(photo credit: AP)
One of the founders of Hamas's armed wing, Izzaddin al- Kassam, on Sunday returned to the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing.
Palestinian security sources told The Jerusalem Post that Bashir Hammad, who fled the Gaza Strip in 1992, arrived at the Gaza Strip on Sunday afternoon. They said Hammad had been wanted by Israel since 1988.
The sources said that at least 45 Hamas and Fatah fugitives have returned to the Gaza Strip through the Rafah terminal since it was handed over to the Palestinian Authority four months ago.
Among those who returned to the Gaza Strip are Ahmed al-Milh and Fadel Zahar, brother of Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar. Fadel Zahar was deported from the Gaza Strip in 1991 along with three other top Hamas operatives: Imad Alami, Mustafa Kanu, and Mustafa Liddawi. He spent most of his time in Sudan and Syria, where other Hamas leaders are located.
Rafik al-Hasanat, another senior member of Hamas who has been wanted by Israel for more than a decade, arrived through the Rafah crossing in October. Hasanat belonged to Izzaddin al-Kassam; he fled to Egypt in 1993 after he learned that the IDF was searching for him because of his involvement in terror attacks. Since then he has been hiding in Sudan, Yemen, Libya and Jordan.
PA officials said they were aware of the fact that many fugitives were returning to the Gaza Strip. "Our policy is to allow any Palestinian to cross through the Rafah terminal," explained one official. "We don't classify passengers according to their political affiliation."