Daily Israel Report

Second Anti-Fatah Assassination Attempt in Two Days

A 70-kilogram explosive was to blow up Fatah official Abu Shbak's car, while PA Intelligence chief Abu Rajeb lies seriously hurt in a Tel Aviv hospital since yesterday. PA civil war on the horizon?
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 5/21/2006, 1:35 PM / Last Update: 5/21/2006, 12:02 PM

Talks are set to start on Thursday between Hamas and Fatah, with the participation of other splinter groups in the Hamas Authority, with the goal of heading off a civil war. Ever since Hamas took over the leadership of the Palestinian Authority from Fatah four months ago, tensions between the two have been simmering, shootouts have been not infrequent, and several people have been killed.

For instance, Interior Minister Said Siyam (Hamas) found that senior Fatah officers under his command were not following his orders, and therefore he started a new military organization. Yesterday, Fatah issued an ultimatum to Siyam, demanding that he remove his soldiers from the streets of Gaza within three days.

The two assassination attempts since yesterday were of different natures, but both were directed against Fatah military leaders. Abu Shbak, appointed by PA Chairman Abu Mazen a month ago as head of three military groupings, is the only one to travel to his office in a particular lane - and that's where the Hamas plotters placed the 150-lb. explosive. The bomb was found in time, however, and Abu Shbak was saved. Al Qaeda has since claimed responsibility for the attempt.

Al-Qaeda also announced its plans to murder Abu Mazen and other senior Fatah figures. The international terrorist organization has created a base in Gaza over the past year, and formed several cells in Judea and Samaria - some of which were exposed by Israel's General Security Service. The Popular Resistance Committees, essentially an arm of Hamas, has also stepped up its rhetoric against Fatah, threatening to kill Muhammed Dahlan

Yesterday at 10 AM, a large bomb exploded inside the office building used by PA Intelligence Chief Tarek Abu Rajeb, considered close to Abu Mazen. Two men were killed, and four were wounded, including Abu Rajeb, who was taken in serious condition first to a Gaza hospital and then to Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv.

Abu Rajeb was saved from an assassination attempt last year, and a plot against Abu Mazen was uncovered earlier this month.

Talk of a civil war between Hamas and Fatah appears to be more realistic than ever before. It is widely assumed that if the violence of the past few days continues this week, the peace talks this Thursday will not have a chance of succeeding.