Palestinian Intel Chief to Head to Egypt With 'Proof' Hamas Behind Attempted Hit on PM

Cairo said to urge Ramallah to hold off on punitive measures amid fears of collapse in reconciliation efforts, while Hamas says ISIS-led cell to blame for attack

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.
Adel Hana/AP

The head of the Palestinian intelligence services is set to arrive in Cairo on Thursday evening equipped with what the Palestinian Authority claims is evidence that Hamas was behind an attempt to assassinate Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.

Majid Faraj is to visit as an emissary of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for a round of meetings with Egyptian intelligence officials in the wake of the attempt to kill Hamdallah, who had just entered the Gaza Strip in a motorcade and was accompanied by Faraj at the time.

The incident earlier this month was just among several recently that have ratcheted up tension between the West Bank-based PA and Hamas, which took control of the Gaza Strip from the PA by force in 2007.

According to a Palestinian source, Egypt is pressuring Abbas not to follow through with punitive steps against Hamas that the Palestinian Authority announced last week, urging the PA to avoid dashing efforts at reconciliation with Hamas. The same source said Egypt also expressed surprise at Abbas's accusation that Hamas was behind the attempted assassination.

Palestinian policemen loyal to Hamas search a car in the southern Gaza Strip March 22, 2018.
\ IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/ REUTERS

For its part, Hamas insists that it has evidence linking to the attack members of a cell headed by an Islamic State operative, Anas Abu Husa. Abu Husa and an associate were killed in a clash with Hamas security forces last week. 

Iyad al-Bazam, a spokesman for Hamas, said Wednesday that it had proven the cell was behind the attack, and that it had arrested a number of additional suspects.

A search of Abu Husa's home uncovered explosives of the same type as those used in the attempted killing of Hamdallah, al-Bazam said, adding that the investigation would continue.

PA representatives have not rushed to impose punitive measures against Hamas, despite Abbas's threats. It is not thought that action will be taken in the near future, allowing the Egyptians the opportunity to address the matter instead.

Meanwhile, Hamas has resumed operating an inspection point near the Erez border crossing with Israel, citing security considerations. This step suggests recognition that efforts at reconciliation with the PA have entered a long-term freeze. Hamas dismantled the inspection station several months ago as part of its reconciliation understandings with the PA, which also permitted PA cabinet members to return to Gaza.