Palestinian PM survives assassination attempt in Gaza

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah chairs a reconciliation government cabinet meeting in Gaza City last October. Photo: Majdi Fathi / NurPhoto via Getty Images

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah survived an assassination attempt against him this morning as he was entering the Gaza strip to participate in an opening ceremony for a water treatment facility funded by the World Bank. According to Palestinian officials, a roadside bomb exploded near one of the SUVs in Hamdallah's motorcade.

The big picture: The assassination attempt took place hours before a special meeting on Gaza planned to take place today at the White House with the participation of several international donors to the Palestinians. Senior adviser Jared Kushner and special envoy Jason Greenblatt are supposed to present U.S. proposals for dealing with the humanitarian crisis in Gaza at the meeting. The Palestinian Authority said a few days ago it will not attend due to President Trump's decision to move the United States' embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

The details: Hamdallah, who arrived in Gaza with the head of Palestinian intelligence General Majed Faraj, was not hurt. Hamdallah left Gaza less than two hours after he arrived — much earlier than expected. According to Palestinian official the perpetrators opened fire on the motorcade after the bombing. They said that seven security guards and aides to the prime minister suffered light wounds.

At the ceremony in Gaza, Hamdallah said he will not be deterred by such attacks. He added he will visit Gaza again and, in a homage to former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, he said: "All those who have a problem with me coming to Gaza can go drink the water of the Gaza sea".

  • Hamdallah also sent a message to the White House and said: "There is a meeting in Washington today — we will not accept any attempt to bypass the Palestinian Authority and we will not accept any attempts to condition international assistance with political solutions."

The assassination attempt is the most serious incident in Gaza since Fatah,
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's party that effectively rules the Palestinian Authority from the West Bank, and Hamas, the Islamic movement designated a terror organization by the U.S. that has controlled Gaza since a 2007 military takeover, signed another reconciliation agreement mediated by Egypt last October. The implementation of the reconciliation deal was very slow with both Fatah and Hamas stalling on their commitments.

  • President Abbas called Hamdallah once he left Gaza. Abbas's office issued a statement stressing Hamas was responsible for the incident and blaming the organization for hampering the reconciliation efforts.

The U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Nickolay Mladenov issued a statement condemning the assassination attempt and called for a prompt investigation in order to bring the perpetrators to justice:

"Until the legitimate Palestinian Authority is fully empowered in Gaza, Hamas has the responsibility to ensure that the Government is able to carry out its work in the Strip without fear of intimidation, harassment and violence. I commend the Prime Minister’s leadership and continuing efforts to address the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza and achieve reconciliation. Those who inspired and perpetrated today’s attack seek to undermine these efforts and destroy the chances for peace. They must not be allowed to succeed.”

U.S. special envoy Jason Greenblatt condemned the assassination attempt in a tweet: "We condemn attack against Rami Hamdalla. Gazans have been brought to the brink of collapse by Hamas, PIJ & other extremist groups. Attack on PA delegation opening water treatment plant is an attack on the welfare of the people of Gaza. Wishing a speedy recovery to the injured"

Zachary Basu 37 mins ago
SaveSave story

Maldives lifts state of emergency amid "terrorism" crackdown

Maldivian police arrest a man at a protest appealing for the release of opposition leaders held in jail in the capital Male. Photo: Ahmed Shurau / AFP / Getty Images.

Maldives President Abdulla Yameen has ended a 45-day state of emergency that he imposed after the Supreme Court lifted the convictions of nine of his political enemies, reports Al Jazeera. On Wednesday, the two Supreme Court justices who made the ruling were charged with terrorism, as were a top judicial administrator and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Yameen's half-brother.

Why it matters: Critics have accused Yameen of using the state of emergency to crack down on dissidents, including journalists, government administrators and members of the opposition party. And the moves come as Yameen has tilted the Maldives toward Chinese influence while it has been historically aligned with India.

Axios 4 hours ago
SaveSave story

In Mideast, democracy struggles to strike root

Mohammad bin Salman
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in the Oval Office on Tuesday. Photo: Kevin Dietsch / Pool via Bloomberg

"Egyptians go to the polls next week in what is essentially a one-candidate election considered by critics to be a return of sorts to authoritarian rule, after a 2011 revolution that sparked loftier expectations for the region," AP Middle East Editor Dan Perry writes.

The big picture: "[I]n the Middle East as a whole, democracy has largely failed to take hold."