RAMALLAH, West Bank Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction on Wednesday chose a deputy party leader but it was unclear whether Mahmoud Al-Aloul would also be favourite to succeed him as president.
Aloul, for years a close Abbas confidant, has clout among the party's grassroots and had a military background. He is the first deputy leader appointed since Fatah's founding in the 1960s by former Palestinian president, Yasser Arafat.
The 18-member Fatah Central Committee's vote to elect a deputy to Abbas came after protracted debate. Fatah is the largest and most influential group in the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), the backbone of the Western-backed Palestinian Authority.
The media-shy Aloul, 67, served as governor of the West Bank Palestinian city of Nablus for 10 years and as minister of labour but he is not the deputy leader of the Palestinian Authority and is therefore not seen as a certain successor as president to the 81-year-old Abbas.
Aloul was a commander who led Fatah forces that fought Israel in Lebanon and were responsible for abducting eight Israeli soldiers there in 1983.
In 1988 his responsibilities over the then Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip and the West Bank were expanded after the assassination of Khalil Al-Wazir (Abu Jihad) by Israeli commandos in Tunis.
(Reporting by Ali Sawafta and Nidal al-Mughrabi, Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by David Gregorio)