Arafat Murder Is Widely Seen as Palestinian Authority Inside Job

The assassination of Moussa Arafat was obviously well-planned and carefully staged. According to debkafile‘s counter-terror sources, the crime bears the hallmark of Palestinian minister for civilian affairs Mohammed Dahlan and his sidekick, Gaza preventive security chief Rashid Abu Shebak, two would-be Gaza strongmen who are no strangers to violence. Suspicion is strong that they contracted the Popular Committees’ Salahedin Brigades for the slaying.
Scores of armed men dragged the former Palestinian military intelligence chief and head of national security forces in the Gaza Strip from his home, shot him dead and abducted his son Manhal. The fact that a large band of armed men was allowed to pump 23 bullets into Arafat’s body – whereas none of his bodyguards suffered a scratch – bespeaks betrayal and conspiracy.
In Nablus, the local Palestinian intelligence chief Maher Yousuf wondered aloud how nearly 100 gunmen could have fired rocket-propelled grenades, automatic weapons and grenades for 45 minutes in the heart of Gaza City, which is packed with Palestinian Authority security men, without interference. Another Palestinian official, military security chief, Col. Maher Fares, accused interior minister Nasser Yousef of abetting the murder. He refused to believe the Popular Committees, whose Salahedin Brigades claimed the assassination, acted alone without the connivance of someone in authority. A third Palestinian Authority cited Hamas.
The inevitable reprisal may be illuminating, although the round of accusations is a measure of the speed with which the Gaza Strip is already sinking into a bloody factional warfare in readiness for Israel’s pullback next week, Sept 12-15.
It ties in with the trial of strength staged by Hamas the night before, when a horde of youths from Khan Younes hurled themselves on the fence of the evacuated Neve Dekalim and an Israeli tank. Palestinian Authority security men were conspicuous by their absence in both violent incidents.
Arafat was targeted for assassination more than once in a career marked with violence in the service of his late celebrated kinsman. His hard-line support base – his own military intelligence outfit, loyal factions in the violent Popular Committees headed by Jemal Sema Dana – with whom he set up the arms smuggling tunnel racket from Sinai – the extremist Jihad Islami, factions of the Fatah-al Aqsa Brigades and the large Hizballah contingent present in Gaza, will all play roles in the payback for his murder. They will use it as a pretext to lash out against PA security forces. The inevitable bloody cycle threatens to turn the Gaza Strip into a failed entity of warring factions, incapable of self-government. The shambles will no doubt also threaten the West Bank.
Meanwhile the Israeli troops remaining in evacuated Israeli locations are high and dry. The units have dismantled their fortified positions and are out in the open field without bases – “on wheels” in military parlance. Intrinsic to the power struggle among the Palestinian terrorist factions is the race to target Israelis, both troops and Negev towns and villages outside the Gaza Strip.
When prime minister Ariel Sharon Tuesday night celebrated the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip as “putting an end to the interminable whining about our situation”, he left out any reference to the backlash on the ground. But chief of staff Lt.-Gen Dan Halutz admitted in a briefing to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security committee Wednesday, Sept 7, that Israel’s response policy to Palestinian terrorist attacks would need amending after the troop withdrawal next week from the Gaza Strip. Far from Israeli official assurances prior to the pullback that the evacuation of the territory would bring greater security, Halutz remarked wryly: “We have mortars too.”

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