Intra-Palestinian tensions rise after Hamdallah survives assassination attempt

“We insist on achieving reconciliation despite the obstacles and challenges.”

Hamas police chief Tayseer al-Batish inspects the site of an explosion that targeted the convoy of Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, in the northern Gaza Strip (photo credit: IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA / REUTERS)
Hamas police chief Tayseer al-Batish inspects the site of an explosion that targeted the convoy of Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, in the northern Gaza Strip
The convoy of Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and the head of the Palestinian Intelligence Majed Faraj was hit by an explosion Tuesday in the Gaza Strip in what appeared to be an assassination attempt. Five security guards were injured in the attack.
A source from the PA Prime Minister’s Office confirmed to The Media Line that the explosion targeted the last vehicle of the motorcade, which was holding members of Hamdallah’s security detail. Prime Minister Hamdallah and Faraj were unharmed.
The PA condemned the attack and held Hamas — the Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip — responsible.
Mahmoud Al-Aloul, Vice President of the Palestinian Liberation Organization—the dominant faction of the PA which is recognized as the voice of the Palestinian people—stressed to The Media Line that Hamas must take responsibility for the attack, which he said was motivated by a desire to derail the Palestinian reconciliation process.
“We have been working really hard to achieve the Palestinian unity,” Al-Aloul elaborated. “We will follow up closely on the incident and how it happened.”
Al-Aloul made clear he does not believe the incident has any connection to the rare meeting of the PLO’s legislative body—the Palestinian National Council—that will be convened at the end of April, noting that, “we are still negotiating with Hamas and Islamic Jihad to participate in it.”
Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (Reuters)Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (Reuters)
For its part, Hamas condemned the attack in a press release, while rejecting the accusations it is responsible.
“The Islamic Resistance Movement condemns the crime of targeting the convoy of Rami al-Hamdallah. It was an attempt to interfere the security of the Strip and to strike any efforts to achieve unity and reconciliation in Palestine,” the statement read.
In addition, Hamas urged authorities in Gaza to open an “immediate and urgent” investigation to “uncover all the circumstances of the crime, hold the perpetrators accountable and bring them to justice.”
Speaking to The Media Line, Mazen Safi, a Gaza-based member of Fatah, the dominant faction of the PLO, reinforced the notion that the attack was meant to harm Palestinian reconciliation. He nevertheless also said Hamas bears responsibility as the attack took place in the Strip.
“We insist on achieving the reconciliation despite of the obstacles and challenges,” he explained. “The attacker wanted to destroy all of the efforts and a united national ground in Palestine,” Safi said, before claiming that the Palestinians remain divided because of agreements made with Israel. “As long as there are relations with Israel, the Palestinian reconciliation will never settle or see a light.”
PA"s Hamdallah safe after explosion near convoy in Gaza, March 13, 2018 (Reuters)
Some Palestinian leaders have speculated that Israel may have perpetrated the attack.
Safi claimed that “the Israeli occupation targets public officials, but there are other parties in the shade that want to destroy the Palestinian unity.” He concluded by urging Hamas and Islamic Jihad to participate in the upcoming National Council meeting.
Abd Al-Fatah Qasem, a Palestinian political analyst told The Media Line that the attack was clearly planned and organized. “We must first think of what country or political party has interest in keeping the Palestinian society divided,” he said, suggesting that the United States, Israel, various Arab countries or even Palestinians themselves could benefit from such a move.
Senior Palestinian officials, including Salem Zanoun, head of the Palestinian National Council, also condemned the attack and called for the Palestinian people to unite.
Hamas views the decision to convene the National Council as a blatant violation of agreements and understandings forged between Hamas and PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ ruling Fatah faction.
Hamas instead called for the internal political crisis to be alleviated by rebuilding PLO institutions “based on democratic foundations,” before noting that many of its members would not be able to attend the Ramallah meeting because of the occupation by the “Zionist enemy” that “seeks to impose its vision on [Palestinians] all the time.”