Jibril Rajoub, a senior official with the Palestinian Authority’s ruling Fatah faction, visited on Monday a prominent Hamas activist who was released from Israeli prison last week.
The visit is seen by Palestinians as part of his effort to achieve reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. Last week, Rajoub held a joint teleconference press interview with the deputy head of Hamas’s “political bureau,” Saleh Arouri, who is based in Lebanon.
During the press conference, Rajoub and Arouri announced their intention to work together to thwart Israel’s plan to extend sovereignty to parts of the West Bank and US President Donald Trump’s “Peace to Prosperity” vision for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Rajoub, who is secretary-general of the Fatah Central Committee, led a delegation of Fatah officials who traveled to Jenin to congratulate Amjad Qabaha, 50, a senior member of Izzadin al-Qassam, Hamas’s “military wing,” who was released last week after spending 18 years in Israeli prison for his role in terrorist activities during the Second Intifada.
Qabaha is a resident of the Palestinian village of Barta’a, located in the Jenin area. His brother, Wasfi Qabaha, is a former PA prisoners’ affairs minister and a prominent Hamas figure in the West Bank.
Last week, PA security forces broke up a small rally in Jenin to welcome Amjad Qabaha. They confiscated Hamas flags and detained Palestinian journalist Tarek Abu Zeid.
The incident, which came hours after the Rajoub-Arouri press conference, drew an angry response from Hamas, whose representatives said it “violated the spirit of unity” emanating from the unprecedented encounter between the senior Fatah and Hamas officials.
Rajoub is a former commander of the PA Preventive Security Force in the West Bank. He previously served 17 years in Israeli prison for throwing a grenade at an IDF bus near Hebron. In 1985, he was one of 1,150 Arab prisoners freed in exchange for three Israeli hostages held by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine–General Command terrorist group headed by Ahmed Jibril.
Hamas had previously accused Rajoub and his Preventive Security Force of collaboration with Israel.
In 1988, Rajoub was arrested and deported to Lebanon for his activities during the First Intifada. From there, he traveled to Tunisia, where he was appointed as a senior adviser to Fatah deputy leader Khalil al-Wazir, better known as Abu Jihad.
Rajoub was permitted to return to the West Bank after the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1994 between Israel and the PLO.
By spearheading efforts to end the Fatah-Hamas rift, Rajoub was seeking to present himself as the unifier of Palestinians with the hope of improving his chances of succeeding PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian sources said.
The ostensible rapprochement between Fatah and Hamas is also designed to send a message to Israel and the US that the two parties are willing to lay their differences aside to confront Israeli-American “conspiracies” against the Palestinians.