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Gunmen ambushed the commander of the Palestinian intelligence service

West Bank Yasser Arafat fended off another challenge to his authority Wednesday when Palestinian lawmakers backed away from sweeping reform demands, instead approving a watered down set of recommendations.

A wave of chaos plaguing the Palestinian territories, meanwhile, took another victim when gunmen in Gaza seriously wounded a senior intelligence official.

The two developments are an outgrowth of years of Arafat's one-man control, which international donors and Palestinian reformers have criticized as corrupt and inefficient, pitting rival security forces against each other.

Israel's intention to withdraw from the Gaza Strip late next year has sparked a power struggle among rival armed groups as Israel refuses to coordinate with Arafat's regime. Israel contends Arafat is implicated in terrorism, but the United States and Egypt warn that bypassing his Palestinian Authority might lead to a Gaza takeover by Islamic militants, according to the ABC News.

Gunmen ambushed the commander of the Palestinian intelligence service in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, wounding him, killing two bodyguards and fueling fears of spreading chaos.

The apparent attempt to kill Tareq Abu Rajab, acting head of the General Intelligence Service, was the latest sign of unrest amid a power struggle ahead of an Israeli pullout from occupied Gaza and growing demands for anti-corruption reforms.

Hours after the attack, Palestinian legislators voted for a package of widely demanded reforms. But sponsors feared nothing would come of it because Palestinian President Yasser Arafat had withheld approval.

Rajab, 58, was close to Arafat, but not widely seen as taking sides in a power struggle that pits younger leaders - who say they want change - against an old guard accused of corruption and failing to win a state.

Gunmen fired from two moving cars as Abu Rajab drove to his office in Gaza City, witnesses said. Then they peeled off in different directions in what looked like a carefully plotted attack.

Two of Abu Rajab's bodyguards were killed and another wounded. Medics said the commander was in serious condition and had been moved to a hospital in Israel, reports Daily Star.

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