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Saturday, 1 September, 2001, 11:06 GMT 12:06 UK
Palestinian official killed in car blast
Khatab's mother grieves over his body
Khatab was killed on his way to work
A senior member of the Palestinian security service has been killed and two others wounded in a car explosion in Gaza City, in what Palestinian officials are calling another Israeli assassination.

Taiseer Khatab, director of the office of Palestinian Intelligence Chief Amin al-Hindi, died in the blast. His bodyguard, 22-year-old Ahmed Abu Ghaloon, and another passenger were lightly hurt.


A device had been planted in the car and was controlled by a wireless signal or remote control

Mahmoud Diab, Palestinian police
Israel has denied involvement in the Saturday morning attack, but a BBC correspondent in Jerusalem, Simon Ingram, says it bears the hallmarks of a number of previous killings targeting Palestinian officials.

The explosion came amid Western efforts to rekindle a dialogue between the Israelis and the Palestinians, following Israel's withdrawal from the West Bank town of Beit Jala on Thursday.

But just a day after Israel ended that incursion, the army reportedly entered two Palestinian areas of the divided West Bank city of Hebron.

aftermath of blast
Palestinian security officials say a bomb was planted in the car
Witnesses said Khatab, a 42-year-old lieutenant colonel, was driving to his office in the north of Gaza City when his car exploded and split in two, sending parts flying in every direction.

He died soon after arriving in Gaza City's Shifa Hospital in a critical condition.

"I saw Khatab passing by and then a minute later I heard a big explosion and I saw fire coming from the car," a grocery store owner, Ziad Sharkh, said.

"Part of a human body was on the side of the street and there was blood everywhere," he said.

Palestinian security officials said a bomb was planted in the car.

The Israeli Defence Ministry said the explosion was "probably caused by a work accident (while preparing a bomb) or inter-Palestinian quarrels", the French news agency AFP reported.

Italian Foreign Minister Renato Ruggiero, left, with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat
Ruggiero, left, says Arafat and Peres are ready to talk
Last Monday the Israeli army assassinated Abu Ali Mustafa, the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

It was the highest-level killing since the Palestinian intifada (uprising) erupted 11 months ago, and the first of a political leader.

Israel describes the tactic as "targeted military actions," justified because the individuals concerned were allegedly involved in planning attacks on Israelis.

The Palestinians say more than 60 people have been killed in the attacks, which have targeted mainly activists and intelligence officers.

On Friday, at least 10 Palestinians were wounded in violent clashes with Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, a day after three Palestinians and an Israeli were killed.

Meeting

The ongoing violence could jeopardise the chances of a meeting between Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Sources close to the Italian Foreign Ministry have told correspondents that the two might meet informally next week in Cernobbio, near Milan.

Italian Foreign Minister Renato Ruggiero, who visited the Middle East last week, found Mr Peres and Mr Arafat willing to talk "based on well-prepared meetings" to be held soon, a foreign ministry statement said.

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana will also visit the Middle East and meet with the region's leaders on Sunday.

And in Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the US was encouraged by the Beit Jala understanding and hoped it would lead to security co-operation.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Simon Ingram reports
"The Israeli defence ministry has denied any involvement"
See also:

30 Aug 01 | Middle East
Beit Jala: Winners and losers
29 Aug 01 | Middle East
Israel to leave Palestinian town
28 Aug 01 | Middle East
US calls on Israel to withdraw
28 Aug 01 | Middle East
Thousands attend Mustafa funeral
28 Aug 01 | Middle East
Palestinian shock turns to outrage
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