The explosion went off shortly after the convoy of Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah entered Gaza through a crossing with Israel. Hamdallah is reported to be unharmed after the blast.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah arrives at the inauguration ceremony of a waste treatment plant after an explosion targeted his convoy, in the northern Gaza Strip, March 13, 2018.
Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah arrives at the inauguration ceremony of a waste treatment plant after an explosion targeted his convoy, in the northern Gaza Strip, March 13, 2018. ( Reuters )

An explosion targeted Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah's convoy as he arrived in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday for a rare visit, causing no casualties, officials and witnesses said.

The explosion occurred shortly after the convoy entered Gaza through the Erez crossing with Israel, a security source in the convoy said.

Palestinian intelligence chief Majid Faraj was part of the convoy, the source said.

A separate security source in Gaza said the convoy was also fired on by unknown gunmen at the time of the explosion.

Hamas security forces then sealed off the area.

Hamdallah appeared on television shortly after the explosion as he opened a wastewater treatment plant in the territory, but left shortly after – cutting short his visit.

He had been expected to hold a number of other engagements before leaving.

Hamdallah described the bombing as an “assassination attempt.”

"They detonated three cars as we entered the Gaza Strip,” he said, during the opening of the plant in the northern Gaza Strip.

"This attack will increase our determination to achieve Palestinian reconciliation and will not dissuade me from continuing to come to Gaza,” he said.

TRT World 's Muhannad Alami has more on this attack from Ramallah.  

"A sabotage to reconciliation efforts"

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

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. 

Extremists opposed to Hamas also operate within the Gaza Strip and have regularly been behind unrest.

The Hamas interior ministry confirmed there had been an explosion and said they had arrested three suspects as they began an investigation.

Hamas group, for its part, said the attack was an attempt to sabotage inter-Palestinian reconciliation efforts.

"The bombing attack is suspicious and aims to sabotage reconciliation talks,” Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qasem said in a statement.

“The only side benefiting from this incident is the one who wants the Palestinian division to continue," he added. 

Hamas criticised Abbas' accusation, saying it "achieved the goals of the criminals."

The Hamas movement is a Palestinian political resistance movement that presents itself as the defender of the people in Gaza, which lies on the east, bordering Egypt.

It also has an armed wing called the Izz el Deen al Qassam Brigades and they reject the occupation of Palestine by Israel.

A rare visit targeted

The explosion came a few hundred metres (yards) after Hamdallah’s convoy entered into Hamas-controlled territory.

Two cars with blown-out windows were being removed from the scene of the explosion shortly afterwards.

The visit came as reconciliation efforts between Hamas and Abbas' Fatah party falter.

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

One of the key changes in that agreement was Hamas handing over control at Gaza's borders to the Palestinian Authority (PA) in November.

But Hamas maintains full control of the rest of Gaza, with its police force and armed wing still operating throughout the territory.

The future of that armed wing, which has fought three wars with Israel since 2008, has proved one of the largest sticking points in implementing the reconciliation agreement.

Hamas seized Gaza from the PA in a near civil war in 2007 and multiple attempts at reconciliation have since failed.

Hamdallah's government is recognised by the international community, while Hamas is blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by the European Union and the United States.

Very same spot

The White House is due to hold a conference on the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza on Tuesday, but it is unclear whether any Palestinian officials will break their boycott of US officials to attend.

The Palestinians were enraged by President Donald Trump's decision to break with longstanding US policy by recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Israel has maintained a blockade of Gaza since 2007, which it says is necessary to isolate Hamas, while Egypt has also kept its border with the enclave largely closed.

The place where the blast hit is near the spot where a US diplomatic convoy was blown up by a remote-controlled bomb in 2003 shortly after it entered the Gaza Strip.

Three American security specialists were killed, and a US diplomat was injured in that blast.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies