Gaza Explosion Hits Convoy of Palestinian Prime Minister

A bodyguard rides on a damaged vehicle of the convoy of Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in the Gaza Strip.

Wissam Nassar/Zuma Press

Tensions heated up between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas after the prime minister survived an attack on his motorcade during a rare visit to the Gaza Strip, the latest setback in efforts to mend a decadelong rift.

The prime minister,


Rami Hamdallah,

wasn’t hurt in what officials described as an assassination attempt on Tuesday, but at least seven members of the convoy were injured in the blast, Palestinian Authority officials said. Palestinian Authority President

Mahmoud Abbas

blamed Gaza rulers Hamas for the attack. The Islamist movement denied responsibility, instead suggesting Israel had organized the bombing.

The Israeli Defense Ministry body responsible for Palestinian affairs declined to comment.

Hamas has ruled the Gaza Strip for more than 10 years after it took over the enclave in a short battle with Mr. Abbas’s Fatah party in 2007. It has fought three conflicts with Israel since then. Hamas often has claimed Israel wants to derail a Fatah-Hamas reconciliation to keep Palestinians divided and weak.

Prime Minister Hamdallah was visiting the strip to attend the opening of a wastewater treatment plant after Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in September agreed to slowly hand over control of the strip to Mr. Abbas’s governing body.

Those talks have stalled in recent months over several issues, including Hamas’s refusal to give up its weapons. The lack of progress has limited funding from the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority to the Gaza Strip, worsening an already dire economic situation there. That, in turn, has caused United Nations officials to warn of a humanitarian collapse in the Palestinian enclave.

In Washington, the White House adviser to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process,

Jason Greenblatt,

convened a meeting with 20 international donor states to address the worsening economic situation in Gaza. Tuesday’s meeting was attended by Israel and several Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the U.A.E., Bahrain and Oman.

The Palestinian Authority declined to attend, and it hasn’t met with White House officials since President

Donald Trump

decided to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December.

Commenting on the Gaza blast, Mr. Greenblatt said, “This attack, once again, demonstrates that Hamas is profoundly unfit to govern Gaza. But we cannot be deterred … The PA has a legitimate role to play in Gaza, as does the international community.”

Tuesday’s bombing is the latest blow to stalled reconciliation talks between Hamas and the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, and it is likely to further complicate efforts to unite the Palestinian national movement after 10 years of division.

Majid Faraj,

the head of PA intelligence who has been a key figure in reconciliation talks, was also in the convoy. He and Mr. Hamdallah left the strip shortly after the explosion, Palestinian officials said.

Ziyad Musleh,

42 years old, was near the convoy when the explosion took place. He said it was “like an earthquake. Dust covered the whole area.”

Mr. Abbas’s spokesman said the Palestinian Authority president would hold a series of meetings to discuss responses to the incident.

Hamas in a statement said it arrested a number of suspects related to the explosion, adding that the attack was an attempt “to damage any efforts to achieve unity and reconciliation.” In the past, Hamas has arrested and executed Palestinians for allegedly collaborating with Israel.

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