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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 March, 2004, 14:26 GMT
Gunmen kill key Arafat adviser
Daughter of murdered media adviser of Yasser Arafat
Mr Zaben's daughter reacts as his body is carried into hospital
Unknown gunmen have shot dead a key adviser to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat outside his office in Gaza City.

Khalil al-Zaben, a prominent journalist who also advised Mr Arafat on human rights, was struck by a dozen bullets, local Palestinian sources said.

The killing comes amid fears of growing lawlessness and chaos in Palestinian areas and eroding central control.

In the West Bank, Israeli forces killed an unarmed Palestinian during what they described as an arrest operation.

Relatives quoted by Reuters news agency said the man was gunned down after troops surrounded his house and ordered him to come out.

An army spokeswoman said the man had fled the building and had not responded to soldiers' commands in Arabic for him to stop.

Tribute

In Gaza, Mr Zaben died soon after being brought to hospital following the shooting just before midnight (2200 GMT on Monday).

The assassination is an abject act which targeted a great Palestinian figure
Yasser Arafat
Mr Arafat himself led the tributes to the 59-year-old veteran journalist who ran a Palestinian Authority-funded magazine.

"The assassination is an abject act which targeted a great Palestinian figure who was working for the national interest and that of his people," Mr Arafat told reporters.

Palestinian officials have not commented on a possible motive.

The local union of journalists has also condemned the attack and demanded an inquiry.

"We strongly condemn the assassination of veteran journalist Khalil al-Zaben and urge the Palestinian Authority to intervene immediately to find the perpetrators," said Tawfiq Abu Khoussa, deputy chairman of the Palestinian Journalists' Union.

AP news agency reports that Mr Zaben became an Arafat ally in the 1960s and returned to Gaza along with the Palestinian leader and other exiles in 1994, under the terms of Israeli-Palestinian interim peace accords.

Two of his brothers are Palestinian ambassadors in South America and his son works as an airline pilot there, the agency says.

He is also survived by his wife and three daughters.

Media targeted

Journalists in Gaza staged a strike on 9 February to protest against growing attacks on reporters in the Palestinian territories:

  • Three weeks ago, newspaper journalist Munir Abu Rizeq reported that his car had been torched in Gaza City

  • In early February, the offices of the Palestinian weekly Ad-Dar were vandalised during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha

  • On 8 January, a Gaza correspondent for the Arab television station al-Arabiya was beaten up by masked men; the station's offices in the West Bank town of Ramallah were attacked last September by masked men claiming to belong to the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades group



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