JERUSALEM - The deputy chief of the Palestinian intelligence services was shot and seriously wounded in Gaza City yesterday as he drove to his office. Two of his bodyguards were killed and two others were wounded as gunmen fired on the convoy near the Shati refugee camp, overturning one of the cars, and then escaped.
The shooting, for which there was no immediate explanation, was the latest sign of the unrest and confusion in Gaza as Palestinian groups struggle for control of the Gaza Strip, which Israel says it will leave next year.
The intelligence officer, Tareq Abu Rajab, 58, is widely respected in Gaza and keeps a low profile. An old ally of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, he is responsible for external security, including Palestinian diplomatic missions abroad. But he is also responsible for intelligence on Palestinian factions that are rivals to Arafat's Fatah movement, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Rajab was treated in Gaza and then taken for major surgery to a hospital in Ashkelon, Israel. He was said to be in critical condition after gunshots to the chest.
The instability in Gaza has been reflected in a move by some legislators to reform the Palestinian Authority in order to reduce corruption and cronyism, streamline the myriad security forces, and push for new local and municipal elections.
But Arafat has rejected new elections for the legislature, and he has refused to sign decrees drafted by reformers that would put his authority behind specific reform measures and corruption investigations.
Legislators meeting in Ramallah in the West Bank called for a reshuffling of Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia's administration.
Arafat met again yesterday with Muhammad Dahlan, the former head of preventive security in Gaza and a major proponent of reform.
Dahlan's successor, Gen. Rashid Abu Shabak, denounced the shooting, saying the perpetrators would be caught.