Mystery Surrounds Moussa Arafat's Murder

Moussa Arafat, in his former role as Palestinian security chief, became friendly with Kamal Hamad, considered the most senior collaborator with Israel. Hamad, a contractor who built apartment buildings in Gaza (one of them the former home of Moussa Arafat), was pardoned in the early 1990s by the late Palestinian Authority chair Yasser Arafat.

But in January 1996 Hamad gave his Hamas activist nephew, Osama Hamad, the cellular phone packed with explosives that blew up when suicide bombing mastermind Yihyeh Ayyash ("The Engineer") answered a call, decapitating him. At the height of a wave of suicide bombings in Israel, Military Intelligence detained senior Hamas operatives and shaved off their beards in what is still remembered as a major humiliation. Young Hamas members who demonstrated against Moussa Arafat called him Moshe (Hebrew for Moussa).

Is Hamas behind yesterday's murder of PA military intelligence chief Moussa Arafat, as Israeli intelligence and semi-official Palestinian sources claimed? Hamas certainly is capable of providing 100 or more armed activists, but even disregarding the denials of the movement's spokesman, there is the question of whether there is any political profit for Hamas in killing a former PA man who is still young. Perhaps to prove that the PA is not in control and cannot act against the murderers? Or to further undermine the PA?

There is definitely "logic" in selecting a target like Moussa Arafat, who has no organization, party or clan to avenge his death. But that could also reinforce the theory that the killers were from the fragmented, feuding Fatah, which could also provide weapons and confident killers.

Moussa Arafat was linked to many incidents of corruption, extortion and decadent hedonism. But other Fatah and PA officials have been linked to extortion rumors, including Preventive Security chief Rashid Abu Shabak and national security chief Mohammed Dahlan. People are sure their salaries could not support their luxury homes. People ask whether it was not a form of corruption to give national land to PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas for a second home. Fatah and PA officials keep promising to put an end to their exploitation of their government positions, but the Palestinian justice system does not have the resources to examine all the suspected violations.

Fatah's Al-Aqsa Brigades in Gaza have promised since their inception to drive out corruption, and have publicized the names of "corrupt" officials. Two senior Fatah and PA officials suspected of corruption have been murdered since the start of the Al Aqsa Intifada. Despite the promises, the murderers have not been found. Do Fatah and the PA prefer that a few relatively low-level people suspected of corruption be murdered to avoid opening the Pandora's box of investigations against them and other senior officials?

Another possibility is that Moussa Arafat, as a soft target, was chosen as a sort of signal within Fatah to other officials who have been accused of corruption.

Abu Abir, speaking in the name of the Popular Resistance Committees, claimed responsibility for the murder of Moussa Arafat and the kidnapping of his son. But sources close to the Resistance told Haaretz that Abu Abir was fired as the organization's spokesman a few months ago for issuing a press release that contradicted the position of the leadership in Rafah. The same sources said the Gazan branch of the organization was behind the murder-kidnapping, while the main organization, which is based in Rafah, opposed the action and was not involved.