Two Hamas Officials Killed Trying to Nab Man Behind Assassination Attempt on PA Leader

Hamas says its forces killed one suspect and captured two in operation and claims suspects behind foiled hit were working for Palestinian Authority

Hamas security forces patrol an area during an operation to arrest suspects wanted for a bombing that targeted the visiting Palestinian premier's convoy in Gaza last week, March 22, 2018.
Khalil Hamra/AP

Hours after two suspects in the attempt to assassinate Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah were killed Thursday, senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri praised the Palestinian Interior Ministry in Gaza for the operation, calling it “a great achievement” that “negates [PA President Mahmoud] Abbas’ claims that Hamas was responsible for the assassination attempt.”

The two suspects were killed Thursday morning in a gun battle with Hamas security troops in the Nuseirat refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. Two Hamas troops were also killed in the exchange, and a third suspect was arrested.

On Wednesday Hamas security forces had declared a state of high alert and announced that they were conducting extensive searches for the main suspect in the assassination attempt – Enas Abed al-Malik Abu Husa. Hamas said Abu Husa, 25, of Jabaliya, was part of a three-member cell responsible for Palestinian intelligence for the PA. Hamas took the unusual step of offering a reward of $5,000 to anyone providing information about his whereabouts. Abu Husa was one of the suspects killed.

But PA security officials had already said Wednesday that “all the announcements about this issue from the Interior Ministry in Gaza are all a production and a show by Hamas of a false script that will end in the execution of the prisoner.” According to a security source in Ramallah, Abu Husa was a member of a Salafist organization and had no connection to Palestinian intelligence.

Palestinian security agents claim the person behind the assassination attempt is a senior Hamas official, Fathi Hamad, and his men. Last week the spokesman for the Palestinian security agencies, Adnan Admiri, blamed Hamas for the assassination attempt. He said he had gathered information showing that Hamad had established a special unit called Defenders of Al-Aqsa which carried out the attack.

FILE PHOTO: Palestinians inspect the site of an explosion that targeted a convoy that was carrying Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in Gaza, March 13, 2018.
\ Mohammed Salem/ REUTERS

After Thursday’s killings, a PA government spokesman in Ramallah accused Hamas of “spreading rumors in an effort to evade responsibility” for the attempt. “The recent events in the [Gaza] Strip make it clear that Hamas initiates scenarios and makes up insane stories to evade responsibility for the attempted assassination of the prime minister,” the spokesman said. A senior Fatah official in Gaza, Yihye Rabah, added, “Hamas is trying to make noise in order to divert attention from its responsibility for the assassination attempt.”

Hamas’ political bureau declared that it welcomed the killing of the suspects. “The head of the political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, and his deputy, Yahya Sanwar, are following developments in the investigation,” the statement said, with the two promising to disclose details of the investigation when it is completed.