09/08/2005, 00.00
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Mahmud Abbas cancels trip to New York as tensions grow in territories

Gaza (AsiaNews) – The President of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) Mahmud Abbas (aka Abu Mazen) has cancelled his trip to New York because of growing tensions in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Mr Abbas was scheduled to take part in the General Assembly of the United Nations, but recent clashes and the murder of Moussa Arafat have forced him to pull out.

Moussa Arafat, cousin to the late Yasser Arafat, was a former Palestinian security chief. His son was kidnapped by the same group that killed him.

Al-Nasir Salah al-Din Brigades, one of the many militias in Gaza, claimed responsibility for the assassination and said it was interrogating the son to shed light on alleged ties between the slain father and Israeli secret services.

Moussa Arafat's murder reflects the mounting tensions in the Palestinian territories and the lack of law and order in Gaza after the pullout of Jewish settlers and Israeli soldiers. The latter should complete their withdrawal by September 15, leaving Palestinian security forces in charge of the Strip.

According to some AsiaNews sources, Moussa Arafat's assassination represents the first real attempt to undermine the PNA in Gaza.

Arafat, who was seen as corrupt and an enemy of Hamas, had been removed from the post of security chief by Mahmoud Abbas and named his military advisor.

Abbas' attempt to establish his control on the Gaza Strip is coming up against a festering crisis—various militias have been fighting for control of the territory, its trade and smuggling since the times of Yasser Arafat.

After taking over the PNA presidency, Abbas has tried to clean up Palestinian institutions, which most Palestinians believe to be among the most corrupt in the world.

The Jerusalem Post reports that in the last few weeks, the PNA President has replaced many Palestinian ambassadors around the world, especially in Arab countries, suspected of financial misconduct and illegal trade.

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