Middle East & Africa
Murder of Palestinian Leader Raises Concern
By Yasser AbuMoailek
Middle East Correspondent
Gaza City, March 2, 2004 — A top Palestinian figure and human rights activist was killed early today by unknown gunmen in Gaza City, raising more concern for the increased lawlessness in the occupied Palestinian territories. Khalil Al Zaben, 59, a human rights activist and an advisor to the Palestinian President Yasser Arafat on media and human rights, was shot by unknown gunmen as he was leaving his office in the Al Sabra neighborhood in Gaza City, eyewitnesses said. Medical sources at the Al Shifa hospital said that Al Zaben's body shot with 12 bullets. Several political analysts consider this assassination as the biggest challenge yet to the Palestinian President. The killing of Al Zaben has raised a lot of concerns among the locals as well as the politicians in the Palestinian territories, as acts of lawlessness and internal fighting increased significantly in the past few weeks. Al-Zaben, who was a local publisher, had recently criticized the growing chaos and spoken out against the rogue armed gangs roaming Gaza. He was the best-known Palestinian to be killed in the wave of chaos that swept through Gaza City.
|Body of Khalil Al Zaben, 59, who was shot dead by unknown Palestinian gunmen early on Tuesday, March 2, 2004. Al Zaben was a publisher and advisor to Palestinian President Yasser Arafat on human rights and media. Courtesy AP|
Despite acknowledging that Gaza is on its way to becoming a "gangland," Palestinian officials blame Israel for this deterioration, which stems from the near-complete destruction of the Palestinian security infrastructures, as well as the disruption of the work of the different Palestinian security services in many cases by the Israeli forces. "The Israeli occupation and its continued disruption of our work, added to the rise of different armed resistance factions, has crumbled the Palestinian people's trust in the Palestinian Authority and its security establishments, leading to a large-scale acts against the law," Colonel Jamal Al Buheisi, Director General of the Security Department in the Middle Areas of Gaza Strip, told ST correspondent in an interview. Furthermore, the rise of unemployment and poverty rates among the Palestinian population, as a direct result of the Israeli siege, closures and trade embargos, has led to a drastic increase in crime rates and power struggles between the different Palestinian groups. The Palestinian Cabinet and national security council were to discuss the killing at a meeting Tuesday, said Negotiations Affairs Minister, Dr. Sa'eb Erekat. "This chaos will not be tolerated. I believe the Palestinian government and security forces must take all action to end this chaos," Erekat said. "It is really undermining the Palestinian struggle to establish an independent state."
|Palestinian President Yasser Arafat. Al Zaben worked as a journalist in President Arafat's media office, and then as his advisor on media and human rights issues. Courtesy AFP|
The recent acts of lawlessness from these armed gangs has started to affect the Palestinian people, as several of them expressed their fear on their lives and businesses. "The absence of law and order makes me think twice before expanding my business. It makes me even think twice before opening it in the morning. I am afraid that some of those gangs might barge in and rob my money," said Shaker Al Ghalayeeni, a supermarket owner in Gaza City. There have been a series of chaotic acts in the occupied Palestinian territories, one in which about 20 armed and masked gunmen broke into the Palestinian Land Authority in Gaza Strip and demanded that deeds for lands be transferred to their names. On Friday, the mayor of the West Bank's largest city, Nablus, resigned amid growing chaos and infighting between armed groups. Mayor Ghassan Shakaa said the Palestinian Authority was not doing enough to prevent Nablus from plummeting into lawlessness. The Israeli forces continue to take positions around the city of Nablus, raiding the city every once and a while.
|Palestinians blame continued Israeli military aggressions for more than 40 months against the Palestinian security infrastructures for the deterioration of security in the occupied Palestinian territories. Courtesy AP|
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Yasser AbuMoailek, a journalist and feature writer working for the International Press Center in Gaza Strip. He contributes to many circulations inlcuding the Seoul Times, as well as monitoring the situation in the Middle East, especially the Palestinian territories.