Bomb targets Palestinian prime minister entering Gaza
gaza city — An explosion hit the convoy of the Palestinian prime minister during a rare visit to the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, threatening to derail floundering reconciliation efforts between the two main Palestinian parties.
The Palestinian Authority described the blast, which did not harm Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah but caused minor injuries to at least six bodyguards, as an assassination attempt. It held Hamas, the Islamist party in control of the Gaza Strip, responsible for what it described as a “treacherous act.”
For its part, Hamas condemned the incident and said it has opened an investigation, quickly arresting several people. It accused “Israel and its agents” of being behind the attack in an effort to undermine Palestinian unity efforts.
Hamdallah was in Gaza to meet with Hamas officials in an attempt to restart talks between the Palestinian Authority, controlled by his party, Fatah, and its rival, Hamas. His convoy was just a few hundred yards from the Erez Crossing, which separates Gaza from Israel, when it was struck.
Three cars in the convoy were damaged in the explosion.
The reconciliation talks were canceled after the blast, but the prime minister did go on to attend the scheduled opening of a wastewater-treatment plant in the northern Gaza Strip before leaving.
At the ceremony, Hamdallah described the incident as a “disgraceful act.”
“What happened today will only increase our resolve to continue our work in the service of the Gaza Strip and end the division,” he said.
The two factions have been in conflict for more than a decade, fighting bloody street battles in Gaza in 2007 after Fatah refused to cede control when Hamas won elections. Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip, while the Palestinian Authority continued to govern in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Hopes of a detente were raised last year when Hamas said it was ready to dissolve its shadow government in Gaza and hand over power to the Palestinian Authority, which had ramped up pressure on Hamas by cutting salaries and electricity supplies to the area.
The Gaza Strip has been blockaded by Israel since Hamas took control in 2007, with trade and the exit and entry of civilians strictly controlled. The border with Egypt also has remained largely closed. Morris reported from Jerusalem. Ruth Eglash and Sufian Taha in Jerusalem contributed to this report.
A bodyguard, center, and a Hamas security officer, right, escort Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah as he leaves Gaza City.