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Friday, 11 October, 2002, 01:24 GMT 02:24 UK
Shooting the sheriff in Gaza
Mourners accompany the coffin of Col. Rajeh Abu Lehiya
The Aqals blamed the police chief for their son's death

It sounds like a Western, but this is Gaza, and revenge killings are real.


It's like this. One killed my relative and we've killed him. That's it.

Aqal family member
When the Aqal family's son Yusef was shot dead during a demonstration last year, they wanted justice.

They didn't get it. So, this week, they shot the sheriff - in this case, Brigadier General Rajeh Abu Lehya of the Palestinian police.

"It's like this. One killed my relative and we've killed him. That's it."

Hamas supporters

These are the words of a member of the Aqal family who wishes to remain nameless.

Palestinian children salvage some personal effects found in the rubble of their house which was demolished by Israeli army bulldozers 10 October 2002 in the southern Gaza Strip refugee camp of Rafah
The gun battles came on the heels of a major Israeli raid
He's a relative of the gunman who carried out the revenge killing.

The family held Brigadier General Abu Lehya responsible for the death of their son. He wasn't investigated or brought to trial. So Emad Aqal acted himself.

"He has his dignity and honour," his relative explains calmly and quietly.

"He always saw that man who's the killer of his brother and he couldn't wait for that long time. He decided to take revenge."

After he carried out the killing on Monday, witnesses say that Emad Aqal brought the Brigadier General's car to the centre of the Nuseirat refugee camp.

He announced what he had done, and set fire to the car.

Gun battles followed - both in the refugee camp and on the streets of Gaza City.

The Aqal family are prominent supporters of the militant group Hamas.

Their followers clashed with Palestinian security forces, resulting in four further deaths.

Hamas's political spokesman, Ismail Abu Shenab, accuses the Palestinian Authority of causing more tension.

"This escalation is a big mistake by the PA which should be controlled by rules, which should be controlled by discipline, and shouldn't behave like individuals."

Hatred burns

Nabil Sha'ath, a senior minister in the Palestinian authority, counters that Hamas are to blame for the crisis.


There is no alternative to the rule of law, and, as long as it is absent, we should expect more problems

Ziad Abu Amr
Parliamentary committee member
"Hamas provided immediately in the street its youth brigade - dealing at times with explosives against police stations, burning police cars in the street. This is a big problem," he says.

"And yet the [Palestinian] Authority have not really allowed this to escalate into a civil war like situation."

As Brigadier General Abu Lehya's funeral passed through the streets of Gaza City on Thursday, loudspeakers in the procession cursed Hamas.

While the killings have stopped for the last couple of days, the hatred remains real.

Dr Ziad Abu Amr is a member of a Palestinian parliamentary committee which has been formed to restore calm.

"We are trying now to start a credible process of the rule of law," he explains.

"There is no alternative to the rule of law, and, as long as it is absent, we should expect more problems."

On the streets of Gaza, the security forces have increased in number - armed with assault rifles and batons.

The killer remains in hiding. The Palestinian Authority say he must give himself up.

Hamas say that Islamic law and Palestinian tradition allowed him his revenge.

One thing they do agree on: internal battles are the last thing they need as the conflict with Israel continues.


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10 Oct 02 | Middle East
08 Oct 02 | Middle East
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07 Oct 02 | Middle East
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