Palestinian PM's convoy hit by blast

A damaged vehicle from the Palestinian Prime Minister's convoy being taken away yesterday after the attack near the Gaza Strip's northern town of Beit Hanoun. Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah waving to the crowd upon his arrival in the West
Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah waving to the crowd upon his arrival in the West Bank town of Ramallah following his return yesterday from the Gaza Strip, where an apparent roadside bomb targeted his motorcade.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
A damaged vehicle from the Palestinian Prime Minister's convoy being taken away yesterday after the attack near the Gaza Strip's northern town of Beit Hanoun. Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah waving to the crowd upon his arrival in the West
A damaged vehicle from the Palestinian Prime Minister's convoy being taken away yesterday after the attack near the Gaza Strip's northern town of Beit Hanoun. PHOTO: REUTERS

He appeared unhurt by what Palestinian Authority says was an assassination bid

GAZA • Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah has survived an assassination attempt in Gaza, the Palestinian Authority said, after an apparent roadside bomb targeted his motorcade.

The attack yesterday on the Western-backed leader, who is spearheading the authority's reconciliation efforts with Gaza's dominant group, Hamas, happened on the day the White House is due to hold a meeting on the humanitarian situation in the enclave.

There was no immediately claim of responsibility for the attack, which Hamas has condemned.

Minutes after the explosion, the 59-year-old Prime Minister, appearing unhurt, delivered a speech at the inauguration of a waste treatment plant and pledged to continue to pursue Palestinian unity.

He said three vehicles were damaged in the explosion. The blast left a crater by the side of the road and blew out the windows of at least one utility vehicle.

The authority said it held Hamas responsible for the attack, stopping short of directly accusing the group of carrying out the assault, but suggesting it had failed to provide adequate security.

Hamas and the Palestinian Authority led by President Mahmoud Abbas are still divided over how to share administrative power in the Gaza Strip under an Egyptian-brokered unity deal. Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 from forces loyal to Mr Abbas.

"The attack against the government of consensus is an attack against the unity of the Palestinian people," said Mr Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Mr Abbas.

In a statement, Hamas said the targeting of Mr Hamdallah's motorcade was "part of an attempt to damage the security of Gaza and deal a blow to efforts to finalise reconciliation". Hamas-led security forces said they had launched a probe.

Mr Hamdallah, based in the occupied West Bank, travelled overland, via Israel, to the Gaza Strip, and police said the motorcade was attacked near the enclave's northern town of Beit Hanoun.

He later left Gaza as scheduled in another convoy, with security men clutching automatic rifles standing along the side of his vehicle.

The explosion occurred near the spot where a United States diplomatic convoy was blown up by a remote-controlled bomb in 2003 shortly after it entered the Gaza Strip. Three American security specialists were killed and a US diplomat was injured in that blast.

The White House was due to hold a meeting later yesterday, addressed by US President Donald Trump's Middle East peace negotiator Jason Greenblatt, and Mr Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, who are putting together US proposals for a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.

In past years, Palestinian factions opposed to peace talks with Israel have carried out attacks timed to coincide with such initiatives.

Israeli-Palestinian negotiations collapsed in 2014.

Hamas has condemned Mr Trump's recent moves to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital, and to move the US Embassy to the city.

The Palestinian Authority, also angered by Mr Trump's Jerusalem decision, refused to participate in yesterday's White House meeting, or to meet Mr Trump's envoys.

Yesterday's attack was condemned by Mr Nickolay Mladenov, the United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process. "Until the legitimate Palestinian Authority is fully empowered in Gaza, Hamas has the responsibility to ensure that the government is able to carry out its work in the strip without fear of intimidation, harassment and violence," he said.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 14, 2018, with the headline 'Palestinian PM's convoy hit by blast'. Print Edition | Subscribe