Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah waves to the crowd upon his arrival in Gaza City on March 13, 2018. Hamdallah cut short a rare visit to Gaza on Tuesday after an explosion targeted his convoy, a source in the delegation said. The Prime Minister, who was not hurt, left the Hamas-run territory through the Erez crossing shortly after opening a wastewater treatment facility, the source said. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)
JABALIYA — An explosion struck the convoy of the Palestinian Prime Minister on Tuesday as he was making a rare visit to Gaza, in what his Fatah party called an assassination attempt by 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.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. A second device failed to explode, the official said.
Six security guards had been wounded, Hamdallah said shortly after the attack.
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 vehicles had windows blown out, one had signs of blood on the door
Three of the vehicles in Hamdallah's convoy were damaged, with 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 operated in the West Bank, arrived in Hamas-run Gaza to inaugurate the sewage plant and said 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.
In November, Hamas handed over control of Gaza's border crossings to the Palestinian Authority. It was the first tangible concession in years of Egyptian-brokered reconciliation talks. But negotiations have bogged down since then.
A picture taken on March 13, 2018 shows one of the cars of the Palestinian Prime Minister's convoy that was hit by an explosion being towed away to the Gaza strip Erez crossing, in Beit Hanun, the northern access point into the coastal Palestinian territory. (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)
Hamdallah's visit comes amid a time of crisis in Gaza, where the economy is devastated. The White House is hosting a gathering of international representatives on Tuesday to discuss economic development and the dire humanitarian situation, which White House's envoy Jason Greenblatt has blamed on Hamas' control.
"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.
The plant in question was envisioned in 2007 after overburdened sewage reservoirs collapsed, killing five villagers.
The World Bank, European Union and other European governments have paid nearly US$75 million in funding. Hamas' takeover of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority in 2007 and the ensuing Israeli-Egyptian blockade, power shortages and conflicts, delayed the opening of the project for four years.
Besides the old reservoirs, the plant will receive wastewater from four towns and villages. After treatment, the water will be transferred for irrigation and the remainder will be safely dumped to the sea.