Top Fatah official escapes assassination attempt in Gaza

It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the attack, which came amid continued tensions between Fatah and Hamas.

March 9, 2019 17:32
3 minute read.
Palestinians parade during celebrations after Hamas said it reached a deal with Palestinian rival Fa

Palestinians parade during celebrations after Hamas said it reached a deal with Palestinian rival Fatah, in Gaza City, October 12, 2017.. (photo credit: REUTERS/SUHAIB SALEM)


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The Palestinian Fatah faction said over the weekend that one of its senior officials in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip was the target of a failed assassination attempt.

Fatah officials held Hamas responsible for the shooting attack on the car of Ahmed Hillis, member of the Fatah Central Committee. Unidentified assailants opened fire at the car in the central Gaza Strip on Friday evening.

Several bullets hit the car, but Hillis was unhurt.

It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the attack, which came amid continued tensions between Fatah and Hamas.

A spokesman for the Hamas-run Ministry of the Interior said that two suspects were arrested on Saturday in connection with the failed assassination attempt. Hamas security forces also seized the car that was used by the assailants and were seeking to arrest other suspects, the spokesman, Eyad al-Bazm, said.

“We won’t allow anyone to tamper with our internal front,” the Hamas spokesman added. “We will take all necessary measures to maintain stability and security in the Gaza Strip.”

The spokesman did not provide details about the identities or political affiliation of the suspects.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and several officials belonging to his Fatah faction strongly condemned the shooting attack against Hillis and held Hamas responsible.

Munir al-Jaghoub, a senior Fatah official in the West Bank, said that “collaborators [with Israel] were behind the cowardly and criminal attack.”

Hamas, he said, “must assume responsibility for the assassination attempt because it is the de facto authority that has absolute control over the Gaza Strip.”

Jaghoub warned that any harm to Fatah officials in the Gaza Strip would have “serious repercussions.”

Abdullah Abu Samhadanah, a top Fatah official in the Gaza Strip, also held Hamas responsible for the shooting attack which, he said, took place as Israeli snipers were shooting towards Palestinian demonstrators near the border. He urged Hamas to uncover the identities of the perpetrators and to bring them to trial very quickly.

Hillis said shortly after the attack that the Hamas security forces should assume responsibility for the assassination attempt. He said that the area where his car was attacked was full of security cameras and the assailants’ faces were not covered. The attack, he said, came in the context of the prevalent state of lawlessness and anarchy in the Gaza Strip. “It seems we are headed towards a new phase of anarchy,” he said.

Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem also condemned the attack and called on the security forces in the Gaza Strip to capture the perpetrators.

Sources close to Hamas said they did not rule out the possibility that the assassination attempt was the result of a power struggle within Fatah. They pointed out that Hillis is a staunch opponent of deposed Fatah official Mohammed Dahlan.

A former PA security commander in the Gaza Strip, Dahlan moved to the United Arab Emirates eight years ago after falling out with Abbas and other senior Fatah officials.

Although he was expelled from Fatah at the request of Abbas, Dahlan continues to enjoy widespread support among Fatah cadres in the Gaza Strip. Dahlan loyalists have regularly clashed with Fatah supporters of Abbas, the sources noted.

Hillis, who hails from a large and influential clan in the Gaza Strip, is also said to have openly challenged Abbas and senior Fatah officials in the West Bank. When Abbas recently appointed Majed Abu Shamaleh as the top Fatah leader in the Gaza Strip, Hillis announced that he does not recognize the appointment.

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