Assassination fears after Arafat critic shot at home

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The prospect that political assassination could become a tactic loomed yesterday in an increasingly unstable Palestinian power struggle after a leading Fatah moderate was seriously wounded as he watched television at home with his family.

The prospect that political assassination could become a tactic loomed yesterday in an increasingly unstable Palestinian power struggle after a leading Fatah moderate was seriously wounded as he watched television at home with his family.

Nabil Amr, the board chairman of al Hayat al Jadeeda, a newspaper strongly in favour of Palestinian Authority (PA) reform, and a frequent critic of Yasser Arafat, is in Amman, Jordan, with serious leg wounds. A gunman had fired a close-range burst through his living room window.

The attempted murder of Mr Amr, a former minister and member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, is thought to have been the first time an elected politician in the West Bank or Gaza has been targeted since the formation of the PA in 1996. Ahmad Qureia, the Palestinian Prime Minister, said it was an example of the "deep security crisis" engulfing the Palestinian territories, locked in internal conflict over what critics see as Mr Arafat's autocratic rule and widespread PA corruption.

Yesterday Palestinian militants seized the PA's director of village affairs in Nablus and took him to the Balata refugee camp for three and a half hours. Mahmoud Aloul, the Nablus governor, said the official had been released unharmed by the "security apparatus under the orders of President Arafat".

Mr Qureia, whose weekend resignation after failing to secure a long-delayed handover of powers from Mr Arafat to control Palestinian security forces was rejected by the PA President, added in a statement: "This is further proof of the dangers of the continuation of the state of paralysis of the security apparatus."

Mr Amr, 56, had been lying on his sofa at 11pm in the quiet Tereh district of Ramallah, the PA's administrative centre. Two of the seven bullets fired hit in his right leg. Bullet marks and blood patches were still on the sofa yesterday, and the shots had cut a three-inch-wide ragged hole in the curtains. He was with his wife, Bushra, his son, Marwan, 24, and his daughter, Nadine, 22. The gunman escaped.

Immediately, some Palestinians said supporters of Mr Arafat resistant to PA reform had been responsible, but Amr family relatives said the PA President had phoned the wounded Mr Amr in hospital to offer "solidarity", condemn the attack, and say he had ordered a full investigation.

Iyad Amr, the wounded man's son-in-law, said the family did not blame Mr Arafat.He said Palestinian police had told the family it had been the work of a "professional" and added: "No one is saying it was not political. Nabil opposed some of the policies of the PA. He is one of those rare politicians who has always been consistent in arguing for reform and against corruption."

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