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04TELAVIV1370 2004-03-04 17:03:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tel Aviv
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 001370 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/04/2009


Classified By: Pol/C Norm Olsen, per 1.4(b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary: The March 2 assassination of Khalil
al-Zaban, Yasir Arafat's advisor on human rights and media
issues, is but the most recent in an ongoing series of events
that indicates a decline in law and order in the Gaza Strip.
Neither the killers nor their motives have been identified.
Somewhat but not wholly indicative of what many perceive to
be an ongoing jockeying for power among different factions of
the PA and Fatah, armed militants or gangs are also using
their muscle to look out for themselves, demanding jobs, land
and other benefits from what contacts call an increasingly
fractured Palestinian Authority in Gaza. Others may be
simply settling old scores. Security services shrink from
challenging the offenders because they are either unwilling
to confront rivals or are themselves worried about crossing
someone from whom they themselves might need assistance in
the future. End Summary.


Arafat Advisor Gunned Down


2. (C) Khalil al-Zaban, a journalist and advisor to Yasir
Arafat on human rights and the media, was assassinated in
Gaza City in the early morning hours of March 2. Al-Zaban
headed the PA's government-appointed NGO Council and
published its monthly newsletter, al-Nashra ("The Bulletin").
Neither the killers nor their motives have been identified.
A prominent journalist acquainted with al-Zaban called him
thoughtful and an individual upon whose opinion Arafat relied
heavily. A behind-the-scenes type in recent years, al-Zaban
was at one time noted for his open criticism of Islamic
militancy and for his support for Palestinian prisoners being
held in Syrian jails. Al-Zaban was also known, however, to
have been aggressive in attacking in print those critical of
the PA, particularly on human rights. Both PA police and
Arafat's Force 17 are investigating the crime, and Arafat
convened both the cabinet and the National Security Council
(NSC) March 2 to coordinate the investigation.


"Gangsters on the Margins"


3. (C) Although al-Zaban had been an Arafat loyalist since
at least the PLO's days in Tunis, it is not entirely clear to
what extent al-Zaban's assassination is related to the
efforts of various Gaza factions and individuals to garner
power. Gaza pundits across the spectrum commented on his
death more in light of the weakening of the PA in Gaza and
the growing fragmentation of the security situation, than as
an event with a message in its own right. Similar to the
attack on PA Police Chief Ghazi al-Jabali several weeks ago
(reftel), this attack is being viewed among some Gazans as
further evidence that personal scores in Gaza can now be
settled with impunity. While the lack of a legal penalty for
violent attacks is hardly new in Gaza, contacts cite an
increased level of anxiety among the public regarding the
state of law and order.

4. (C) Militants, or "gangsters on the margins" as one
observer put it, appear increasingly inclined to use force of
arms to achieve results. Other recent incidents include the
forced entry into the Offices of the Lands Authority February
24 by approximately 20 armed men. Details of the incident
remain murky, but the men apparently demanded that the office
issue them titles to land in the Gaza Strip, an action they
claimed was authorized by Yasir Arafat. The PA had
previously issued such land titles to senior PA security
officials and these inactive or fired security officers
reportedly felt that they were entitled to the same benefits.
The head of the Lands Authority, Frayh Abu Middayn, told
Poloff that it was "simply impossible to carry out business
in such an environment," and the office closed down for a
week, re-opening only on March 3. The forced entry February
28 to the television and radio station in Ma'en by militants
demanding jobs is another example. Left unpaid by their
unidentified patron in Khan Yunis, the men were reportedly
seeking to be entered on the PA payroll at the station to
augment or at least ensure their income. The bottom line in
all of these incidents, some of which were likely the result
of personal grudges, is the impunity of the perpetrators.

5. (C) The security forces, if not complicit, have
demonstrated little interest in reining in either independent
actors or their rivals from the militias and possibly
sparking a wider confrontation. While the attack on the Gaza
Police Chief is indeed evidence of the breakdown of law and
order, those more intimately acquainted with the actual event
stressed that the score being settled between Jabali and his
attackers was personal, having to do with reinstating men
previously dismissed from the police, rather than a larger
showdown between various security services. What was
noteworthy about the attack, contacts say, was that the
perpetrators felt empowered enough to carry it out in broad
daylight and that there were no subsequent arrests or

6. (C) When asked who was in a position to improve the
situation, Fatah moderate and Deputy Minister of Housing
Marwan Abdul Hameed dismissed Muhammad Dahlan's chances of
exerting a unifying influence over the panoply of security
services in Gaza, adding that Dahlan was strong enough to be
a spoiler only. Warming to his subject, Hameed assessed that
the man to run security in Gaza is Nasir Yusuf, whom Arafat
rejected when he was nominated for Interior Minister in Abu
Ala,a,s government. Hameed said that Yusuf, whom he said
is originally from Gaza, has the proper background, the
Islamic credentials in the eyes of the public to face off
Hamas, and is a Fatah stalwart. Hameed opined that it was
Arafat's fear of Yusuf's possible success in Gaza, and
subsequent potential to challenge Arafat himself, that
prevented Arafat from appointing him to the task.




7. (C) Perhaps more hopefully than realistically, contacts
say that al-Zaban's murder may give Arafat pause in a way
that previous incidents had not, particularly as it comes
hard on the heels of the Fatah Revolutionary Council meeting
in which more reform-minded Fatah members such as Hameed were
openly critical of Arafat's unwillingness to control, among
other things, the security situation in the territories.

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