Palestinian cell arrested for alleged hit attempt on PA’s intel chief — sources
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Palestinian cell arrested for alleged hit attempt on PA’s intel chief — sources

PA forces in West Bank find explosives, with ringleader said to confess plotting to hurt Maged Faraj; case thought to be linked to internal struggle to succeed Mahmoud Abbas

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

Palestinian Authority General Intelligence Services chief Majed Faraj speaking in Hebron on June 11, 2018. (Screenshot: Youtube)
Palestinian Authority General Intelligence Services chief Majed Faraj speaking in Hebron on June 11, 2018. (Screenshot: Youtube)

Palestinian Authority security forces have arrested a group of Fatah members suspected of plotting an attack on the powerful head of the PA’s General Intelligence Service Majed Faraj and his family, Palestinian and Israeli sources said.

The suspects, some of whom formerly spent time in prison, are thought to be linked to Tawfiq Tirawi, a former West Bank intelligence chief — Faraj’s predecessor — who has been an outspoken critic of PA President Mahmoud Abbas and has tangled with a number of senior Palestinian figures.

Faraj, an Abbas apparatchik who took over as head of PA intelligence in 2008, is regarded as a possible successor to the 84-year-old Fatah leader and the case may represent the latest preview of a simmering succession battle that could break into the open should Abbas retire or die.

According to the sources, members of the PA’s Preventive Security Services located weapons and explosive devices in the possession of members of the alleged cell. Sources said the ringleader confessed to plotting to hurt Faraj’s family by planting a bomb in their car, and they even tracked family members to learn their movements.

Tawfiq Tirawi (photo credit: screen capture ScreenNews/Youtube)
Tawfiq Tirawi. (Screen capture: ScreenNews/YouTube)

Abbas was apprised of the details of the case, according to the sources, though it is not clear whether Tirawi will be charged or is even a suspect.

While Tirawi was the PA’s intelligence chief, Israeli security forces considered him wanted due to his close relations with members of Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades terror group. He was with PLO Chief Yasser Arafat during the Israeli siege on the latter’s headquarters in Ramallah between 2002 and 2004.

However, Tirawi was slowly sidelined after Abbas took over following Arafat’s death. He remained involved in disputes with several Fatah leaders, including Jibril Rajoub, who is also considered a potential heir to Abbas.

It is not yet clear whether the cell acted on Tirawi’s behalf and if the case is indeed part of a future battle to succeed Abbas, who despite many past reports in the Arab press appears to be in good health for his age.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during a meeting at the presidential compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah on October 6, 2019. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

Meanwhile, his potential successors are already preparing. Israeli security sources said that almost all the senior officials who are considered possible heirs are gathering supporters and weapons in case the war for the throne becomes a literal battle.

Abbas has not named a successor, but Palestinian and Arab media have long speculated on the matter. The apparent front-runners emerging in recent years are Nablus Governor Mahmoud al-Aloul and Faraj, who has been a key conduit to both Israel and the United States.

Rajoub is also considered a potential successor, as is Marwan Barghouti who is imprisoned by Israel for directing the murder of five Israelis in terror attacks. Tirawi is also trying to present himself as a contender, even though his chances are seen as slim.

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