- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 24, 2006

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — A Gaza security chief loyal to the Palestinian Authority president was killed yesterday when his car exploded, the second attack on a top commander in less than a week.

No one took responsibility, but the power struggle between President Mahmoud Abbas’ forces and those of the Hamas-led government has become increasingly bloody.

In the West Bank, Israeli soldiers waged a fierce battle with Palestinians during a raid to arrest a top militant, killing four persons and wounding more than 30.

Nabil Hodhod, central Gaza commander of the powerful, Fatah-linked Preventive Security force, was killed when a blast ripped through his car in downtown Gaza City, not far from Shifa Hospital. His deputy was wounded.

Mr. Hodhod was the highest-ranking official to be killed in a week of violent incidents, sparked by Hamas’ fielding of its own militia in defiance of a ban by Mr. Abbas.

On Saturday, intelligence chief Tareq Abu Rajab was seriously wounded in an explosion in his Gaza office, and on Sunday, Palestinian security found a huge bomb on the road used by security commander Rashid Abu Shbak to drive to his office, an apparent assassination attempt.

Mr. Abu Shbak, a Fatah stalwart, has become a symbol of the conflict. Mr. Abbas appointed him to command three security forces nominally under the authority of the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry. Hamas responded by deploying its own 3,000-strong militia made up of militants.

In Ramallah, seat of the Palestinian government in the West Bank, the second Israeli raid in as many days turned violent from the outset.

Palestinians spotted undercover Israeli forces in a Ford sedan near Manara Square in the center of the city, opened fire and threw rocks at the soldiers, Palestinian officials and the Israeli military said.

The Israelis in the car and reinforcements brought in for the raid returned fire, killing four Palestinians and wounding more than 30. Ambulances darted in and out of the melee, taking casualties to the hospital.

One of the dead was a police officer and the others were civilians, Palestinians said. The Israeli military said a soldier was slightly wounded in the clash.

Television footage showed the streets of central Ramallah deserted except for a few jeeps, as smoke rose from nearby buildings. Rocks littered the streets after the Israelis withdrew.

The Israelis succeeded in capturing the militant they wanted, Mohammed Shubaki of Islamic Jihad. Israel Army Radio said he was a leader of the northern West Bank cell of Islamic Jihad responsible for all the suicide bombings in Israel in the past year.

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