JERUSALEM — Unidentified gunmen in the Gaza Strip shot and killed Moussa Arafat, a former Palestinian Authority security chief and a cousin of the late Yasser Arafat, at his home in Gaza City before dawn today.
The brazen assault heightened worries about chaos and factional violence in the Gaza Strip following Israel’s withdrawal from all 21 Jewish settlements there. Israeli forces are expected to hand over the Gaza Strip in coming weeks, turning the impoverished enclave into a test of Palestinian rule.
Police and witnesses said the attackers arrived at Moussa Arafat’s house in a convoy of cars and began firing rocketpropelled grenades at the home, overwhelming his bodyguards. The men then pulled Arafat, 66, from the house and shot him in the street, witnesses said.
The gunmen also seized Arafat’s son, Manhal, a security officer thought to be in his 30s, and drove away. Witnesses reported heavy gunfire during the incident.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. The Palestinian Authority had no immediate comment; officials said they were investigating.
Arafat, who was sacked as head of military intelligence this year, made numerous enemies during his years as a ranking security official and was viewed by many Palestinians as corrupt.
He had survived several assassination attempts, most recently in October when a car parked nearby exploded as his convoy was leaving the main security headquarters in Gaza City. Arafat was not injured.
The shooting may stem from infighting among the rival forces that have sown disorder in Gaza since Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat’s death in November.
Moussa Arafat had headed the powerful military intelligence agency since arriving in Gaza in 1994, when the Palestinian Authority was created as a result of the Oslo peace accords.
Over the years, he tangled with Palestinian militants, spearheading a crackdown on Hamas in the mid-1990s.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas removed Arafat from his post but kept him as an advisor.