Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Bomb kills senior Fatah official Kamal Madhat in Lebanon

Schoolchildren passed a damaged car at the site of an explosion
in Mieh Mieh refugee camp that killed Fatah's Kamal Madhat

John Lyons, Middle East correspondent March 25

NEW warfare broke out inside Palestinian politics yesterday when a bomb in Lebanon killed a senior official of the moderate Fatah movement, which runs the West Bank through the Palestinian Authority.

Fatah's second most senior official in Lebanon, Kamal Madhat, was killed along with three of his bodyguards when the bomb exploded as he drove near the Mieh Mieh Palestinian refugee camp close to the southern city of Sidon.

It is believed the bomb was intended for his superior, Abbas Zaki, who is a confidant of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

In what appeared to have been a carefully planned attack, the bomb was hidden under a manhole cover in a road leading to the refugee camp. UN groups claim there are up to 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and tensions have been high between Fatah and some of its more radical Islamic rivals.

Hamas's senior figure in Lebanon, Osama Hamdan, condemned the attack, saying Madhat had helped ease tensions between Palestinian groups.

The killing highlighted the divisions in Palestinian ranks between moderates and hardliners and came only days after talks in Cairo between Fatah and Hamas aimed at achieving a national unity government collapsed.

Divisions between the two groups proved too great to achieve any real breakthrough - Hamas refuses to recognise the existence of Israel or to renounce violence against Israel.

"I fear that this might be a sign of an expansion of Palestinian-Palestinian conflicts in Lebanon," political commentator Nabil Boumonsef said. "Palestinian-Palestinian conflicts could be spreading faster than we were expecting."

Yesterday's bombing in Lebanon came as fears rise in Israel of a possible terrorist attack in revenge for the assassination of Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh.

Hezbollah has vowed revenge for the death of Mughniyeh, who was killed in a car bomb in Damascus last year. Hezbollah blamed Israel for the killing while Israel denied any role.

Israel has told its citizens that they may be targeted at tourist resorts or other venues outside Israel this (northern) summer.

Meanwhile, details emerged yesterday of an attempted bombing in the northern Israeli port city of Haifa on Saturday night.

The bombing was thwarted when a bomb linked to explosives detonated prematurely but failed to trigger many kilograms of explosives and metal balls.

Outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said: "We are treating the attempted attack in Haifa with great gravity. A huge disaster was prevented by a miracle. We shouldn't delude ourselves - attempts at terror attacks have continued and will continue."

The explosives were in a car that was driven into an outdoor carpark which had no security checks. It is believed the plan was that the explosives would set off explosions in other cars which were in the car park packed with Saturday night shoppers.

Security at most underground shopping centres in Israel is already high.

Source: The Australian

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