Abbas Haniyeh 224.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Several Fatah officials who fled to the West Bank after Hamas's violent takeover of the Gaza Strip last June have decided to return home, Palestinian Authority officials said Sunday.
The decision came after the Fatah officials received assurances from Hamas that they would not be harmed upon their return to Gaza, the officials told The Jerusalem Post. But they denied that the decision was linked to reports about secret talks between Hamas and Fatah.
Some 50 senior political and security Fatah officials fled to the West Bank before and after Hamas took full control of the Gaza Strip. At least 400 others are believed to have fled to Egypt and other Arab countries.
The presence of the Fatah "refugees" in the West Bank drew sharp criticism from some Palestinians, who accused them of abandoning their subordinates in Gaza. Some of the Fatah leaders were questioned by a special commission of inquiry about their responsibility for the defeat of the Fatah-controlled security forces in the Gaza Strip.
In separate interviews with the Post, many of the Fatah officials who found sanctuary in Ramallah complained that the PA had turned its back on them. They said the PA leadership in Ramallah had restricted their movements and banned them from meeting with PA President Mahmoud Abbas and his top aides.
Among the Fatah officials who are expected to return to Gaza are former PA minister Nabil Shaath, whose house in Gaza City was looted by Hamas militiamen last June, Rouhi Fattouh, Abdullah Ifranji, Hamdan Ashour, Gen. Mazen Izzadin, Abu Ali Shaheen and Gen. Samih Naser. All of them are members of the Fatah central committee and revolutionary council.
Despite holding senior positions in Fatah, none of the officials are "wanted" by Hamas. Sources close to Hamas in Gaza City said the Islamist movement was not opposed to the return of the officials to their homes.
"We never expelled them from the Gaza Strip," one source said. "These people decided to leave the Gaza Strip of their own volition."
However, the sources said other Fatah leaders who had played an active role in the fighting against Hamas would not be allowed to return to Gaza. One of them is former Fatah security commander Muhammad Dahlan, who has been accused by Hamas of spearheading US-backed efforts to bring down the Hamas government over the past two years. Hamas has confiscated Dahlan's villa in Gaza City, saying he would not be permitted to return to the Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, Hamas leaders continued to insist that their movement was holding secret talks with Fatah. Osama Hamdan, Hamas's representative in Lebanon, said talks were under way between the two parties in a bid to resolve the crisis. He refused to elaborate.
Another Hamas official, Ahmed Yusef, said the two parties were conducting secret negotiations. He said the talks were being held under the auspices of some Arab countries.