Rival Gangs Violently Vie For Control In PA

There have been at least three separate clashes between armed Arab factions in the Palestinian Authority (PA) just since the death of PLO leader Yasser Arafat last week.

, | updated: 4:26 PM

These may be the first signs that previously sporadic battles are set to take a much more violent turn.

The most politically significant of the recent attacks took place last night (Sunday) in Gaza, when unidentified gunmen opened fire at the entourage of newly instated PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas, known as Abu Mazen, and Gaza strongman Mohammed Dahlan. The apparent assassination attempt, which took place at an official mourning tent, took the lives of two people, including Abu Mazen's bodyguard. An unspecified number of people were injured, but Abu Mazen and Dahlan were not hurt.

PLO leaders insist the shooting last night was not an attempted assassination. However, there is a growing struggle between rival factions vying for power in the post-Arafat PA. Last Thursday, for example, rival factions in PA-controlled Jericho were involved in street battles, with an unspecified number of persons taken to the hospital. Today, the PA city of Kalkilye was the scene of gun battles between rival terrorist groups. Preliminary reports indicated that a number of people were wounded in the clashes.

In an effort to calm the situation, Abu Mazen is scheduled to meet in Egypt with the leaders of terrorist factions in December. He is hoping to eliminate resistance to his assuming command following the death of Arafat. In the last such meeting with potential rivals, PA leader Ahmed Queria, known as Abu Ala, met with Hamas leaders in Gaza prior to Arafat's death. At the time, the terrorist group refused requests for a temporary ceasefire with Israel and instead demanded a hand in the PA leadership.

Yesterday, PA officials announced that a general election will be held on January 9th. In addition, the Fatah council announced that Abu Mazen will be the only candidate, seeking to eliminate the threat of competing against Marwan Barghouti and others who are setting their sights on the PA leadership role.

Barghouti is currently serving consecutive life sentences in Israeli prison for his involvement in terrorist attacks.