Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah survived an apparent assassination attempt as a bomb went off next to his convoy as he visited the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, wounding several people, officials and Palestinian media reported.
The PA said Hamdallah and PA General Intelligence Chief Majed Faraj, who was accompanying him, were unhurt. However, media reports said several bystanders were injured. Their condition was not immediately clear.
PA civil affairs minister Hussein Al Sheikh said the Hamas group, which rules Gaza, 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.
Three of the vehicles in Hamdallah’s convoy were damaged, their windows blown out. One had signs of blood on the door. Video from the scene showed a huge plume of back smoke rising into the air near the convoy.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Radical Islamists opposed to Hamas also operate within the Gaza Strip and have regularly been behind unrest there.
Hamas condemned the attack and said it was carried out by groups aiming at undermining its reconciliation bid with the Palestinian Authority.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh later phoned Hamdallah and condemned the attack and promised investigation
A Hamas security official said that a number of suspects had been arrested in connection with the explosion. The official did not provide details but said Hamas was investigating the circumstances and motives behind the explosion.
Hamas condemns the crime of targeting the Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamadallah, considering it part of the attempt aiming to destabilise security in Gaza and to foil efforts to achieve national unity. pic.twitter.com/ZoyNYn2oPm
— Hamas Movement (@HamasInfoEn) March 13, 2018
Hamdallah and his delegation had arrived in Gaza to participate in the inauguration of a wastewater treatment plant. They continued with the tour after the attack and Hamdallah appeared on television shortly after the explosion as he opened a plant, saying that the attack will “not deter from seeking to end the bitter split. We will still come to Gaza.”
He later headed back to Ramallah.
Palestinian officials contacted Israel’s military liaison in order to coordinate Hamdallah’s exit from the Gaza Strip following the assassination attempt, The Times of Israel learned.
During the conversation, Israel offered to provide medical treatment to those injured in the attack and some of the wounded were being treated by doctors at the Israeli side of the Erez crossing.
It was Hamdallah’s second visit to the Gaza Strip since the signing of an Egyptian-brokered “reconciliation” agreement between the West Bank’s governing Fatah faction and Gaza’s Hamas rulers late last year.
Hamas has ruled Gaza since it ousted the Fatah-led PA in 2007.
The visit comes amid mounting tensions between the PA and the Hamas terror group over the floundering agreement.
The PA government has accused Hamas of refusing to allow it to assume its full responsibilities in the Gaza Strip, in accordance with the agreement.
Hamas, for its part, has accused the PA government of failing to lift the sanctions it imposed on the Gaza Strip last year.
The sanctions include, among other things, halting payments to thousands of civil servants. Hamas has also rejected the PA’s request that it relinquish security control over the Gaza Strip.
— Nasser Atta (@nasseratta5) March 13, 2018
The wastewater plant was envisioned in 2007 after overburdened sewage reservoirs collapsed, killing five villagers.
The World Bank, European Union and other European governments have paid nearly $75 million in funding. Hamas’s takeover of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority in 2007 and the ensuing Israeli-Egyptian blockade, power shortages and conflicts delayed the opening of the project for four years.
Besides the old reservoirs, the plant will receive wastewater from four towns and villages. After treatment, the water will be transferred for irrigation and the remainder will be safely dumped into the sea.