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Palestinian Security Officer Shot Dead

September 15, 2006

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) _ Palestinian gunmen opened fire on a car in Gaza City carrying a top Palestinian security officer in a drive-by shooting that killed the officer and four of his bodyguards, senior Palestinian security officials said.

The attack occurred near the Beach Refugee Camp in the middle of the afternoon.

The gunmen, driving a sport utility vehicle, targeted a gray Audi belonging to Brig. Gen. Jad Tayeh, the head of international coordination in the Palestinian intelligence service, spraying dozens of bullets into the car, said Interior Ministry spokesman Khaled Abu Hilal. Tayeh was killed along with four bodyguards.

The motive for the attack was not immediately clear, although officials speculated that it could be an internal feud within the intelligence service. Security officials said the attackers took a black briefcase that Tayeh was carrying.

Authorities were investigating the attack, Abu Hilal said.

Gaza has been wracked for much of the year by internal violence between militants from Hamas, which won Palestinian parliamentary elections in January, and those affiliated with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah Party, which controls the security services.

The internal fighting ebbed after Israel began an offensive into Gaza in response to a June 25 attack by Hamas-linked militants that led to the capture of an Israeli soldier.

Earlier this week, Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, of Hamas, said they would form a national unity government to try to end sanctions against the Palestinian Authority. Many Palestinians hoped that the agreement would also end the internal tensions.

Also Friday, a small explosion caused minor damage in a courtyard outside a Greek Orthodox church in Gaza City, church workers said. The early morning blast appeared to have been caused by a small, homemade explosive, which damaged a door and caused minor damage to the floor and walls, church workers said. No one was injured.

A second explosion hit the church hours later and a concussion grenade was thrown near the church in the afternoon. Neither of those blasts caused any damage, but church officials worried that the attacks were retaliation for remarks that Pope Benedict XVI made Tuesday that angered Muslims.

``This is the first time this has ever happened to our church,″ said the Rev. Artinious Alexious. ``We don’t know why they have done this. We are Greek Orthodox and have no relation to the Pope.″

Hossam Taweel, a Christian lawmaker and representative of Gaza’s Christians, said there was no firm link between the attacks and the controversy over the pope.

``We deal with this incident as a criminal activity and not as a sectarian act,″ he said.

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