RealNews

A Close Call for PLO Leader

In an incident that boded ill for the interim Palestinian government’s efforts to keep order, gunmen in the Gaza Strip unleashed bursts of automatic-weapons fire Sunday near Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, panicking his bodyguards and leaving two security men dead. Abbas, 69, was unhurt in the gunfire that erupted just after he and his entourage arrived at a mourning tent in Gaza City in honor of his predecessor as Palestine Liberation Organization chief, Yasser Arafat, who died Thursday. Abbas and other Palestinian officials played down the significance of the incident, saying it was not an assassination attempt. It appeared not to have been. Witnesses said the weapons of the gunmen, who were believed to be from Arafat’s Fatah movement, were pointed upward. The brazen gunfire, commonly used as a means of intimidation during factional disputes in Gaza, underscored the danger of a power struggle breaking out in the wake of Arafat’s death, particularly in the volatile seaside territory. It was also a reminder that Abbas, a moderate who has often said publicly that he opposes violence as a means of pursuing Palestinian statehood, is deeply unpopular among the many young shock troops of the Fatah faction who oppose accommodation with Israel. Full Story

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