Explosion struck convoy of Palestinian PM in Gaza


JABALIYA — An explosion struck the convoy of the Palestinian prime minister Tuesday as he was making a rare visit to Gaza, in what his Fatah party called an assassination attempt it blamed on Gaza militants.

The explosion went off shortly after the convoy entered Gaza through the Erez crossing with Israel. Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah was unharmed and went on to inaugurate a long-awaited sewage plant project in the northern part of the strip. But Fatah quickly held Gaza's Islamic Hamas rulers responsible for the "cowardly attack" on the convoy, further escalating tensions between the bitter rival factions.

Three of the vehicles in Hamdallah's convoy were damaged, their windows blown out. One had signs of blood on the door.

Hamas confirmed an explosion struck the convoy but said no injuries were reported. It condemned the Gaza explosion, calling it a crime and an attempt to "hurt efforts to achieve unity and reconciliation." It promised an "urgent" investigation.

While President Mahmoud Abbas blamed Hamas for the blast, his security chief Majed Farraj, who was in the convoy, said it was "too early" to say who was responsible.

Hamdallah, who is based in the West Bank, arrived in Hamas-run Gaza to inaugurate the sewage plant and said there that the attack will "not deter from seeking to end the bitter split. We will still come to Gaza."

The rival factions have been trying to reconcile since 2007 when Hamas seized control of Gaza from Fatah forces and have suffered several setbacks in their efforts since. The takeover left the Palestinians with two rival governments, Hamas in Gaza and the Western-backed Palestinian Authority governing autonomous enclaves in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. - Agencies

Middle East