GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Palestinian gunmen opened fire on a car in Gaza City carrying a top Palestinian security officer in a drive by shooting that killed the officer and four of his bodyguards, senior Palestinian security officials said.
The attack occurred near the Beach Refugee Camp in the middle of the afternoon.
The gunmen, driving a sports utility vehicle, targeted a gray Audi belonging to Brig. Gen. Jad Tayeh, the head of international coordination in the Palestinian intelligence service, spraying dozens of bullets into the car, said Khaled Abu Hilal, interior ministry spokesman. Tayeh was killed along with four bodyguards.
The motive for the attack was not immediately clear, though officials speculated that it could be an internal feud within the intelligence service. Security officials said the attackers took a black briefcase that Tayeh was carrying with him.
Authorities were investigating the attack, Abu Hilal said.
Gaza has been wracked for much of the year by internal violence between militants from Hamas, which won Palestinian parliamentary elections in January, and those affiliated with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Party, which controls the security services.
The internal fighting ebbed after Israel began a widescale offensive into Gaza in response to a June 25 attack by Hamas-linked militants that led to the capture of an Israeli soldier.
Earlier this week, Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, of Hamas, announced that they would form a national unity government in an effort to end sanctions against the Palestinian Authority. Many Palestinians hoped that the agreement would also end the internal tensions.
Also Friday, a small explosion caused minor damage in a courtyard outside a Greek Orthodox church in Gaza City, church workers said. The blast appeared to have been caused by a small, homemade explosive device, which damaged a door and caused minor damage to the floor and walls, church workers said. No one was injured.
Hossam Taweel, a Christian lawmaker and representative of Gaza's Christians, said the blast occurred early in the morning.
"We deal with this incident as a criminal activity and not as a sectarian act," he said, adding that there was no firm connection between the attack and remarks this week by Pope Benedict XVI that angered Muslims.