Gunmen kill Gaza leader

ASSAD SAFTAWI, a leading Palestinian moderate in the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip, and close associate of Yasser Arafat, the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, was killed by masked Palestinian gunmen in Gaza yesterday. It was the third such assassination since the signing of the 13 September Israeli- PLO peace accord.

The death of Saftawi, 58, a headmaster in a United Nations school, prominent in Palestinian politics for a decade and a highly respected figure on the political scene, raised tension throughout the occupied territories. Clashes were reported in Gaza refugee camps, and the Israeli army increased patrols.

A reminder of the fragility of the accord, Saftawi's death cast gloom over the peace negotiations, under way in the Red Sea resort of Taba, where Israelis and Palestinians are addressing the issue of security after Israel withdraws from the Gaza Strip. Palestinian sources do not believe he was assassinated by opponents of the agreement. Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, which rejects the deal, has publicly said it will not enter into violent conflict with other Palestinians. Some commentators said Saftawi was an unlikely target for Islamic militant groups, as his son, Emad, was at one time a prominent member of Islamic Jihad, another extreme Islamic faction.

Rather, the killing is believed to be the result of a power struggle within Fatah, the mainstream faction in the PLO, which supports the peace accord. Palestinian sources believe the prospect of power being handed to Palestinians in the occupied territories has created bitter tensions, as would-be leaders jostle for position. Mr Arafat will come under pressure swiftly to fill the leadership vacuum opening up in the occupied territories ahead of self- rule, and elections to be held in July.

The first sign of such a struggle came last month with the killing, also in Gaza, of Mohammed Abu Shaaban, another moderate Fatah activist. An associate of Shaaban, Maher Ikhai, was shot dead in Gaza last week.

News of Saftawi's death was given to Mr Arafat as he arrived in Paris for a two-day visit. Faisal Husseini, the de facto Palestinian leader in the occupied territories, who was accompanying Mr Arafat, said the killers must be punished. 'Our people must do everything in its power to prevent such acts,' he said.

Saftawi's killing followed a gruesomely familiar pattern. Just before midday yesterday he was picking up his daughters from school in the Ramal area of Gaza City when two masked men in a Peugeot 404 shot him. He was taken to Gaza's Shifa Hospital, but was dead on arrival. No faction has yet claimed responsibility for the killing.

Saftawi survived an assassination attempt in July 1992 blamed on Hamas.

TABA - Israel and the PLO agreed at talks here yesterday to release a group of Palestinian prisoners by the beginning of next week, according to a joint statement by the negotiators, Reuter reports. It did not say how many of the estimated 9,500 prisoners in Israeli jails would be freed but said they would include sick prisoners, those below the age of 18, those above the age of 50, and women.

Obituary, page 31

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
A poster by Durham Constabulary
news
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine