Assassins failed, Palestinians say

Roadside bomb in Gaza damages prime minister’s convoy

JERUSALEM -- A roadside bomb blast in Gaza on Tuesday morning damaged several vehicles in the convoy of the Palestinian Authority's prime minister, Rami Hamdallah, in what the authority called a failed assassination attempt.

No group immediately claimed responsibility, and Hamdallah was unharmed, but the attack came amid a tense standoff between his Ramallah-based government, dominated by the Fatah political faction, and the Islamist militant group Hamas, which has controlled Gaza since routing Fatah in the coastal enclave in a civil war a decade ago.

Israel, with help from Egypt, has kept Gaza under a strict blockade for years, and conditions in Gaza have grown increasingly dire. The Palestinian Authority compounded those problems last year with financial pressures that included mass layoffs and crippling daily power failures.

In October, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority began reconciliation talks, but those have bogged down, even as shortages of clean water, medicine and other necessities have fueled concerns that the dispute could boil over into violence.

Hamdallah continued on to a scheduled appearance in Beit Lahia, at the opening of a long-awaited water-treatment project. "They blew up three cars in my convoy near Beit Hanoun," he told reporters at the event.

Fatah officials immediately pointed fingers at Hamas. The office of President Mahmoud Abbas said it "holds Hamas responsible" for the "cowardly attack," and Hussein al-Sheikh, a member of Fatah's Central Committee who is the authority's minister of civil affairs, called Hamas "fully responsible."

Majid Faraj, the Palestinian Authority's intelligence chief, who was with Hamdallah, stopped short of blaming Hamas but noted that the group and its security forces continued to bear "full responsibility for ensuring the safety of the land."

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum sought to blame Israel.

A Section on 03/14/2018

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