Palestinian PM Hamdallah survives Gaza roadside bomb attack

GAZA, March 13 (Reuters) - Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah survived an assassination attempt in Gaza on Tuesday, the Palestinian Authority said after an apparent roadside bomb targeted his motorcade.

The attack on the Western-backed leader, who is spearheading the Authority's reconciliation efforts with Gaza's dominant group, Hamas, took place as the White House prepared to hold a meeting on the humanitarian situation in the enclave.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for what one Palestinian Authority security official in Gaza said was a roadside bomb. A second device failed to explode, the official said.

Six security guards were wounded, Hamdallah said shortly after the attack.

Hamas, which condemned the attack, and the Authority said they viewed the incident as an attempt to prevent implementation of a unity agreement signed in October that has raised hopes of improving economic conditions in the territory of 2 million people.

RELATED: Palestinian PM Hamdallah survives Gaza roadside bomb attack

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Palestinian PM Hamdallah survives Gaza roadside bomb attack
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Palestinian PM Hamdallah survives Gaza roadside bomb attack
A member of the Hamas security forces inspects the crater left at the site of an explosion that targeted the convoy of the Palestinian Prime Minister during his visit to the Gaza strip, near the Erez crossing, in Beit Hanun, the northern access point into the coastal Palestinian territory, on March 13, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS (Photo credit should read MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Members of the Hamas security forces inspect the crater left at the site of an explosion that targeted the convoy of the Palestinian Prime Minister during his visit to the Gaza strip, near the Erez crossing, in Beit Hanun, the northern access point into the coastal Palestinian territory, on March 13, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS (Photo credit should read MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)
Hamas security services personnel inspect the site of a Tuesday explosion that occurred as the convoy of Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah entered Gaza through the Erez crossing with Israel, on the main road in Beit Hanoun, Gaza Strip, Tuesday, March 13, 2018.The Fatah party of the prime minister called the explosion an assassination attempt and blamed Gaza militants. Hamdallah was unharmed and went on to inaugurate a long-awaited sewage plant project in the northern part of the strip.(Photo by Momen Faiz/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Hamas security services personnel inspect the site of a Tuesday explosion that occurred as the convoy of Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah entered Gaza through the Erez crossing with Israel, on the main road in Beit Hanoun, Gaza Strip, Tuesday, March 13, 2018.The Fatah party of the prime minister called the explosion an assassination attempt and blamed Gaza militants. Hamdallah was unharmed and went on to inaugurate a long-awaited sewage plant project in the northern part of the strip.(Photo by Momen Faiz/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Hamas security services personnel inspect the site of a Tuesday explosion that occurred as the convoy of Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah entered Gaza through the Erez crossing with Israel, on the main road in Beit Hanoun, Gaza Strip, Tuesday, March 13, 2018.The Fatah party of the prime minister called the explosion an assassination attempt and blamed Gaza militants. Hamdallah was unharmed and went on to inaugurate a long-awaited sewage plant project in the northern part of the strip.(Photo by Momen Faiz/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
GAZA CITY, GAZA - MARCH 13: Palestinian security officials inspect a damaged car after an explosion struck near the convoy of Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in Gaza City, Gaza on March 13, 2018. No casualties were reported. (Photo by Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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. / AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED ABED (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images)
GAZA CITY, GAZA - MARCH 13: Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah arrives at the desalination plant after he escape unhurt an explosion struck near the convoy of Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in Gaza City, Gaza on March 13, 2018. (Photo by Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah speaks after he survived an assassination attempt in Gaza, at his office in the Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank March 13, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman
Hamas police chief Tayseer al-Batish inspects the site of an explosion that targeted the convoy of Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, in the northern Gaza Strip March 13, 2018. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
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Minutes after the explosion, the 59-year-old prime minister, apparently unhurt, delivered a speech at the inauguration of an internationally-funded wastewater treatment plant and pledged to continue to pursue Palestinian unity.

He said three vehicles were damaged in the explosion, which blew out the windows of one of them. The blast sent debris hurtling dozens of meters (yards) away and left a crater by the roadside.

The Authority said it held Hamas responsible for the attack near the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun. It stopped short of directly accusing the group of carrying out the assault but suggested it had failed to provide adequate security.

"It was a well planned attempt. They planted explosive devices two meters deep," Hamdallah said later in the West Bank city of Ramallah, where he is based, without pointing a finger at any group.

Hamas and the Palestinian Authority led by President Mahmoud Abbas are still divided over how to share administrative power in the Gaza Strip under the Egyptian-brokered unity deal. Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007 from forces loyal to Abbas.

Welcomed back to Ramallah by applause from a crowd of dozens of people, including cabinet ministers, Hamdallah repeated a call to Hamas to hand over control of Gaza's police force and civil emergency services to the Palestinian Authority.

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

In a statement, Hamas said the targeting of Hamdallah's motorcade was "part of attempts to damage the security of Gaza and deal a blow to efforts to finalize reconciliation." Hamas-led security forces said they had launched an investigation.

In a statement from its foreign ministry Egypt condemned the attack and said reconciliation efforts would continue. Those remarks were echoed by Abbas who met with Hamdallah a few hours after the incident, which he described as a "criminal and terrorist, sinful attempt." (Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi, Ali Sawafta and Stephen Farrell Writing by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem Editing by Richard Balmforth)

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