An explosion struck the convoy of the Palestinian prime minister Tuesday as he was making a rare visit to Gaza, in what his Fatah party called an assassination attempt it blamed on Gaza militants.

The explosion went off shortly after the convoy entered Gaza through the Erez crossing with Israel. Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah was unharmed and went on to inaugurate a long-awaited sewage plant project in the northern part of the strip. But Fatah quickly held Gaza’s Islamic Hamas rulers responsible for the “cowardly attack” on the convoy, further escalating tensions between the bitter rival factions.

Three of the vehicles in Hamdallah’s convoy were damaged, their windows blown out. One had signs of blood on the door.

The Palestinian Authority said it held the enclave’s dominant Hamas group responsible for the attack, stopping short of directly accusing the group of carrying out the assault, but suggesting it had failed to provide adequate security.

“The Palestinian presidency holds Hamas responsible for the cowardly targeting of the prime minister’s convoy in Gaza,” the official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported.

Hamdallah, who operated in the West Bank, arrived in Hamas-run Gaza to inaugurate the sewage plant and said there that the attack will “not deter from seeking to end the bitter split. We will still come to Gaza.”

The plant was envisioned in 2007 after overburdened sewage reservoirs collapsed, killing five villagers.

The World Bank, European Union and other European governments have paid nearly $75 million in funding. Hamas’ takeover of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority in 2007 and the ensuing Israeli-Egyptian blockade, power shortages and conflicts delayed the opening of the project for four years.

Besides the old reservoirs, the plant will receive wastewater from four towns and villages. After treatment, the water will be transferred for irrigation and the remainder will be safely dumped to the sea.
 

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