Moussa Arafat's son released

The son of slain ex-security chief Moussa Arafat was freed Thursday after being kidnapped by Palestinian militants, which shoot dead his father in a raid for "collaboration" with Israel.

The killing had stirred doubt about whether Palestinian security forces can keep order in the Gaza Strip, seen as a proving ground for Palestinian statehood, once Israelis leave the occupied territory during a planned pullout next week.

Maj.-Gen. Arafat, a cousin of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, was a Gaza strongman kept as an adviser by President Mahmoud Abbas after being fired as head of military intelligence in an anti-corruption crackdown in April.

A militant coalition, the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), reaffirmed an earlier claim of responsibility for what it called the "liquidation" of Arafat at his Gaza City home on Wednesday and the brief abduction of his son Manhal.

Abbas' office quoted him as saying that Arafat had been "assassinated by treacherous hands" but there was no immediate official comment on how his son's release has been secured or what, if any, measures would be taken against the PRC, reports Reuters.

According to the AP, Moussa Arafat, was given a military funeral, in Gaza City earlier this week and was to be eulogized by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Eight policemen carried Arafat's coffin, covered by a Palestinian flag, to a military truck. The coffin was escorted to Arafat's home by 100 Palestinian police cars and dozens of other vehicles carrying gunmen from the ruling Fatah movement.

Arafat's killing was a major challenge to the Palestinian Authority just days before the Gaza handover. It underscored the weakness of Abbas and the unchecked power of armed gangs. In the case of Arafat, the Palestinian security forces negotiated with the killers for the release of the hostage, instead of arresting them.

The power struggle could spill over into planned victory marches. The Palestinian Authority insisted it would lead the celebrations, while the rival Hamas militant group planned its own military-style parades to underscore its claim that it drove Israel out with its bombing and shooting attacks.

Photo: the AP

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