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Qatari cell provider closed in Gaza over terror probe

Palestinian men ride a horse-drawn cart past the closed gate of the headquarters of Wataniya Mobile company office in Gaza City on March 17, 2018. (AFP photo)

The Palestinian resistance movement Hamas has ordered the closure of a Qatari cell provider in the Gaza Strip after the state prosecutor said the company failed to cooperate in a probe linked to a recent assassination attempt against Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.

Hamas police spokesman Ayman Batniji said Saturday that offices of Wataniya Mobile, the largest company providing telecommunication services in Gaza, was shut down after the firm, which is a subsidiary of Qatar's Ooredoo, “refused” to cooperate in the inquiry launched after the explosion that targeted Hamdallah’s convoy earlier this week.

Six bodyguards of Hamdallah were injured while the Palestinian premier emerged unscathed in the roadside bomb attack in Beit Hanoun. Later reports in Gazan media suggested a second bomb, which apparently contained a Wataniya SIM card, had failed to detonate.

Wataniya would not comment on the decision to close down its offices. The company’s mobile telephone service in Gaza was not affected yet.

Hamas authorities have blamed the attack on Hamdallah on those seeking to sabotage a recent reconciliation between the group and the Palestinian Authority (PA), which is based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Hamas has agreed as part of deal with the PA to cede administrative control of Gaza to the government of President Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas has stopped short of accusing Hamas for the recent attack, but insists that the group should be held accountable.

Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007 after defeating Abbas’s Fatah party in local elections. The resistance group has fought two major wars with Israel since then and continues to run the enclave under a crippling Israeli siege.

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