Abbas accuses Hamas of attack on Hamdallah’s convoy in Gaza

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas on Monday directly accused Hamas of carrying out a bomb attack against Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in Gaza last week and threatened fresh sanctions against the Gaza, prompting Hamas to call for general elections.

Abbas had previously said Hamas was responsible as it controls security in the Palestinian enclave, but Monday evening said it was “behind the attack”.

“We do not want them to investigate, we do not want information from them, we do not want anything from them because we know exactly that they, the Hamas movement, were the ones who committed this incident,” Abbas said at a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah late on Monday.

Hamdallah was uninjured in the March 13 attack, when a roadside bomb exploded as his convoy entered Gaza in what Palestinian officials have called an assassination attempt.

Six of his security guards were lightly hurt.

Speaking to Palestinian leaders in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Abbas said if the attack had succeeded it would have “opened the way for a bloody civil war.”

He said the incident would “not be allowed to pass” and announced he would take unspecified “national, legal and financial measures”.

He has previously taken a series of measures, including reducing electricity payments for Gaza, where two million people live, in what analysts said was an attempt to punish Hamas.

Call for elections

In response to Abbas’ accusations, Hamas called for elections.

“We are shocked by the tense stance that Abbas has taken. This position burns bridges and strengthens division and strikes the unity of our people,” Hamas said in a press release.

“In light of all this, Hamas calls for general elections, including presidential, parliamentary and national council elections, so that the Palestinian people can choose their leadership.”

The attack and subsequent statements by both sides mark a serious deterioration in relations between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, the semi-autonomous body that governs the occupied West Bank.

Fatah, the ruling party within the PA, and Hamas, the party that governs the occupied Gaza Strip, signed a reconciliation agreement in October 2017, ending a decade of division that saw two parallel governments operating in Gaza and the West Bank, respectively.

But the deal was never fully implemented due to differences within the two political factions, which are the largest in Palestinian politics.

Analysts said the attack on Hamdallah’s convoy was intended to put a strain on reconciliation efforts.