Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and PA General Intelligence Services chief Majid Faraj survived an assassination attempt on Tuesday after entering the Gaza Strip, the official PA news site Wafa reported.
Hamdallah and Faraj’s motorcade was targeted by an explosion and came under gunfire in the Beit Hanun area in northeastern Gaza, according to the Wafa report.
Wafa said that seven people were wounded, but Hamas Interior Ministry spokesman Iyad al-Bozm wrote on his Facebook page that there were no injuries, adding that the Hamas-controlled security forces in Gaza have opened an investigation into the incident.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Bozm said that the Hamas security forces arrested a number of persons suspected of carrying out the explosion.
Pictures shared on Twitter show that at least two cars in the motorcade were damaged. A video shared on Facebook also shows a large cloud of smoke around the area where the explosion took place.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s office said Hamas “bears full responsibility for this treasonous aggression against the prime minister’s and the general intelligence chief’s motorcade.” However, Faraj, who is also a close adviser of Abbas, said that “it is too early to accuse anyone,” but added that Hamas is responsible for securing the lands it controls.
The moment of the explosion that targeted the convoy of Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in Gaza (Gaza This Morning / YouTube)
Hamas has controlled Gaza since ousting the Fatah-dominated PA in 2007 from the territory.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum condemned “the crime of targeting Dr. Rami Hamdallah’s motorcade,” saying it is “part in parcel of attempts to undermine the Gaza Strip’s security and a blow to efforts to achieve unity and reconciliation.”
But Barhoum criticized Abbas’s office for asserting that Hamas bears responsibility for the explosion, saying that such accusations serve the interests of its perpetrators.
The Hamas spokesman also appeared to suggest that Israel is responsible for the explosion, contending that those who carried it out also killed Mazen Fukaha, a Hamas leader who was shot dead in 2017 near his home. At the time, Hamas blamed Israel for the killing.
Israeli government officials have not commented on the explosion.
Later on Tuesday, Hamdallah spoke at the opening of a wastewater treatment plant in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip, after which he and Faraj returned to the West Bank.
“What happened to us today at the Beit Hanun crossing will only increase our insistence in ending this division,” Hamdallah said at the opening of the plant. “We will come back to the Gaza Strip whenever we want despite the explosion that targeted the motorcade.”
In recent months, Hamas, Fatah and the PA have tried to advance reconciliation efforts but have made little progress.
After returning to Ramallah on Tuesday afternoon, Hamdallah called on Hamas to hand over responsibility for security within Gaza to the PA.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri responded to Hamdallah’s request, suggesting that the Ramallah-based government was complicit in the explosion.
“Hamdallah’s call for handing over internal security raises major suspicions about the motives [behind] the incident,” he said.
The explosion on Tuesday occurred near the spot where a US 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.
Reuters contributed to this report.