Palestinian prime minister survives assassination attempt in Gaza as bomb hits his convoy

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Palestinian prime minister survives assassination attempt in Gaza as bomb hits his convoyThe Palestinian prime minister survived an assassination attempt during a rare visit to Hamas-controlled Gaza on Tuesday, putting a fresh strain on the already torrid relations between the two leading Palestinian factions. Rami Hamdallah, the prime minister of the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority, had just entered Gaza when a roadside explosive detonated near his convoy. Mr Hamdallah was not injured but seven of his guards and aides suffered slight wounds, according to Palestinian media. The explosion came hours before the White House was due to hold a summit on the humanitarian situation in Gaza.  It was not immediately clear who was behind the attempted assassination but a spokesman for Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, said he held Hamas responsible as “the de facto power in Gaza”.  Hamas immediately hit back at Mr Abbas, saying that his claims played into the hands of Israel. “We strongly reject the hasty accusations of the Palestinian presidency against the movement, which satisfies the goals of the criminals,” the group said in a statement.  Rami Hamdallah (centre) continued his visit despite the bombing Credit: MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images The largely secular Fatah and the Islamist movement Hamas have been at odds since 2006, when Hamas beat Fatah in elections and then seized control of Gaza by force, fighting gun battles in the streets against Fatah-aligned security troops.   The estrangement has left Gaza under the control of Hamas while the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority is in charge of some parts of the occupied West Bank, while the Israeli military controls other parts. The two Palestinian factions have gone through several faltering attempts at reconciliation in the last decade and Mr Hamdallah’s visit to Gaza was part of the latest reconciliation effort, which has been brokered by Egypt.   The bomb went off at the side of the road shortly after Mr Hamdallah’s motorcade entered Gaza from Israel. The prime minister was accompanied by Majid Faraj, the Palestinian intelligence chief, who was also uninjured in the attack. Suspicion for the attack immediately fell on the smaller, more radical Islamist factions which operate in Gaza. The factions include Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which sometimes cooperates with Hamas and is other times a rival to them.   Video shows the moment of the explosion #فيديو جديد يوثق لحظة استهداف موكب رئيس الوزراء رامي الحمد الله pic.twitter.com/q79nSqmCbO— فلسطين الآن (@paltimes2015) March 13, 2018 Mr Hamdallah went ahead with a planned speech at a sewage treatment plant in Gaza, as heavily armed guards surrounded him. He said the attack would not stop him from returning to Gaza and continuing to work towards Palestinian unity.   Mr Hamdallah, a former academic, is seen as a political moderate and has maintained cordial relations with the US, EU and even some Israeli officials.   His conciliatory tone after the bombing was not matched by Mr Abbas, the Palestinian president, who has taken a hard line against Hamas and last year cut back electricity payments to Gaza to put pressure on the group.  “The Palestinian presidency condemned the attack and held Hamas, the de facto power in Gaza, responsible,” said a statement from the official Palestinian news agency.   “Presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said the attack on the consensus government is an attack on the unity of the Palestinian people.” A bodyguard of the Palestinian Prime Minister and a Hamas security officer escort the PM's convoy as he leaves Gaza City Credit: MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images The explosion came shortly before Jared Kushner, Mr Trump’s son in law and key aide for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, was due to host a “brainstorming session” on Gaza at the White House.  The goal was to find “real solutions to the problems that Hamas has caused”, said Jason Greenblatt, Mr Trump’s peace envoy. The summit will include officials from Israel and several Arab countries as well as Europe. But the meeting has been derided because no Palestinian representatives will be present.  Hamas is considered a terrorist group by the US and was not invited. The Palestinian Authority are boycotting US initiatives after Mr Trump officially recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December.  Mr Greenblatt condemned the assassination attempt. "Gazans have been brought to the brink of collapse by Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other extremist groups. Attack on Palestinian Authority delegation opening water treatment plant is an attack on the welfare of the people of Gaza," he said on Twitter





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