Arafat’s body was left on the street following the attack. Later, the Popular Resistance Committees, a Gaza terror group, claimed responsibility for the assassination.
Arafat survived previous assassination attempts (Photo: Reuters)
However, security officials say Hamas was behind Arafat’s assassination, even though the murder was carried out by the Popular Resistance Committees. According to the sources, the Hamas directed the assassins in a murder apparently motivated by the upcoming Palestinian elections.
According to the sources, the Hamas has recently used the Committees as an operational arm on several occasions.
Shot in the head
About 80 to 100 gunmen traveling in 20 vehicles reached the area, not far from the home of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, around 4:00 a.m. Wednesday. The armed attackers blocked all roads leading to the house, and directed gunfire, rockets, and mortar shells at the home for about 20 minutes.
Three of Arafat’s bodyguards sustained injuries during the exchanges of fire. At one point, the attackers stormed the house, removed Moussa Arafat, shot him in the head from close range, and later confirmed he was dead. The assailants also tied the wounded guards.
Palestinian police officials said Arafat's eldest son, Nimhel, was abducted and taken to an unknown location.
Arafat, 69, the cousin of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, was taken to a Gaza hospital following the attack but doctors said he arrived there dead.
Arafat was removed from his post in April by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in an attempt to fight corruption among security officials. Meanwhile, Abbas has convened a special session of the Palestinian National Security Council to discuss the assassination, al-Jazeera reported. Later, the Palestinian leader said he was determined to catch those behind the killing.
Arafat survived previous attempts on his life
Arafat was a member of a Fatah cell in a Gaza neighborhood in 1965-66 and later headed the Fatah’s southern command in Jordan. He was appointed as head of Military Intelligence while the PLO was headquartered in Tunisia and moved to the territories in 1994 following the Oslo agreements.
The assassinated former security chief was considered one of Gaza’s most influential figures and was singled out by Israeli officials as one of the masterminds of Palestinian weapons smuggling into Gaza.
Arafat has already survived several assassination attempts in the past. In October of last year a car bomb exploded near a PA security headquarters in Gaza near his convoy. Arafat, however, escaped unhurt that time. In July 2003, a rocket was fired at the Gaza compound where his office was located, but it hit a prison and lightly hurt 10 Palestinian prisoners.
Meanwhile, tensions between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas terrorists grew in recent days, particularly following the explosion two days ago in a Gaza building where a senior Hamas figure resides.
Following the blast, PA officials were quick to blast the storage of weapons at residential homes and crowded population centers and said the incident proves the "weapons anarchy" in the PA must end.
Palestinian officials noted the investigation into the explosion is only looking into the possibility of a "work accident" by terrorists.
Hanan Greenberg and news agencies contributed to the story