As­sas­sins failed, Pales­tini­ans say

Road­side bomb in Gaza dam­ages prime min­is­ter’s con­voy

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NEWS - DAVID M. HALBFINGER

JERUSALEM — A road­side bomb blast in Gaza on Tues­day morn­ing dam­aged sev­eral ve­hi­cles in the con­voy of the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity’s prime min­is­ter, Rami Ham­dal­lah, in what the au­thor­ity called a failed as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempt.

No group im­me­di­ately claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity, and Ham­dal­lah was un­harmed, but the at­tack came amid a tense stand­off be­tween his Ra­mal­lah-based gov­ern­ment, dom­i­nated by the Fatah po­lit­i­cal fac­tion, and the Is­lamist mil­i­tant group Ha­mas, which has con­trolled Gaza since rout­ing Fatah in the coastal en­clave in a civil war a decade ago.

Is­rael, with help from Egypt, has kept Gaza un­der a strict block­ade for years, and con­di­tions in Gaza have grown in­creas­ingly dire. The Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity com­pounded those prob­lems last year with fi­nan­cial pres­sures that in­cluded mass lay­offs and crip­pling daily power fail­ures.

In Oc­to­ber, Ha­mas and the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity be­gan rec­on­cil­i­a­tion talks, but those have bogged down, even as short­ages of clean wa­ter, medicine and other ne­ces­si­ties have fu­eled con­cerns that the dis­pute could boil over into vi­o­lence.

Ham­dal­lah con­tin­ued on to a sched­uled ap­pear­ance in Beit Lahia, at the open­ing of a long-awaited wa­ter-treat­ment project. “They blew up three cars in my con­voy near Beit Ha­noun,” he told re­porters at the event.

Fatah of­fi­cials im­me­di­ately pointed fin­gers at Ha­mas. The of­fice of Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas said it “holds Ha­mas re­spon­si­ble” for the “cowardly at­tack,” and Hus­sein al-Sheikh, a mem­ber of Fatah’s Cen­tral Com­mit­tee who is the au­thor­ity’s min­is­ter of civil af­fairs, called Ha­mas “fully re­spon­si­ble.”

Ma­jid Faraj, the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity’s in­tel­li­gence chief, who was with Ham­dal­lah, stopped short of blam­ing Ha­mas but noted that the group and its se­cu­rity forces con­tin­ued to bear “full re­spon­si­bil­ity for en­sur­ing the safety of the land.”

Ha­mas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum sought to blame Is­rael.

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