(March 13, 2018 / JNS) Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah narrowly escaped an assassination attempt on a rare visit to the Gaza Strip on Tuesday.
Hamadallah’s convoy was struck by an explosion shortly after he entered Gaza through the Erez border crossing between Israel and Gaza. Several people were lightly injured in the incident. Hamdallah and his delegation had entered Gaza to inaugurate a wastewater treatment plant. Because of Hamas’ refusal to afford electricity to the water facility that is currently on premises, raw sewage has been pumped into the Mediterranean Sea leading to serious environmental concerns in southern Israel.
“The attack against the government of consensus is an attack against the unity of the Palestinian people,” a spokesman for P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas said in a statement.
U.N. Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov also condemned the attack on Tuesday and called for Hamas to guarantee the safety of Palestinian officials in the Gaza Strip. At the same time, he asked for an investigation into the “grave incident.”
While the P.A. initially blamed Hamas for the attack, later on Tuesday it was reported that Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh spoke with Hamdallah, and they agreed that Israel its collaborators were responsible, reported Haaretz.
The attack on Hamdallah comes amid growing tensions between Hamas and the P.A. following the latest failure in their attempt at Palestinian unity.
Late last year, both sides agreed to allow the P.A., which administers portions of the West Bank, to return political control over the Gaza Strip for the first time since they were ousted in 2007 by Hamas. However, their initial deadline for the handover on Dec. 1 came and went, with both sides accusing each other of sabotaging the unity agreement. Hamas has accused the P.A. government of maintaining sanctions on Gaza, including missing payments to thousands of civil employees, while the P.A. has criticized Hamas for being unwilling to disarm.
Nevertheless, Hamdallah vowed that he is still committed to Palestinian unity, and that he will return to Gaza.
“I will return to Gaza despite what happened today, and I call on Hamas to allow the government to effectively control the Gaza Strip,” he said. “What happened today will not stop us from continuing reconciliation efforts.”