Abbas blames Hamas for assasssination attempt on Palestinian PM

Rami Hamdallah unhurt after an apparent roadside bomb targeted his motorcade

Hamas security officials inspect one of the cars of Palestinian prime minister Ramil Hamdallah’s convoy, which was targeted in an attack, after his arrival in Beit Hanun town, the northern Gaza Strip. Photograph: Mohammed Saber/EPA

Hamas security officials inspect one of the cars of Palestinian prime minister Ramil Hamdallah’s convoy, which was targeted in an attack, after his arrival in Beit Hanun town, the northern Gaza Strip. Photograph: Mohammed Saber/EPA

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Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has blamed Hamas for Tuesday’s attempted assassination of Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah in the Gaza Strip, raising tensions between the two main Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas.

An explosion struck Mr Hamdallah’s convoy near the northern town of Beit Hanoun, shortly after it entered Gaza through the Erez border crossing between Israel and Gaza.

Neither Mr Hamdallah nor intelligence chief Majed Faraj – both senior members of Fatah – were hurt, but seven security guards were injured and taken to Ramallah in the West Bank for treatment.

Three of the vehicles in Mr Hamdallah’s convoy were damaged, their windows blown out. One had signs of blood on the door.

Mr Hamdallah said the attack was “well prepared and the bomb was buried two metres into the ground”.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing. Hamas security forces in Gaza arrested two suspects.

Mr Abbas’s office said it held Hamas responsible for “the premeditated aggression against the convoy”.

Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah waves to the crowd upon his arrival in Gaza City on Tuesday. Photograph: Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images
Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah waves to the crowd upon his arrival in Gaza City on Tuesday. Photograph: Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images

Palestinian Authority (PA) civil affairs minister Hussein Al Sheikh said Hamas would be held fully responsible for this “murderous” assassination attempt and warned that this was an unprecedented dangerous development that would have grave consequences for Hamas.

Hamas condemnation

Hamas condemned the attack and suggested Israel may have carried it out.

“Hamas considers it part of the attempts to destabilise the security in the Gaza Strip, as well as an attempt to undermine ongoing efforts to achieve the national unity and internal reconciliation,” the organisation said in a statement.

Hamas said those responsible were the same people who carried out the killing last year in Gaza of Hamas operative Mazen Faqha, an incident the organisation blamed on Israel.

Hamas and Fatah, the two main Palestinian political parties, signed a reconciliation agreement in October 2017, ending a decade of division that saw the Fatah-controlled PA ruling the West Bank while the Islamist Hamas controlled Gaza.

An agreement to form a unity government was signed in the Egyptian capital Cairo, but efforts to implement the deal have faced significant obstacles. Hamas made clear it was not prepared to relinquish its security control over Gaza and the PA has maintained sanctions it imposed on Gaza.

‘Bitter split’

Mr Hamdallah, who is seated in the West Bank, arrived in Gaza to inaugurate a sewage plant. After the blast he declared that attacks will “not deter [him ]from seeking to end the bitter split. We will still come to Gaza”.

The United Nations Middle East envoy also condemned the attack, calling for a prompt investigation into what he called a “grave incident”.

Nickolay Mladenov said that until the “legitimate” PA takes power in Gaza, Hamas must enable the internationally-backed government to work without fear of intimidation, harassment or violence.

The explosion occurred near the spot where a US diplomatic convoy was blown up by a remote-controlled bomb in 2003, shortly after it entered Gaza. Three American security specialists were killed and a US diplomat was injured in that blast.

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