A senior Fatah delegation arrived in the Gaza Strip over the weekend amid renewed talk of reconciliation with Hamas.
The delegation consisted of Fatah Central Committee members Nabil Sha’ath, Jamal Muhaissen, Muhammad al-Madani and Sakher Bsaisso.
They entered the Strip through the Erez crossing between Israel and Gaza and were received by local Fatah and Hamas officials.
The visit came after Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh announced last month that his government would allow Fatah leaders and activists who fled the Gaza Strip in 2007 to return to their homes.
Haniyeh said that his decision was aimed at paving the way for reconciliation between the rival parties. He also ordered the release of dozens of Fatah members held in Hamas-controlled prisons.
A Fatah official said that the delegation would hold talks with Hamas leaders in the Strip in a bid to end the dispute between the two sides.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas authorized the four Fatah leaders to discuss the issue of reconciliation with Hamas, the official said.
The delegation is also expected to hold talks with Fatah officials in the Gaza Strip on the formation of a new leadership for their faction, he said.
Another Fatah official said Hamas was seeking to exploit the rapprochement with the PA in order to lift the Egyptian blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip since the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi.
Delegation member Muhaissen said Fatah was keen on creating a climate that would lead to “national reconciliation.”
Haniyeh said on Saturday that Hamas was also eager to end the dispute with Fatah.
Sha’ath, a former PA minister and negotiator, told reporters that Abbas and Haniyeh maintain “permanent contacts.”
The Fatah delegation’s visit is also linked to reports of rapprochement between Hamas and ousted Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan.
Abbas and the Fatah leadership have expressed concern over the reports, Palestinian sources said.
At the request of Abbas, Fatah expelled Dahlan three years ago, on suspicion he sought to undermine the PA president. Dahlan now lives in the Gulf.
Sha’ath strongly criticized Dahlan, saying he no longer belongs to Fatah and does not represent it. But, he said, Dahlan was still meddling in Fatah’s internal affairs together with some of his loyalists.
Sha’ath accused Dahlan of working to create schism in Fatah. He said that all those who broke away from Fatah in the past became agents for foreign countries. He was referring to Syrian-backed Fatah officials who rebelled against Yasser Arafat in the 1980s.