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Gaza Blast Wounds Palestinian Intelligence Chief

  • Robert Berger

A Palestinian security chief and at least eight other people have been wounded in an explosion in the Gaza Strip. A bodyguard was killed. The apparent attack comes amid growing tensions between rival Palestinian factions.

A bomb exploded in an elevator shaft at Palestinian intelligence headquarters in Gaza. Intelligence chief Tareq Abu Rajab and six bodyguards and aides were in the elevator when the blast occurred.

Rajab, who is loyal to moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, was rushed to the hospital with his wounded men, under heavy guard. After surgery, he was transferred to an Israeli hospital in stable condition.

The blast comes amid heightened tensions between the Islamic militant group Hamas, which controls the Palestinian Authority, and the Fatah party, led by Mr. Abbas. There was no claim of responsibility. But Fatah members blame Hamas for what they describe as an assassination attempt. They called on Mr. Abbas to disband the Hamas-led government and call early elections.

Hamas and Fatah gunmen have clashed frequently over the past two weeks, in a deepening power struggle over control of the security forces. Tension rose further on Thursday, when Hamas deployed a unit of 3,000 armed militants to restore law and order, ignoring a veto by Mr. Abbas. He responded by sending police from Fatah onto the streets in a show of force.

This has raised fears of civil war, though Palestinian analyst Wadia Abu Nasser doubts that will happen yet.

"It is unavoidable to continue seeing one clash here, one clash there," he said. "But I believe that the dominant streams inside Fatah, and inside Hamas, are not interest nowadays to see wide clashes all over the territories."

But with rival militias patrolling the streets, each violent incident raises tensions another notch. And while leaders from both sides are trying to keep a lid on the situation, Gaza is on a short fuse.

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