Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and intelligence chief Majid Faraj survived an assassination attempt while visiting the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, as an explosion went off near a convoy transporting both officials. The Palestinian Authority blamed Hamas for the explosion, while Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas described it as a “cowardly” act.
An Egyptian security delegation, which headed to the Gaza Strip to advance reconciliation efforts between Hamas and Fatah, left the strip shortly after the incident.
The explosion went off shortly after Hamdallah’s convoy entered Gaza through the Erez Crossing in the north of the strip. Hamdallah was unharmed but several people were injured and three cars damaged in the incident, according to Palestinian media.
“Hamas is solely responsible for this criminal act,” Samir Ghattas, an expert on Palestinian affairs and member of the Egyptian Parliament, told Daily News Egypt. He suggested that the visit was planned months ago, pointing out that “Hamas has to secure the roads and lands it controls. They knew that the convoy will enter Erez Crossing and will pass from this road; if it’s not the actual actor of the assassination attempt, then it happened with its knowledge.”
Ghattas noted that Hamas is trying to derail the reconciliation talks, saying, “what happened is a conspiracy backed by Israel and the US and Hamas is involved.” He also referred to the Egyptian security delegation’s visit to Gaza, saying, “Egypt should see now who wants to fail efforts of reconciliation that aim to end the divide. The incident is not a conspiracy against Palestinians, but also against Egypt. The world must see this”.
For its part, Hamas denounced the “criminal act,” stating, “we condemn the crime of targeting the Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamadallah, considering it part of an attempt aiming to destabilise security in Gaza and to foil efforts to achieve national unity.” The group added that it is calling on security forces in the strip to investigate and bring those responsible to justice.
The visit of the Palestinian officials was planned five months ago, with the purpose of opening a waste treatment plant that the Palestinian Authority helped finance. Hamdallah also met with senior Hamas officials on the stalled reconciliation talks between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority that began months ago with little progress. Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas signed in October 2017 a reconciliation deal in Cairo to end the split that has divided Gaza and the West Bank politically and administratively since 2007.