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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Top Arafat Adviser Assassinated

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- Gunmen killed an adviser to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in a street ambush early Tuesday, feeding fears of growing lawlessness and chaos ahead of a possible Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

Arafat denounced the killing of Khalil al-Zaben, 59, as a "dirty assassination" and convened his Cabinet and national security council Tuesday to discuss what was seen as one of the most serious challenges yet to the Palestinian Authority.

Al-Zaben, the best-known Palestinian to be killed in recent internal fighting, was hit by 12 bullets as he left his Gaza City office. There was no claim of responsibility and security officials said publicly they had no suspects.

However, one official speaking privately said he suspected the assailants had ties to Fatah. Al-Zaben had made enemies in Gaza by filing detailed reports to Arafat about activities of various factions, the official said.

Last week, al-Zaben distributed a leaflet in Gaza in which he denounced "gangs of professional killers and assassins" whom he held responsible for a recent shooting attack that wounded a Fatah politician. Al-Zaben was a local publisher and also headed a human rights group funded by the Palestinian Authority.

Al-Zaben was given an official funeral Tuesday, attended by Palestinian Authority officials and scores of police officers.

The Palestinian Cabinet and national security council were discussing the killing at a meeting Tuesday, said minister Saeb 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."

The shooting was the latest in a string of violent confrontations in Gaza and the West Bank.

On Saturday, about 15 masked, armed Palestinians barged into the Gaza City offices of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation, demanding jobs at gunpoint.

In a similar incident on Feb. 25, about 20 masked men armed with submachine-guns and hand grenades raided the Gaza City office of the Palestinian Land Authority, demanding land deeds be transferred to their names, employees said.

On Friday, the mayor of the West Bank's largest city, Nablus, resigned amid growing chaos and infighting between armed militias. Mayor Ghassan Shakaa accused Arafat of not doing enough to prevent Nablus from plummeting into lawlessness. In November, Palestinian gunmen shot and killed Shakaa's brother.

At Gaza police headquarters recently, rival groups opened fire on each other after an armed man slapped the police chief. A policeman was killed in the exchange that followed, which involved Arafat's forces and men loyal to Gaza strongman Mohammed Dahlan, an Arafat rival. Later, Arafat and Dahlan met in an attempt to stop the violence.

There is concern that chaos will follow a planned Israeli pullout from most of the Gaza Strip. Islamic militant opposition groups could try to seize power.

In more than three years of fighting, Israel has attacked and destroyed the headquarters and infrastructure of many branches of the official Palestinian security forces. In most places, the uniformed men barely function. In some cases, the security forces are active in militant movements.