Dozens of Palestinian gunmen stormed the home of deposed Gaza security chief Moussa Arafat before dawn yesterday and shot him dead, witnesses and police said.
Arafat, 65, a cousin of the late former Palestinian president Yasser Arafat, was fired earlier this year by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. It was not immediately clear who the gunmen were.
At dawn yesterday, Abbas called an emergency meeting of his security commanders and Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia at his office in Gaza City. No announcements had come out of the meeting an hour after it started.
On Tuesday, in the first fatal clash between Israeli forces and Palestinians since Israel removed its settlers from Gaza, soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian as dozens stormed an empty settlement and threw rocks at a tank.
Moussa Arafat was linked to corruption charges and had many powerful enemies, and it was thought that his killing was related to internal conflicts.
The gunmen fired at his house in Gaza City and fired rocket-propelled grenades, then stormed the house, killing him. His oldest son, Manhal, who is a senior security official, was either kidnapped or escaped, police at the scene said.
The brazen killing was certain to shake Palestinian politics, just as Abbas struggles to assert control of Gaza with the Israeli pullout.
Moussa Arafat was a founder of the ruling Fatah movement and a senior official in the Fatah Revolutionary Council, a top policy-making body. The council had been scheduled to meet later yesterday.
After he was fired from his security chief position, Moussa Arafat was given the considerably less influential job of military adviser to Abbas.
An AP news cameraman saw Moussa Arafat's body being taken from the house to Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, but angry bodyguards prevented him from taking pictures.
There was no immediate comment from the Palestinian Authority. A spokesman said a statement would be issued later yesterday.
Moussa Arafat was a target of previous assassination attempts and always traveled in a heavily guarded convoy, using an armored limousine that once transported Yasser Arafat.
Before sundown on Tuesday, dozens of young Palestinians marched on Neve Dekalim, once the largest Jewish settlement in Gaza. Palestinian police tried to stop them, but they failed.
An Israeli tank approached, and some youths threw rocks at it while others stormed into the settlement. Soldiers opened fire, killing one and wounding three others, doctors said.
The Israeli military said soldiers opened fire after 40 to 50 youths ran into the settlement and others climbed on the tank. TV footage showed youths pelting the tank with rocks, then tearing down the fence around the settlement and racing inside.
Though Israel has removed its settlers and torn down houses in the settlements, the Israeli military retains control of the settlement areas until the formal handover, expected on Thursday next week. Synagogues and some military bases are still intact there.
Late on Tuesday a rocket fired from Gaza exploded harmlessly in a field inside Israel. Such rocket fire has been rare since Israel's pullout began.
The Palestinian Cabinet also issued a statement saying that after inspections, it was found that 70 percent of the greenhouses in the settlements are in good condition. The Cabinet called on Israel to allow Palestinian workers to return there next week.