Hamas shuts Qatari cell provider in Gaza after convoy attack
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Hamas shuts Qatari cell provider in Gaza after convoy attack

Police spokesman says Wataniya Mobile closed down for ‘refusing to cooperate’ with investigation into attempted assassination of PA prime minister

Palestinian men looking at mobile phones displayed under the logo of the Palestine phone company Wataniya, at a shop in the West Bank city of Jenin, on October 14, 2009. (AFP Photo/Saif Dahlah/File)
Palestinian men looking at mobile phones displayed under the logo of the Palestine phone company Wataniya, at a shop in the West Bank city of Jenin, on October 14, 2009. (AFP Photo/Saif Dahlah/File)

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Gaza’s Hamas rulers have shut the offices of a Qatari-Palestinian cellular provider in connection with its investigation into an explosion that targeted the visiting Palestinian Authority prime minister.

Hamas police spokesman Ayman Batniji said Saturday that Wataniya Mobile, a subsidiary of Qatar’s Ooredoo, was being closed down for “refusing to cooperate” in the inquiry.

A roadside bomb struck a convoy carrying PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah on Tuesday after he crossed into Gaza from Israel, wounding some of his bodyguards. Local reports said a second bomb that failed to detonate contained a Wataniya SIM card.

After the attempted assassination, the Hamas Interior Ministry in Gaza announced it had launched a “high-level investigative committee” into the bomb attack, which dealt a further blow to faltering reconciliation talks between Hamas and president Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party. On Wednesday, a Hamas official said the terrorist group knew the identities of the attackers, but did not identify the suspects.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (2nd-R), escorted by his bodyguards, is greeted by police forces of the Hamas terror group (L) upon his arrival in Gaza City on March 13, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

Hamdallah’s West Bank-based Palestinian Authority holds Hamas responsible for the attack. Hamas, which overthrew PA forces in 2007 to seize control of Gaza, rejected the accusation and appears to be looking to shift blame to others, namely Israel.

This week, a senior Palestinian official told the Ynet news site that Hamas had arrested several cell phone company workers who are suspected of facilitating the failed assassination.

In the meantime, PA President Mahmoud Abbas decided no members of Hamdallah’s government would travel to Gaza in the short term “due to the security problems,” a senior Palestinian official told AFP this week.

A number of officials have been traveling to the enclave in recent months to discuss PA-Hamas reconciliation efforts.

Hamas seized control of Gaza from Abbas’s internationally recognized government more than a decade ago, but agreed in October to hand power back.

Smoke is seen from an explosion that went off near Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah’s convoy in the Gaza Strip, on March 13, 2018. (Screen capture: Ynet)

Yet the deal has all but collapsed, with the two sides accusing each other of responsibility, and with this week’s explosion further exacerbating tensions.

After the attack, Abbas said he held Hamas responsible as the de facto power in the strip, though he stopped short of directly accusing the group of carrying out the bombing.

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