Officials: Fatah chief assassination foiled

Tareq Abu Raja
Seriously wounded Palestinian intelligence chief Tareq Abu Rajab, an ally of moderate President Mahmoud Abbas, is wheeled into an Israeli ambulance at the Erez crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel to be taken for treatment in an Israeli hospital on Saturday.Str / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Palestinian officials on Sunday discovered a large roadside bomb that they said was meant to kill a top security official closely allied with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The 154-pound bomb was planted on a road linking Rashid Abu Shbak's home to his office. Abu Shbak is the only senior official to use the road.

The discovery heightened tensions between Abbas' Fatah movement and the rival Hamas-led government.

On Saturday, Abbas' intelligence chief survived was seriously wounded in an assassination attempt when a bomb exploded in an elevator shaft at Palestinian intelligence headquarters. There was no claim of responsibility however, Fatah blamed Hamas for the attack.

The intelligence chief, Tareq Abu Rajab, who survived an assassination attempt two years ago, is an Abbas ally and a top member of Abbas’ Fatah movement. Fatah did not openly accuse Hamas of being behind the blast, but Fatah members demanded that Abbas dissolve the Hamas-led government and call early elections.

Abu Rajab underwent surgery at Shifa Hospital and was to be taken to an Israeli hospital, doctors said.

Power struggle
Abu Shbak is at the center of a power struggle between the rival movements. In April, Abbas placed Abu Shbak in charge of three security agencies that are supposed to report to the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry.

Hamas responded by announcing formation of its own security force. That force, consisting of 3,000 armed Hamas loyalists, begin operations last week, despite orders from Abbas not to form the unit.

The roadside bomb was discovered Sunday shortly before Abu Shbak's motorcade left from his house in an exclusive neighborhood.

The road is checked each morning before he heads to work. The area was cordoned off, and experts from the Preventive Security agency moved the bomb to an open area and planned to detonate it in a controlled explosion.