March 2018International NewsMiddle East

Roadside Bomb Targets Palestinian Prime Minister’s Convoy

By Shamel Dishack
Staff Writer

Prime Minister (PM), Rami Hamdallah’s, convoy was a target of a roadside bomb that wounded several of his security guards. The attack took place in Northern Gaza at Beit Hanoun, an Israeli controlled Erez checkpoint.

Rami Hamdallah is the Prime Minister of the West-Banked based Palestinian National Authority (PA). He was on a visit to open a water treatment facility in Hamas territory when the attack took place.

The Prime Minister has escaped unharmed and later appeared on live television at the opening of a wastewater treatment in, reports Al Jazeera. Since then, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack on the PM’s motorcade.

Following the attack, Hamas mounted a heavy investigation to unravel the conspirators and bring them to light. On March 22, Hamas led security forces stormed into a compound and engaged in a heavy firefight with the alleged suspect and other accomplices. The counter-operation would result in the deaths of two members of the Hamas security forces, the suspect behind the bombing, and an accomplice of his, according to Reuters.  

The attack, the subsequent investigation and counter operation have added strains on Hamas-PA relations. Tensions are now high and threaten to undermine months of reconciliation attempts. Although both sides agree that the attack was less personal and more aimed at deteriorating the deal brokered last October, people have been blaming one another for the attack and questioning the events that transpired after.

When news broke out about the roadside bombing in Northern Gaza, President Mahmoud Abbas of the PA blamed Hamas for the explosion, with a spokesman of the PA questioning Hamas’s interpretation of the attack and saying that the group must bear “full criminal responsibility” for the assassination attempt, Reuters reports. Even when the alleged suspect was killed in a firefight, the PA proceeded to accuse Hamas of distorting the scenario of the counter operation in order to cover its traces behind the attack, according to The Times of Israel.

On March 15, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) responded to the assassination attempt by shelling Hamas positions with tank rounds and airstrikes, reports Haaretz. Palestinian News Network reports that the targeted posts sustained no casualties and that Hamas denied accusations by the PA and IDF. The United States later joined the accusations when Washington sent a letter to PM Hammdallah. According to The Jerusalem Post, in the letter sent on March 15, Senior Advisor Jared Kushner expressed his sympathies and urged the PA and Fattah to consider a Gaza without Hamas, calling them “unfit to govern Gaza”.

Regardless of whom the perpetrators subscribed to, the attack has sent shockwaves to the recent attempts to merge the West Bank and Gaza together. In October 2017, Hamas and Fattah signed a reconciliation agreement that saw to end the decade long schism, reports Al Jazeera. Since then, neither side had fully implemented the deal due to conflicting demands by the two political parties. Many foreign policy experts do not see a positive conclusion to the reconciliation according to Foreign Affairs.

The attack on the motorcade is another  episode in the efforts to reach a conclusion to the Palestinian divide. Nevertheless, talks of the Palestinian national project continues amidst sporadic violence and senseless casualties.

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