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Empire State Gunman Acted Out of Rage at Monetary Loss

By John M. Goshko
The Washington Post

When Ali Hassan Abu Ali Kamal began shooting at sightseers on the crowded observation deck of the Empire State Building Sunday afternoon, he apparently was motivated by despair at having lost his life's savings in an unexplained investment scheme, members of his family said Monday.

Abu Kamal, 69, a Palestinian who came here from Gaza City, killed one person and wounded six others before putting a fatal bullet in his own head.

Because of his nationality, the incident provoked initial speculation that the brief but terrifying shooting spree might be rooted in the nationalistic zealotry and terrorism that is a frequent offshoot of Middle Eastern political rivalries.

However, his relatives in a middle-class neighborhood of Gaza City, Monday remembered Abu Kamal as a conservative, not especially religious man who had accumulated a sizeable amount of money during almost 50 years of teaching English.

The money, which he told family members was somewhere between $300,000 and $500,000, was lost in a mysterious, failed American business venture, and the family believes that the experience made him unbalanced.

That was what family members told reporters and investigators as they sat beneath a large photograph of their patriarch at their home in Gaza, which has come under control of the Palestinian authority after almost three decades of Israeli occupation.

Family members sketched a portrait of a man born in the town of Ramle, now a part of Israel, who moved to Gaza after Israel's 1948 war of independence and who worked for several years for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. Capitalizing on the fluent English he learned while with the U.N. agency, he became a teacher and tutor and built up what the family believes was a sizable nest egg.

They said he was not religious and had avoided involvement in the frequently violent struggles between the Palestine Liberation Organization and more militant groups for control over the Palestinian independence struggle.

Omar Hassan Ali Abu Kamal, the gunman's younger brother, told Washington Post special correspondent Saud Abu Ramadan in Gaza that his brother had promised to leave a fortune to his wife, four daughters, and two sons, but had kept his plans to himself.