An official in the Hamas-administered Gaza Strip has accused a senior intelligence officer in the Palestinian Authority (PA) of involvement in the bomb blast that targeted the West Bank-based Palestinian prime minister’s convoy last month.
Rami Hamdallah’s motorcade – which included the PA’s intelligence chief Majed Faraj – was attacked just after it crossed through the Israeli-controlled Erez checkpoint, known to Palestinians as Beit Hanoun, in northern Gaza on March 13.
Hamdallah and Faraj – who returned to Ramallah in the West Bank later in the day – were unharmed but seven security guards were wounded in the blast.
Iyad al-Bozom, spokesman for the Hamas government’s interior ministry, made the allegations at a press conference on Saturday in Gaza.
He told Al Jazeera that while he does not explicitly accuse the Palestinian General Intelligence Service as an institution of involvement, elements within the department were behind the blast.
“Our investigations were clear and complete. We are not accusing the Palestinian Intelligence, but in the course of our investigation we discovered that Brigadier-General Baha Balousha of the intelligence department orchestrated the attack,” said Bozom.
Balousha works as an adviser to Faraj, he said.
Bozom said the interior ministry’s investigation was thorough and extensive and resulted in the arrest of the main perpetrators behind the attack.
He said the suspects confessed to being recruited by high-ranking Palestinian intelligence officers to plant explosives on the side of the road in an attempt to kill Hamdallah.
Osama al-Qawasmi, a spokesman for Fatah, the main Palestinian faction in Ramallah where the PA operates, denied the allegations in a statement, and accused Bozom of engaging in “misleading theatrics”.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas has accused Hamas of orchestrating the explosion that targeted Hamdallah’s convoy.
“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 after the attack.
Bozom also said the suspects said they received instructions from their handlers through a “jihadist media forum” operated by “Palestinian intelligence operatives”.
At the press conference, the interior ministry showed video confessions purportedly of the suspects involved in the assassination attempt.
Bozom said the detainees further confessed to planning attacks and assassinations – not only in Gaza but also in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
He said the same group was also behind the attempt on the life of the head of police in Gaza, General Tawfiq Abu Naeem, last October.
Other targets on the suspects’ hit list included an Egyptian delegation that often crosses into Gaza to facilitate Palestinian reconciliation efforts, international officials, and Hamas leaders, according to local media reports.