GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Disgruntled relatives of a Fatah activist killed in recent internecine fighting with Hamas fired at Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh’s motorcade as it drove through Gaza on Friday but the Hamas leader’s armored Mercedes car was not hit and nobody was injured, Palestinian security officials said.
Witnesses said shots hit the last vehicle in the convoy and the occupants fled before attackers torched the car.
Fatah and Hamas have been in talks for weeks about forming a joint government, but the contacts have deadlocked over Hamas’ refusal to accept international demands of recognizing Israel, renouncing violence and endorsing past peace deals.
When Hamas took office in March after trouncing Fatah in an election, Israel, the U.S. and European Union cut off hundreds of millions of dollars of aid, listing Hamas as a terror group, bankrupting the Palestinian Authority and causing widespread hardship.
On Thursday, President Mahmound Abbas’ office said it received euro23 million from the European Union to pay some government salaries. In a statement, the president’s office said the money would be used to pay partial salaries to 62,000 of the 160,000 civilian workers, not security personnel. The statement said additional funds would come from the EU by the end of the month to pay health workers.
The government is the largest employer in the Palestinian areas. Most public sector workers have received little money since Hamas took office seven months ago.
While cutting off aid to the Hamas-led government, the EU has been channeling some funds through Abbas to alleviate some of the hardships and boost the standing of Abbas among his people.
In an address to diplomats in Ramallah Friday, Abbas indicated he might dismiss the Hamas-led Cabinet as a step toward relief from crippling Western aid sanctions, as the European Union contributed some money to pay civilian workers.
“We are going to make the decisions about forming a Cabinet that abides by Palestinian and Arab and international legality to lift the siege from our people and mitigate its suffering,” Abbas said at a feast marking the end of the day-long Ramadan fast.
It was Abbas’ clearest indication that he might dismiss the current Cabinet. Abbas has been promoting the idea of a Cabinet of technocrats instead. An aide said Abbas would not let the crisis boil on indefinitely.
Haniyeh dismissed Abbas’comments, saying that a new government would have to be ratified by a majority in the Palestinian parliament where his Islamic party controls 71 of the 132 seats.
“There is somebody talking about internal issues, including early elections and forming a new government – a technocrat government. None of these options are going to guarantee stability or get us out of the so-called crisis,” Haniyeh said — without mentioning Abbas by name — after Friday prayers at a Gaza mosque .
“Any new government to be formed will have to go to parliament and needs 67 votes to win confidence,” he added. “It cannot win confidence without the vote of the Hamas bloc.”
As Palestinian president, Abbas has the authority to dismiss parliament and call new elections, but he has hesitated to do that because polls show that Hamas would have a good chance of defeating Fatah again.
In the southern Gaza Strip, Israel’s military operation along the Gaza border with Egypt continued Friday. The army said it was aimed at uncovering tunnels used by Palestinian militants to smuggle weapons into Gaza, and that troops had found 15 tunnels since Tuesday.
Palestinians in the northern part of the coastal strip fired three homemade rockets and a number of mortar shells into Israel Friday, but caused no casualties or property damage, the Israeli military said.