Middle East

Palestinian prime minister's convoy targeted in Gaza explosion

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An explosion targeted Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah's convoy as he arrived in the Gaza Strip for a rare visit.

An explosion targeted Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah's convoy as he arrived in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday for a rare visit, lightly wounding seven people, officials and witnesses said.

Hamdallah was not injured in the explosion, which occurred shortly after his convoy entered the territory run by Islamist movement Hamas, a security source in the convoy said.

Palestinian intelligence chief Majid Faraj was part of the convoy but was not hurt either, the security source said.

A statement on official Palestinian media said president Mahmud Abbas considered it a "cowardly targeting" of Hamdallah's convoy and held his rivals Hamas responsible.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Radical Islamists opposed to Hamas also operate within the Gaza Strip and have regularly been behind unrest there.

The Hamas interior ministry confirmed there had been an explosion and said security forces were investigating the incident.

It said it would not derail Hamdallah's visit, which comes as reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Abbas's Fatah party falters.

However a source said that Hamdallah had cut short the rare visit, leaving the Hamas-run territory through the Erez crossing shortly after opening a wastewater treatment facility.

He had been expected to hold a number of other engagements in the territory.

The two major Palestinian factions signed a reconciliation agreement in October that was supposed to see the Islamists hand over power, but it has all but collapsed.

Hamdallah appeared on television shortly after the explosion as he opened a plant in the territory.

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