Three Children Of Palestinian Intelligence Official Slain

By Scott Wilson
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, December 12, 2006

JERUSALEM, Dec. 11 -- Gunmen in Gaza City opened fire Monday on the car of a senior Palestinian intelligence official, killing his three children, ages 6 to 9, as they were being dropped off at school.

The intelligence officer, Baha Balousha, was not in the car during the morning attack. He is closely identified with the Fatah party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and participated in a crackdown in the 1990s against members of the rival Hamas movement in Gaza.

The incident came a day after gunmen fired on the convoy of Interior Minister Saed Siyam, a powerful Hamas official. He was not injured in the shooting.

Taken together, the incidents raised the prospect of renewed partisan fighting in Gaza after several months of relative calm between the armed wings of Fatah and Hamas. [Early Tuesday, Abbas ordered security forces to deploy across Gaza, Reuters news agency reported.]

The flare-up comes as Abbas and officials of Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel, have reached an impasse in talks to form a power-sharing government acceptable to foreign donors, who cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority after the radical Islamic movement's victory in January parliamentary elections.

Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh announced in Tehran on Monday that Iran's government had pledged to give $250 million to the Hamas-led government next year. Iran this year committed $120 million to the Palestinians, the Associated Press reported.

Abbas is now considering calling early general elections to resolve the crisis.

Witnesses of Monday's shooting said the gunmen fired dozens of rounds, causing panic at the school, and were chased away by Hamas policeman. A man was also killed, and two other children were wounded.

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