- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 21, 2006

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — An apparent attempt to assassinate Gaza’s intelligence chief with a bomb planted at his headquarters yesterday heightened tensions between President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction and the Islamic militant group Hamas.

Hours after the explosion, Israeli warplanes fired missiles at a car in Gaza City and killed Mohammed Dadouh, top military commander of the militant group Islamic Jihad, Palestinian officials said. Three others traveling in a car behind Mr. Dadouh’s — a mother, her 5-year-old son and the child’s grandmother — also were killed.

The Israeli army said Mr. Dadouh was responsible for firing rockets at Israeli towns. Islamic Jihad vowed to avenge his killing.

Mr. Abbas’ security forces hinted that Hamas, which controls the Palestinian government, was behind the bomb that seriously wounded Tareq Abu Rajab, the Palestinian intelligence chief and a key ally of the moderate Mr. Abbas.

It was the latest incident to strain relations between the rival Palestinian factions in Gaza — the Fatah party of Mr. Abbas and Hamas.

Hamas ordered its newly formed 3,000-strong militia to take to the streets last week in blatant disregard for opposition by Mr. Abbas, who has official control of the Palestinian security forces.

The new Hamas militia and Fatah-run security forces have been in a standoff the past few days, evidenced by street gunfights that some analysts say may be the beginning of a broader civil war.

Mr. Abu Rajab’s deputy, Tawfiq Tirawi, said at a press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah that Hamas had been behind a previous attempt to kill his boss, a senior official in Fatah.

Asked whether Hamas also was responsible for yesterday’s attack, Mr. Tirawi said: “Everything is possible. I don’t rule anything out for now.”

He said the intelligence services had the names of Hamas members responsible for the previous assassination attempt on Mr. Abu Rajab.

“I am not going to pour fuel on the fire, but at the same time, I warn that playing with fire will burn the hands of those who are doing it,” he said.

The bomb that blew up the intelligence headquarters in Gaza City was packed with metal pellets and planted under the elevator’s floor, Mr. Tirawi said.

Mr. Abu Rajab and six aides and bodyguards got into the elevator and were close to the second floor when the blast occurred just before noon. A bodyguard was killed immediately. Mr. Abu Rajab and five others in the elevator were wounded seriously.

Mr. Abu Rajab underwent surgery at nearby Shifa Hospital in Gaza, where doctors stopped his bleeding and stabilized him before transferring him to the Israeli hospital Ichilov in Tel Aviv.

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