had performed the Friday prayer,” said Gen. Mohammed Masri, a senior officer in the intelligence service.
The intelligence service is under the jurisdiction of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Tayeh, who was in charge of the agency’s international coordination, was affiliated with Abbas and the president’s Fatah movement.
It was not known whether the attack was part of sporadic strife between the once-dominant Fatah faction and Hamas, the radical Islamic group that won control of parliament in January elections. Many clashes have involved gun battles, often between rival security agencies.
Fatah and Hamas announced this week that they would form a coalition government. The move is aimed mainly at restarting the flow of international aid, but it also could help ease some of the street violence, which has been especially severe in the Gaza Strip.
The United States and the European Union cut off most aid to the Palestinian Authority after the elections because they classify Hamas as a terrorist group. Palestinian officials hope that a unity government involving Fatah, which supports negotiations with Israel, will prompt at least some donors to renew aid and relieve a financial crisis.
The EU on Friday said it welcomed the formation of the unity government, the Associated Press reported from Brussels.
In other developments, Haniyeh joined a chorus of criticism over Pope Benedict XVI’s comments Tuesday on Islam that many Muslims consider an attack on their religion.
“We strongly condemn the pope’s offensive remarks about Islam, which totally contradict the true nature of Islam and its shining history,” he said. “The pope should reconsider his proclamations and stop attacking Islam, the religion of 1.5 billion people of the world.”
Special correspondent Rushdie abu Alouf in Gaza City contributed to this report.