GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Twelve Fatah members returned to the Gaza Strip on Monday after fleeing the enclave in 2007 amid a fierce battle with Hamas.
"We are strugglers, we left for blood not to be shed and today we come back to our homeland after five years," said Fatah member Mahmoud Musleh on his return through the Rafah crossing on Egypt's border.
"The happiness is mixed with pain because we left our friends in Egypt but we're happy to go back to Gaza," Musleh told Ma'an.
Musleh said around 450 Fatah members had fled Gaza during a brief war between Hamas and Fatah in 2007.
Around 190 Fatah affiliates fled Gaza to Egypt, 70 were spread around the region in Yemen, Algeria and the United Arab Emirates and nearly 200 were in the West Bank, he said. They will return once procedures are complete, he added.
"There should be good initiatives to gather Palestinians back together and release all political prisoners after victory which was achieved in both Gaza and the UN," Musleh said.
Israel's recent 8-day war on Gaza ended with a ceasefire on Nov. 21 and was hailed in Gaza as a victory for the resistance.
The Gaza-based chief of Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades Hanan al-Qassas said Monday that goodwill had been built between Hamas and Fatah after their military wings fought side-by-side during the assault.
The Fatah-affiliated brigade had claimed rocket fire into Israel in the first days of the conflict.
Al-Qassas, also known as Abu Jandal, said the Fatah affiliates still in Egypt would return to Gaza in the next two or three months after they tie up family commitments.
On Sunday, Gaza's interior ministry spokesman Islam Shahwan assured that Fatah delegates could return on Monday and would not face harassment.
Following the war, Hamas and Fatah pledged to grant amnesties to rival supporters linked to fighting in 2007.
Fatah says 56 party affiliates are in Gaza's jails for political reasons, and they are still finalizing the list of detainees to be released.