Palestinian PM cuts short Gaza visit after explosion

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Gaza City — Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah cut short a rare visit to Gaza on Tuesday after an explosion targeted his convoy, a source in the delegation said.

Hamdallah, who was not hurt, left the Hamas-run territory through the Erez crossing shortly after opening a wastewater treatment facility, the source said.

The explosion had gone off near his convoy shortly after he arrived in the enclave and lightly injured seven people.

He had been expected to hold a number of other engagements in the territory.

Palestinian intelligence chief Majid Faraj was part of the convoy but was not hurt either, the security source said.

Minutes after the blast, Hamdallah, delivered a speech at the inauguration of a waste treatment plant in the Gaza Strip, live TV footage showed. He said in the address that three cars were damaged.

The Palestinian Authority said it held the enclave's dominant Hamas group responsible for the attack, stopping short of directly accusing the group of carrying out the assault, but suggesting it had failed to provide adequate security.

Gaza's Hamas-run interior ministry said the explosion hit as the prime minister's convoy passed near the northern town of Beit Hanoun. No one was injured and security services had begun an investigation, ministry spokesman Eyad Al-Bozom said.

The prime minister is based in the occupied West Bank and traveled overland, via Israel, to the Gaza Strip. Police said the explosion came shortly after Hamdallah's convoy passed by, and one witness said it appeared two cars at the end of motorcade sustained damage.

"The Palestinian Presidency holds Hamas responsible for the cowardly targeting of the Prime Minister's convoy in Gaza," the official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported.

Hamas and Abbas's Palestinian Authority are still divided over how to implement an Egyptian-brokered reconciliation deal. Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007.

"The attack against the government of consensus is an attack against the unity of the Palestinian people," said Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The explosion occurred near the spot where a US diplomatic convoy was blown up by a remote-controlled bomb in 2003 shortly after it entered the Gaza Strip. Three American security specialists were killed and a US diplomat was injured in that blast. — Agencies


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