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.
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.
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.