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Bomb Kills Senior Palestinian Officer - 2001-09-01

A senior Palestinian intelligence officer has been killed when his his car exploded in the Gaza Strip.

Colonel Taiser Khatab was driving to his office at Palestinian intelligence headquarters near Gaza City when his car exploded.

Colonel Khatab died of injuries received from the blast and his bodyguard was seriously wounded. The front of the car was badly mangled, and blood stained the seats and roadside.

Palestinians say the high-ranking security official was "assassinated" by the Israeli military in what they call an "ugly crime." Palestinian officials called the attack "illegal and immoral," and an example of "state terrorism."

An Israeli army spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Olivier Rafowicz, said Israel "categorically denies any involvement" in the explosion. The army spokesman said the Palestinian was probably carrying a bomb or was the victim of internal Palestinian quarrels.

More than 50 Palestinians have been killed in targeted Israeli attacks since the current conflict began 11-months ago. Many were militants involved in the fighting with Israel. Several bystanders, however, including women and children, have also been killed.

Israel has acknowledged some of the attacks, saying they are necessary to prevent terrorist acts against Israeli civilians.

Earlier this week, Israel killed Abu Ali Mustafa, the head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, in a missile strike on his office in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

Israel charged Mr. Mustafa with directing a series of car bomb attacks against Israelis. Palestinian officials say he was a political leader and not involved in terrorist activities.

The United States and other countries have condemned Israel's policy of targeted attacks.

Despite the violence, behind-the-scenes efforts continue to arrange a meeting between Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.

Officials from the Italian foreign ministry are engaged in shuttle diplomacy between the two sides, and reports say such a meeting could occur as early as next week.