GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Fatah's members of parliament (MPs) Majid Abu Shamala and Alaa Yaghi arrived in the Gaza Strip Jan. 21 for their first visit since 2007, the year Hamas assumed power there. Their arrival, the fruit of talks between the leaders of the opposing Palestinian movements, was also made possbile after Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh declared that leaders and cadres of Fatah who had left the Gaza Strip were now welcome to return. Haniyeh also announced the release of a number of Fatah detainees from Hamas prisons as part of a unilateral initiative to “enhance the reconciliation steps with Fatah.”
The two MPs are among Fatah leaders who had supported Mohammed Dahlan, the party’s strongman in the Gaza Strip who fell out with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Their appearance in Gaza raised rumors of a rapprochement between Dahlan and Hamas behind closed doors. Suspicions were also stoked by the Islamist movement allowing Dahlan followers to work in several areas in Gaza during the past few months without direct surveillance, according to a source in Hamas.