The death this week of an activist with the fundamentalist Islamic Jihad movement has prompted Palestinian threats of retaliation against Israel and protests against Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat.
When Hani Abed, 32, died after a powerful bomb demolished his car Wednesday, members of the Islamic Jihad and Hamas movements immediately blamed Israel, saying agents with the Mossad intelligence service had booby-trapped the car.
Sources in the Palestinian police force, which is investigating the blast, said they had not completely ruled out the possibility that arms or ammunition being carried in the vehicle had exploded accidentally.
Abed’s death came a day after Rabin reportedly told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Israel would have to wage an “all-out war” against Hamas and Islamic Jihad for their continuing attacks against Israelis.
When Arafat went to the main mosque in Gaza city on Thursday to attend a memorial service before Abed’s funeral, thousands of Palestinians jeered him, forcing him to leave the ceremony.
The crowd of angry Palestinians shouted, “Death to Israel, “Death to America” and “This is your peace, Arafat. It’s all liquidations and assassinations.”
Abed, who was editor of the Islamic Jihad’s recently licensed weekly Istiklal, was suspected of arranging the drive-by shooting of two Israeli soldiers, Sgt. Moshe Bukra and Cpl. Erez Ben-Baruch, near the Erez checkpoint separating the Gaza Strip from Israel on May 20. The murders of the two Israeli soldiers, for which both Hams and Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility, took place only days after Israel handed over control of Gaza to the Palestinians under the terms of the self-rule accord agreed to earlier in May. Palestinian police detained Abed for two weeks in June.
In a statement issued later on Thursday, officials with Islamic Jihad apologized to Arafat, denouncing the “irresponsible behavior” to which he had been exposed.
But Islamic Jihad officials remained adamant in their claims that Israel assassinated Abed, and they vowed revenge.
Uri Dromi, head of Israel’s Government Press Office, declined to comment on Abed’s death, saying only, “Obviously, he had enemies not only among Israelis but also among Palestinians.”
Abed died in the bomb explosion Wednesday when he got into his car, which was Parked outside the Khan Yunis College of Technology, where he taught chemistry.
The Palestinian police in Gaza detained four Islamic Jihad members on Thursday for distributing leaflets blaming the Mossad for Abed’s death and for threatening to carry out revenge assaults against Jews, “especially in the heart of Tel Aviv.”