abbas stand 298.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Was Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas the target of an assassination attempt earlier this week?
PA security officials told The Jerusalem Post that several shots were fired at Abbas's home. Abbas was inside the house, but neither he nor any of his family members were hurt, they said.
Following the incident, PA security forces launched a manhunt for the shooters who, eyewitnesses said, managed to escape in a car toward the northern part of the city.
"Several shots were fired near the home of President Abbas," said a senior PA security official. "I don't know if this was an assassination attempt, but it's the first incident of its kind here and that's why we are taking it very seriously."
Another top security official said he was convinced Hamas was behind the shooting.
"We believe that Hamas is behind the attack and that they are planning to assassinate the president," he told the Post. "We have received a lot of information over the past few weeks that some Hamas elements in the West Bank are preparing to assassinate senior Palestinian officials in Ramallah."
Members of Abbas's Presidential Guard have since been deployed in major parts of the city, especially around the Mukata "presidential" compound and his private residence.
Many residents complained that the tough security measures had made their lives more difficult. Others complained that they had been assaulted by nervous security officers during routine checks.
Ruba Barghouti, the daughter of jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, was briefly detained near the Mukata on Monday after she protested against a search in her car. When her brother, Qassam, arrived at the scene to protest against the search, he was severely beaten before he was taken into custody.
Senior PA officials later apologized to the Barghoutis, saying the strict security measures were needed because of warnings that Hamas was planning "something big."
Hamas was trying to establish a security force in the West Bank similar to its paramilitary Executive Force in the Gaza Strip, PA security sources said Wednesday. They added that PA security forces had arrested scores of Hamas members and confiscated large amounts of weapons in a series of raids on Hamas-run institutions in the West Bank since the alleged attempt on Abbas's life.
In Bethlehem, PA security forces said they had arrested 13 Hamas members who reportedly confessed that they had been asked by Hamas to start working toward creating a new security force in the West Bank.
In Tulkarm and Kalkilya, PA policemen seized dozens of rifles and pistols and large amounts of ammunition belonging to Hamas.
The PA governor of Kalkilya, Rabih al-Khandakji, confirmed that weapons had been seized in the city's Hamas-controlled Islamic Club. He said the raid had proved that the club was not involved only in athletic and social activities.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum warned against the ongoing crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank and denied allegations that his movement was trying to set up a new security force there.
"The Palestinian Authority security forces, which operate on instructions from the US, are conspiring to confiscate the weapons of the Palestinian resistance in the West Bank," he said. "Our men need the weapons to defend themselves against Israel. We call on Abbas's security forces to stop chasing our men and to return the weapons they confiscated."