Palestinians have reacted with concern to the assassination of Mussa Arafat, the former security chief and relative of late Palestinian president Yasir Arafat.
Although most said they were not sorry to see him go, they expressed concern about the implications of the attack on the rule of law in Palestinian society.
"I say good riddance to bad rubbish. The entire city needs to be cleaned up," said 63-year-old Yosra Ashoor, who lives a block away from the site of the shooting in Gaza’s Tel al-Hawa area.
Ashoor said she heard rocket-propelled grenades being fired at dawn followed by intense shooting and screams of neighbours. After the operation was over, she said there were celebrations by the gunmen on the streets.
"I thought it was an Israeli attack at first. It was like a war zone."
Basma Ghalayini, a 22-year-old university student, was concerned about growing lawlessness.
"Look, I was no fan of Mussa Arafat. He deserved it and had it coming - but it is not right to kill him like that, to take the law into their own hands. Maybe the people that killed him were just as bad as he was. Everyone wants to have it all ... you just think who's next and how?"
Mussa Arafat was a founder
of the ruling Fatah party
Mussa Arafat was a former head of the national security services but had been demoted by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas earlier this year to adviser, as Abbas sought to make a clean break from his predecessor, Yasir Arafat, who died in November.
Mussa Arafat was one of the founders of the Fatah party but was seen as a symbol of the Palestinian Authority's corruption.
He is thought to have been despised within the ranks of his own Fatah party’s "young guard", the Palestinian government and society at large.
The Nasir Salah-al-Din Brigades - the armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees - claimed responsibility for the pre-dawn attack, which involved rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machinegun fire.
Media reports suggested that the armed men burst into the home, dragged out Arafat in his pyjamas and gunned him down in the dusty street. But members of his family told reporters that the attackers wanted to kidnap him, not to kill him, but when he resisted they shot him dead.
Rumours were quick to spread in Gaza about the attack, with some Palestinians arguing that the PA had a hand in the assassination - even that it was a presidential order.
The Ministry of Interior issued a news release vowing to bring Mussa's assassins to justice.
"The Palestinian Ministry of the Interior and Palestinian National Security sends its condolences to the Palestinian people...this despicable, ugly crime will not go unpunished."
Rule of law
Analysts said the assassination is part of a disturbing trend of vigilantism in Palestinian society that poses a serious threat to the government.
"Because of weakness of PA and its security organisations, and the large amount of unlicenced weapons, the situation is deteriorating and going to a very dangerous direction," said Ghazi Hamad, editor of the Islamic weekly al-Risala.
"There have been many assassinations and assassination attempts of public figures in past years. All this raises real fears that there is a kind of liquidation agenda with personal vendettas," Hamad told Aljazeera.net.
Dozens of attackers stormed
"He had serious conflicts with many people, including family members, businessmen, real estate agents and security officials. He listened to no one, except the late Yasir Arafat. There was a consensus in the PA that he was unwanted and everybody tried to distance himself from him,” said Hamad.
In an interview with Aljazeera.net, a spokesperson for the Popular Resistance Committees, Muhammad Abd al-Aal, said Mussa Arafat was assassinated because of his unabashed corruption, adding that anyone who has been "unjust to the Palestinian people" would be a potential target for the group in the future.
"This is a message for every corrupt person in the PA. They must atone for and confess to their sins publicly and return to the people what they stole from them or suffer the consequences at our hands," Abd al-Al told Aljazeera.net.
Hamad said the corruption in the PA has built up over the years and has been confounded with security chaos and administrative mix-ups.
"Sadly, the late Yasir Arafat had a big role in all this. In every corner of his administration there was corruption, and Mussa Arafat was a major player in all of it," said Hamad.
He said Abbas’s efforts to curtail corruption are sincere, but he is simply too weak to bring about real change.
"This is a message for every corrupt person in the PA. They must atone for and confess to their sins publicly and return to the people what they stole from them or suffer the consequences at our hands"
Muhammad Abd al-Aal,
Popular Resistance Committees
"Abu Mazen (Abbas) is heading in the direction of reform, but I do not think he enjoys the same control, power, and influence as Yasir Arafat did."
"Inside the PA, there is an entire army that is benefiting from the 'fringe benefits' and they constitute a big challenge to Abu Mazen. He cannot get rid of all obvious signs of corruption in one or two years".
"People who are with him now could easily turn against him if he makes a wrong move. I think he is trying to change things, but it is a long road. I also do not think there can be movement on the issue of reform until there is movement on the political front."
"There is a contradiction of PA’s reform programmes and that of the factions and this is all related to the political process."
Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad decried the attack, saying the use of assassinations against Palestinians is unacceptable, regardless of the target.
"There needs to be one law that applies equally to everyone, not just to one or two factions," said Sami Abu Zuhri, spokesman for Hamas.
Local human rights groups also strongly condemned the attack and said they consider it a "crime and escalation of security chaos in the Palestinian territories, which undermines the rule of law".
Gaza has been wracked by lawlessness in recent months, including a spate of kidnappings and kidnapping attempts, bombings, and shootings targeting PA officials, foreigners, and members of the judiciary.