Hamas widens investigation into assassination attempt against Palestinian prime minister

Hamas widens investigation into assassination attempt against Palestinian prime minister
Relations between Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas are strained again after a bomb blast targeted the West Bank-based prime minister's convoy in a rare visit to Gaza.
3 min read
15 March, 2018
Fatah has described the bomb blast as an "assassination attempt" [Getty]

Palestinian group Hamas widened their investigation on Wednesday into the bomb explosion targeting the Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah as he made a rare visit to the strip a day earlier.

A "high-level investigative committee" into the bomb attack was launched according to the interior ministry in Gaza. The attack, targeting Hamdallah's convoy, delivered a further blow to the faltering reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah.

Witnesses told al-Araby al-Jadeed that an explosion had occurred on the road where the convoy of Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah had passed just moments earlier.

According to the reports, a roadside bomb exploded less than a kilometre after the convoy left the Beit Hanoun Erez crossing to the north.

Hamdallah was not injured in the explosion which occurred shortly after his convoy entered for a rare visit to the Gaza Strip. However, shrapnel did hit a car, and six guards were wounded.

A security source in Gaza told AFP that the convoy was also fired on by unknown gunmen at the time of the explosion. Hamas security forces then sealed off the area.

"The door is open to anyone who wants to participate in the investigation," Tawfeek Abu Naim, the head of the Hamas security services in Gaza said in a statement.

Hamas reportedly informed Hamdallah's government that there were two 15kg bombs, the second of which was planted 30 metres away, but failed to explode.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, although three suspects were arrested. No further details on the investigation have been released, nor the identity of the suspects.

Official Palestinian media released a statement saying President Mahmoud Abbas considered it a "cowardly targeting" of Hamdallah's convoy, holding the Palestinian group Hamas - which controls Gaza - responsible.

Hamas - who condemned the attack - have criticised Abbas' accusation saying it "achieved the goals of the criminals".

A senior official told AFP on condition of anonymity that Abbas decided no members of Hamdallah's government would travel to Gaza in the short term "due to the security problems".

A number of officials have been travelling to the enclave in recent months to discuss reconciliation.

An Egyptian-brokered agreement in early October set 10 December for the transfer of power from Hamas to the Palestinian Authority.

Hamas claimed that all control of government ministries had been handed over to the PA, however, the situation in Gaza remains unchanged.

Tuesday's explosion has only further exacerbated tensions.

Hamdallah said the attack would not end his government's commitment to continue with reconciliation and again called on Hamas to hand over all power in Gaza.

"We are talking about internal security - the police and the civil defence," he said. "Without security there won't be a government."