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Palestinian Police Foil Assassination Attempt Against Security Chief


Palestinian police say they have foiled another assassination attempt against a security chief in the Gaza Strip. The incident comes against the background of growing tensions between rival Palestinian factions.

Palestinian police found a 70 kilogram roadside bomb near the Gaza home of security chief Rashid Abu Shbak. Officials say would-be assassins planned to detonate the powerful bomb as Shbak's motorcade passed by.

Shbak, who is loyal to moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, heads several branches of the security forces.

The incident further heightens tensions between the Fatah party, led by Mr. Abbas, and the Islamic militant group Hamas, which took control of the Palestinian Authority seven weeks ago. On Saturday, Palestinian intelligence chief Tareq Abu Rajab, also an Abbas loyalist, was wounded in a bomb explosion at his Gaza headquarters. Fatah members blamed Hamas for what they described as an assassination attempt.

The deepening power struggle over control of the security forces has sparked gun battles between the two rival factions during the past two weeks, raising fears of civil war.

Palestinian analyst Bassam Eid says it could happen.

"Palestinian society has created a kind of an authority with two different heads," he said. "Abbas is one head and the Hamas government is the other head."

International sanctions against Hamas have fueled tensions. The new government is broke, and cannot pay the salaries of 165,000 government employees, including policemen in the Fatah-dominated security forces.

Fearing a humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the West Bank, brought on by the lack of funds, the Israeli Cabinet approved the transfer of $11-million-worth of medicine and health supplies to the Palestinians.

Israel has withheld $55-million monthly tax payments to the Palestinian Authority since Hamas took power. Now, Israel is trying to bypass the Hamas government, and funnel aid directly to the Palestinian people.

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