Analysis: Who tried to assassinate the Palestinian Prime Minister?

Hamas says it’s “closing in” on the culprits of this week’s assassination attempt on Palestinian PM Rami Hamdallah. Israeli anaylists say the most likely assassins are from within Hamas itself.

By: Steve Leibowitz, World Israel News

The Hamas-run Gaza security forces have made a number of arrests following Tuesday morning’s attempted assassination of Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. Those arrested include workers for two cellular phone companies, and officials claim they are close to solving the case. YNET reported that according to Palestinian sources, the attackers used phones from Palestinian cellular communications companies Wataniya Mobile and Jawwal to activate the explosive charges. The head of Hamas security, Tawfiq Abu Naim, says he already has the names of all involved. “The investigation is underway and we will publish findings when it is complete,” said Naim.

The explosive device was detonated Tuesday near the convoy of Hamdallah, who was visiting the Gaza Strip accompanied by Palestinian General Intelligence chief Majid Faraj. A second explosive device reportedly failed to explode for technical reasons. The charges were buried in the ground, weighed 15 kilograms each, and were placed 40 meters apart.

Seven security guards were lightly wounded in the blast, and Israeli medics provided them with medical care at the Erez crossing. Hamdallah and Faraj were uninjured. Hamdallah went on with his scheduled opening of a new sewage purification plant and made a speech, saying, “The attack will not deter us from seeking to end the bitter split” between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas.

Palestinian Affairs expert Yoni Ben Menachem believes the assassination attempt was timed to upset the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation efforts that Egypt has been conducting in Gaza in recent weeks. Ben Menachem, in conversation with World Israel News (WIN), said the timing also related to the White House summit on Gaza aide that took place this week in Washington.

Upon receiving news of the attack, PA President Mahmoud Abbas cut short a visit to Jordan and issued a statement blaming Hamas for the attack, calling it “an attempt to sabotage efforts at reconciliation.”

“The most likely culprit is extreme elements in Hamas who are opposed to reconciliation,” said Ben Menachem. More specifically, he pointed a finger at former Gaza strongman Mohamed Dahlan, who is a bitter enemy of Abbas and has been plotting to replace him as head of the PA.

“I do not discount the possibility that the assassins were also targeting PA Security Chief Majid Faraj. Faraj represents security cooperation with Israel, and in my view, he could emerge as the next leader of the PA. The assassination attempt is quite possibly linked to the succession battle,” said Ben Menachem.

Ben Menachem does not rule out the possibility that Islamic State-affiliated Salifists were behind the assassination attempt. “They hate the Egyptians whom they are fighting in the Sinai, they violently oppose reconciliation, and they take their orders from the Muslim Brotherhood,” he explained.

Hamdallah warned in advance not to visit Gaza

Palestinian Affairs expert Pinchas Inbari of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs says the assassination attempt is a “dangerous escalation that could signal a new round of inter-sectarian violence.”

“I share the view from Ramallah that Hamas is behind the attack,” Inbari told WIN. “Hamdallah actually received warnings in advance that his life could be in danger if he visits Gaza.”

According to Inbari, “Hamas has singled out Hamdallah as the enemy who is leading PA efforts to control budgets, development and aide projects in Gaza. Hamas is fighting him every step of the way. I am not sure if it was a failed attempt or a message to terrify the Palestinian leadership.”

“What is certain is that the notion of reconciliation its dead,” he added. “It was ‘fake news’ from the beginning. Egypt understands this and they are still in Gaza only to discuss security relations with between them and Hamas.”

Asked to comment on the likelihood of an escalation of violence, Inbari said, “In 2006, there was open warfare between Fatah and Hamas in Gaza. This could be the spark that will ignite a new round of violence, not only in Gaza, but also in the West Bank.”