Bomb tar­gets Pales­tinian prime min­is­ter en­ter­ing Gaza

The Washington Post - - THE WORLD - BY HAZEM BALOUSHA AND LOVEDAY MOR­RIS

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.

MAHMUD HAMS/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

A body­guard, cen­ter, and a Ha­mas se­cu­rity of­fi­cer, right, es­cort Pales­tinian Prime Min­is­ter Rami Ham­dal­lah as he leaves Gaza City.

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