Hamas widens probe into attempt on Hamdallah's life

Hamas launches committee to investigate bomb explosion that targeted PA leader Rami Hamdallah.

Elad Benari,

Explosion targeting convoy of Rami Hamdallah
Explosion targeting convoy of Rami Hamdallah

Hamas on Wednesday widened an investigation into a bomb explosion a day earlier that targeted Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Rami Hamdallah as he made a rare visit to Gaza.

An explosive device was detonated near Hamdallah’s convoy as it entered Gaza. The PA leader had visited the region to inaugurate a desalination plant established within the framework of reconciliation with Hamas. His convoy entered Gaza via the Erez crossing and was attacked a few minutes later.

Hamdallah was not hurt and his security guards quickly took him away from the scene.

The interior ministry in Gaza said it had launched a "high-level investigative committee" into the bomb attack, according to the AFP news agency.

It said a number of suspects were being questioned but did not provide further details on the investigation nor did it release the identity of the suspects.

"The door is open to anyone who wants to participate in the investigation," Tawfeeq Abu Naim, the head of the Hamas security services in Gaza, said in a statement.

A minister in Hamdallah's Ramallah-based cabinet was quoted as having told Voice of Palestine radio that Hamas informed them there were two 15-kilogram (33-pound) bombs, the second of which was planted 30 meters (yards) away but failed to explode.

A senior PA official told AFP on condition of anonymity that PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas had decided that no members of Hamdallah's cabinet would travel to Gaza in the short term "due to the security problems".

A number of officials have been travelling to the enclave in recent months to discuss reconciliation, but the bomb attack which appeared to deal a further blow to faltering reconciliation talks between Hamas and Abbas's Fatah party.

The two groups signed a reconciliation agreement in October, as part of which Hamas was to transfer power in Gaza by December 1. That deadline was initially put back by 10 days and then appeared to have been cancelled altogether after it reportedly hit “obstacles”.

Last month, Hamas denounced the Hamdallah government over its policy of "deceiving, creating tension and deliberately neglecting the needs of the residents of the Gaza Strip."

Abbas himself on Tuesday blamed Hamas for the attack on Hamdallah’s convoy, saying in a statement, “It is consistent with the attempts to avoid allowing the Palestinian government to operate in Gaza, undermine the reconciliation and to destroy the national enterprise by separating Gaza from the West Bank in order to establish a questionable state in the Gaza Strip."

Hamas shot back, saying such rapid accusations were unhelpful before in turn pointing the finger of blame at Israel.

Hamdallah said the attack would not end his cabinet’s commitment to continue with reconciliation and again called on Hamas to hand over all power in Gaza.

"We are talking about internal security -- the police and the civil defense," he said, according to AFP. "Without security there won't be a government."

The attack was condemned by Western officials, including the UN envoy to the Middle East peace process, Nickolay Mladenov, who called on Hamas to hand over control in Gaza to the Ramallah-based cabinet.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s special representative for international negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, also condemned the attack on Hamadllah’s convoy and said that it was “an attack on the welfare of the people of Gaza”.