Hamas is holding at least four suspects in connection with last week’s apparent attempt to assassinate Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and PA intelligence chief Majid Faraj near the Erez Crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel.
Palestinian sources told The Times of Israel that some of the detainees have confessed their involvement in the bombing attack and that Hamas claims they are members of the extremist global terror group Salafia Jihadia.
Hamas, the terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip, arrested and interrogated almost 30 Palestinians immediately after the attack on Hamdallah’s convoy, but apparently only four were kept in custody.
The West Bank-based PA, which has blamed Hamas for the attack, rejected the terror group’s conclusions, with senior PA sources saying its claims seemed implausible.
“The incident took place on a major route in Gaza, Salah a-Din, about one kilometer from the Erez Crossing,” one source said. “It is an area where Hamas is fully in control of security, the route going south from the Erez Crossing into the city. It is impossible for this bomb to have been planted without the knowledge of any Hamas official.”
The PA estimates that even if Hamas used terror operatives from some Salafi faction, they were acting for Hamas or someone in the organization.
Hamas’s security chief in Gaza, Tawfiq Abu Naim, said on Saturday that two large bombs had been planted but only one of them detonated due to a technical malfunction. They were placed about 37 meters away from one another.
According to eyewitnesses, the device was detonated seconds before the armored vehicle containing Hamdallah and Faraj passed. Ten security guards and staff accompanying the two, who were in non-armored vehicles, were lightly wounded.
On Monday, PA President Mahmoud Abbas lashed out at Hamas over the incident. The PA says there are many officials in Hamas trying to torpedo the reconciliation attempts between the two rival Palestinian factions.
Among those named as trying to sabotage the process are former Gaza interior minister Fathi Hamad, Hamas co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar, and Moussa Abu Marzouk, one of the group’s leaders abroad.
The PA rejected Egyptian claims of friction and discord between senior Hamas figure Saleh al-Arouri, who lives abroad and is in charge of orchestrating terror attacks in the West Bank, and the group’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar.
Meanwhile, Abd el-Rahman Ghanimat, co-founder and head of Hamas’s “West Bank section,” has left Gaza.
The section was established after a 2011 prisoner swap deal in which kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was returned to Israel in exchange for over 1,000 convicted terrorists. It is composed of military wing members formerly from the West Bank who were expelled to Gaza.
Ghanimat had headed the section along with Mazen Faqha, who was assassinated a year ago. Hamas has blamed the killing on Israel, which hasn’t confirmed it was behind the attack.
A possible reason for Ghanimat’s departure could be fear that he too will be targeted. He has likely moved to Beirut, where Saleh al-Arouri is currently coordinating the group’s operations. The “West Bank section” also operates from Turkey, mainly from Istanbul.