GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — A powerful explosion ripped a car carrying a top aide to the Palestinian intelligence chief on Saturday, killing him and critically injuring a bodyguard. Palestinians accused Israel of assassinating the official, but Israel denied involvement.
Later, a blast in a taxi near the West Bank town of Tulkarem killed a 22-year-old Palestinian woman and injured four other people, according to Palestinian security officials. The cause of the blast was not immediately known.
The violence continued early today, when two Palestinian gunmen were killed during an hours-long gunbattle with Israeli troops in the divided city of Hebron, witnesses and hospital officials said.
Edris Ashour, 21, and Ala al-Sa'ai, 25, both belonged to the Tanzim militia, a military spin-off of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, Palestinians said. They were both shot in the head, said Dr. Hatem Edweik at Al Ahli hospital in Hebron.
The two men were firing on Israeli troops from the Palestinian-controlled area of Wadi al Hariya in Hebron when they were killed, witnesses said. The Israeli army said it did not enter Palestinian-controlled territory.
In the first explosion Saturday, Col. Tayser Khattab, 52, was driving toward his office at Palestinian intelligence headquarters north of Gaza City when his car exploded. Palestinian police said a bomb apparently was planted in the car and set off by remote control.
Khattab was a top aide to the Palestinian intelligence chief, Amin al-Hindi, and was also a member of Arafat's Fatah movement.
He was described as a senior bureaucrat who was very close to al-Hindi.
Al-Hindi's office said in a statement that Khattab was killed in an "ugly assassination" by Israel. However, Yarden Vatikay, an adviser to Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, denied Israel was involved.
Israeli military sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, suggested the killing was connected to a feud between Palestinian organizations. Although denying involvement in this death, officials reaffirmed Israel's policy of carrying out targeted killings of Palestinians suspected of planning and carrying out terror attacks.
Since the outbreak of fighting, about 50 Palestinians have been killed in targeted Israeli attacks. Most were militants suspected of planning attacks on Israelis, but several bystanders, including women and children, have also been killed.