UN envoy condemns Gaza attack on Palestinian PM as a ‘grave incident’

PA security chief says too early to know who was responsible; UN special coordinator says Hamas must prevent violence

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah waves to the crowd upon his arrival in Gaza City on March 13, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah waves to the crowd upon his arrival in Gaza City on March 13, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

The United Nations’ peace envoy condemned the attack on Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah Tuesday, calling it a “grave incident” and holding Hamas responsible for ensuring his security.

“I condemn the attack on the convoy of Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in Gaza earlier today and wish those injured a speedy recovery. This grave incident must be promptly investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice,” Nickolay Mladenov said in a statement.

An explosion detonated next to Hamdallah’s convoy as he visited the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, wounding several people, officials said.

The PA said Hamdallah and PA General Intelligence Chief Majed Faraj, who was accompanying him, were unhurt. However, media reports said several bystanders were injured. Their condition was not immediately clear.

Three of the vehicles in Hamdallah’s convoy were damaged, their windows blown out. One had signs of blood on the door. Video from the scene showed a huge plume of back smoke rising into the air near the convoy.

Mladenov said that the Hamas terror group, which controls the Gaza Strip, was responsible for ensuring the safety and protection of PA officials.

“Until the legitimate Palestinian Authority is fully empowered in Gaza, Hamas has the responsibility to ensure that the Government is able to carry out its work in the Strip without fear of intimidation, harassment and violence,” he said.

Nikolay Mladenov, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, speaks during a press conference at the UNESCO headquarters in Gaza City, September 25, 2017. (AFP/MOHAMMED ABED)

The UN envoy also praised Hamdallah for his attempts to resolve the humanitarian crisis in the coastal enclave, and the attempts to reach a reconciliation deal between the Fatah-led PA and Hamas.

“I commend the Prime Minister’s leadership and continuing efforts to address the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza and achieve reconciliation,” he said. “Those who inspired and perpetrated today’s attack seek to undermine these efforts and destroy the chances for peace. They must not be allowed to succeed.”

In the West Bank, PA President Mahmoud Abbas blamed Hamas for the blast. But Farraj, his security chief who was in the convoy, said it was “too early” to say who was responsible.

Hanan Ashrawi, another senior Palestinian official in the West Bank, condemned the “cowardly act” and said the perpetrators must be brought to justice.

“We believe that this act targeted also all attempts at creating Palestinian unity, putting an end to the rift or the division in Palestine,” she said.

Amid warnings of a looming humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, the White House was hosting a gathering of international representatives as the attack occurred Tuesday to discuss economic development projects and the dire situation.

A vehicle damaged in the explosion that went off near Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah’s convoy is seen in the northern Gaza city of Beit Hanoun on March 13, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Abed)

White House envoy Jason Greenblatt has accused Hamas of wreaking devastation on the territory.

“The challenge will be determining which ideas can be realistically implemented in light of the fact that the Palestinians of Gaza continue to suffer under the authoritarian rule of Hamas,” he said in a statement Monday.

MK Michael Oren (Kulanu), deputy minister for diplomacy, said that the attack proved that only Israel can be trusted to ensure security for Palestinian leaders.

Deputy Minister Michael Oren at the Knesset, June 27, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel)

“This once again proves that only Israeli security agencies can protect Palestinian leaders from Palestinian terror,” he tweeted. “Israel must not even begin to consider any withdrawal of Israeli troops from the West Bank.”

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. Radical Islamists opposed to Hamas also operate within the Gaza Strip and have regularly been behind unrest there.

Hamas condemned the attack and said it was carried out by groups aiming at undermining its reconciliation bid with the Palestinian Authority.

A Hamas security official said that a number of suspects had been arrested in connection with the explosion. The official did not provide details but said Hamas was investigating the circumstances and motives behind the explosion.

It was Hamdallah’s second visit to the Gaza Strip since the signing of an Egyptian-brokered “reconciliation” agreement between the West Bank’s governing Fatah faction and Gaza’s Hamas rulers late last year.

Hamas has ruled Gaza since it ousted the Fatah-led PA in 2007.

The visit comes amid mounting tensions between the PA and the Hamas terror group over the floundering agreement.

The PA government has accused Hamas of refusing to allow it to assume its full responsibilities in the Gaza Strip, in accordance with the agreement.

Hamas, for its part, has accused the PA government of failing to lift the sanctions it imposed on the Gaza Strip last year.

Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.

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