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Assassination of PLO Official Blamed on 'Zionists'

Many Arab spokesmen have accused Israel of killing a senior PLO man in Lebanon, but a previous attempt was traced to a rival Fatah faction.
By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz
First Publish: 3/24/2009, 10:38 AM / Last Update: 3/24/2009, 11:10 AM

Israel News Photo: (file)

The assassination Monday of a senior Palestine Liberation Organization official in Lebanon has garnered across-the-board condemnation, even from among the PLO's bitterest enemies. Many Arab spokesmen have accused
A previous attempt, in April of last year, was traced to a rival Fatah faction.
Israel, but a previous attempt, in April of last year, was traced to a rival Fatah faction.

The victim of the assassination, Kamal Medhat, was a deputy to the Palestinian Authority representative in Lebanon, Abbas Zaki, as well as a former intelligence chief for the Fatah terrorist organization, which controls the PLO. Medhat and three of his bodyguards were killed when a hidden explosive device was detonated as their two-vehicle convoy passed by. The attack took place on a road near the southern Lebanese coastal city of Sidon. According to Lebanese security sources, the roadside bomb ripped through Medhat's Mercedes and flung it into a nearby orchard. The second car crashed as a result of the blast.

The leading Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation reported shortly after the attack that Medhat's boss, Zaki, was the actual target of the bombing. However, he had departed 10 minutes ahead of Medhat in a similar car.

'Zionists' Blamed
Palestinian Authority Chairman and Fatah head Mahmoud Abbas called the Medhat assassination a "terrorist crime". The dead PLO official, a PA statement said, had "dedicated his life to serving his people and his cause." Medhat was a close associate of the late arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat during the latter's campaign against Israel from what became known as "Fatahland" in southern Lebanon.

Zaki, the Palestinian Authority's representative in Lebanon, declared, "Those behind the killing are working in one way or another for Israel." He called on residents of the PLO-run refugee camps in Lebanon to maintain calm in the wake of the bombing.

Monday's attack was not the first attempt on the life of senior PA officials in Lebanon. In 2008 rivals within Fatah planned to kill Zaki using a car bomb planted outside PA offices in Beirut. The man fingered as the mastermind of the attack was Sultan Aboul Ainain, who goes by the title of General Secretary for the PLO in Lebanon. Regarding the Medhat killing, Ainain claimed it was actually part of a larger scheme targeting "the Palestinian national project." Accusatory fingers, he explained, "point in all directions."

A senior representative of the PA-based Hamas terror organization, Osama Hamdan, said that all the enemies of the PA, including Israel, benefit from the assassination. The attack was aimed at sowing discord in the PLO-run camps, Hamdan explained, since Medhat had played a central role in reconciliation efforts among PA factions there. The main suspect, according to the Hamas spokesman, is the "Zionist entity and its tools."

There are approximately 400,000 people living in PLO camps in Lebanon. They are refused citizenship and integration even though they comprise fully 10 percent of the total population.
"We hope to learn a lesson from this incident on how to protect ourselves." -- MP Michel Aoun

Lebanese Reactions
Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri called PLO chief Zaki to offer his condolences over Medhat's death, while Hizbullah issued a statement saying the attack bore "the fingerprints of the Zionists and was aimed at sowing discord." The Iran-sponsored terrorist organization said that the assassination was aimed at both the PLO and at Lebanon.

Both the Lebanese Prime Minister and President offered their condolences to the PA over the killing by way of phone calls to Zaki.

Free Patriotic Movement leader and MP Michel Aoun said in a press statement lamenting the attack, "Problems begin when moderates are assassinated and we hope to learn a lesson from this incident on how to protect ourselves."