GAZA, (Reuters) – Unidentified Palestinian gunmen shot dead an intelligence officer loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas and, in a separate incident, fired at the convoy of a U.N. refugee relief director on Friday, witnesses and officials said.
The violence in the Gaza Strip came a day after the governing Palestinian faction Hamas and Abbas’s rival Fatah agreed on the make-up of a coalition government that they hope will end infighting and lift a crippling Western aid embargo.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack on a car in the central Gaza town of Deir al-Balah in which Hussein Asserhi of Fatah was killed and a passenger wounded.
In Gaza City, an armoured car carrying United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) operations chief John Ging was hit at least five times by gunfire from a passing vehicle, Palestinian security officials said. There were no casualties. “This is unprecedented because our vehicles were so clearly marked, and the firing was directed at the vehicles themselves. So this has very serious security implications for us and for our staff,” Ging told reporters.
Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas agreed to form a coalition government during Saudi-sponsored talks in Mecca on Feb. 8 after violence sparked fears of civil war.
Palestinians hope the unity deal will end street fighting between Islamist Hamas and the more secular Fatah that has killed more than 300 Palestinians in the past year.
Disagreement over who would control Palestinian security forces was a major obstacle in coalition talks, but Abbas and Haniyeh agreed to appoint an academic with no security experience to the hotly-contested post of interior minister.
The unity government is also aimed at easing a crippling Western aid embargo of the Palestinian Authority.
Palestinian attacks on UNRWA — which supplies vital aid and employment for refugees in Gaza, the occupied West Bank and neighbouring Arab countries — have been very rare. “Our operation needs to continue. The one million refugees depending on us need our operation, and that’s why it’s so urgent that security be brought under control. We need law and order here in the Gaza Strip first and foremost,” Ging said.