The Palestinian prime minister survived an assassination attempt during a rare visit to Hamas-controlled Gaza on Tuesday, putting a fresh strain on the already torrid relations between the two leading Palestinian factions.
Rami Hamdallah, the prime minister of the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority, had just entered Gaza when a roadside explosive detonated near his convoy. Mr Hamdallah was not injured but seven of his guards and aides suffered slight wounds, according to Palestinian media.
The explosion came hours before the White House was due to hold a summit on the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
It was not immediately clear who was behind the attempted assassination but a spokesman for Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, said he held Hamas responsible as “the de facto power in Gaza”.
Hamas immediately hit back at Mr Abbas, saying that his claims played into the hands of Israel. “We strongly reject the hasty accusations of the Palestinian presidency against the movement, which satisfies the goals of the criminals,” the group said in a statement.
The largely secular Fatah and the Islamist movement Hamas have been at odds since 2006, when Hamas beat Fatah in elections and then seized control of Gaza by force, fighting gun battles in the streets against Fatah-aligned security troops.
The estrangement has left Gaza under the control of Hamas while the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority is in charge of some parts of the occupied West Bank, while the Israeli military controls other parts.
The two Palestinian factions have gone through several faltering attempts at reconciliation in the last decade and Mr Hamdallah’s visit to Gaza was part of the latest reconciliation effort, which has been brokered by Egypt.